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Hong Kong - Japan - Taiwan - March 2014 - Page 3

Day 7 - Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Deer overload

Today I went to Nara, one of the top tourist cities in all of Japan.
It is a much bigger city than I realised, I discovered this once on top of a mountain as seen below.
It is famous for its deer, there are over 900,000 deer, and they are not what I expected.
I assumed you paid 500 yen and went into the deer park for 10 minutes, no. The deer are everywhere, inside shops, up trees, in buddhist temples, on the bus, everyhere.
You cant turn around without another deer being there looking at you.
They are not large, and they have been de horned, still I saw a number of people who bought their useless little puffball dogs with them, and the dogs were terrified.
I also saw a few deer tear off at great speed suddently for no apparent reason, which left some kids screaming.

You could easily spend a couple of days in Nara, I spent a good 6 hours but did climb the mountain, I was the only person that did today as best I could tell, this took quite some time.
If you were a regular tourist wanting to see the sites, there are lots, its very well sign posted and everything is easy to get to on foot.

The train ride to get there costs about $5 and takes 45 minutes on the regular train. Everyone got a seat. Theres also a reserved seating express train that costs double and saves you 10 minutes, full of white tourists following someone with a flag and a whistle.
Another day of too many photos, so best start typing crap about them.

Once you exit the Kinetsu line station in Nara, you get another covered shopping street. Theres actually 2 I discovered, with lots of good looking restaurants on each.

The area around the station, another day of fantastic blue sky. Warmer, almost too warm for my jacket at times, my phone said it was 14C.

I was taken aback to be walking on the main road and all of a sudden theres a deer waiting to cross the road at the lights. Theres an ad on tv where deer take over a town, for beer I think, its a true story.

Many deer in the park, minus horns.

None the less, the sign warns you not to mess about with the deer or you will die.

If you are silly enough to buy deer food, expect to be savaged by a flock of deer. Flock? herd? gaggle?

Gate to temple looks old. Its huge. Maybe they relic'd it.

Temple itself looks new and shiny through the fence. Pretty sure you pay to get in. Not me.

I prefer to observe this mystery lightning rod.

Nearby you can buy ninja supplies. I hope mine make it home ok via Japan Post. Its interesting that buddhist temples are surrounded by stores selling weapons.

The hike up the mountain took about an hour, all smooth path no steps. The trees were impressively massive, many of them had fallen down, recently, there was lots of saw dust.
then I happened upon this behemoth, a truly massive tree about to fall down at any moment. Thats why I stood under it to take this photo.

In true Japan fashion, theres no one to be seen, but at the top of the mountain theres a heap of vending machines and a spotless bathroom.

Me, posing with my faithful deer army on the summit.

Nara below.

More of Nara below, it was certainly windy up here.

Me, with Nara below, insert something funny here cause all the pics are the same.

Another temple, with many lanterns. A path thats a few miles long with thousands of concrete lanterns takes you there. There were candles inside every one, but they looked old.
Perhaps they only light them on special occasions.

More of this temple.

Back in town near the station, time for lunch. Udon today, they made their own udon in the shop, tasted just like the stuff from the long life packets at the supermarket....
The soup however is good, I opted for thick ginger soup, and a topping of assorted mushrooms.
I got to sit at a big long table with various women picking their small children up from school, I was quite fascinating to the children, which seemed to frighten their mothers, because clearly im a drug dealer or some kind of bandit.
I have never seen Japanese women eat so fast.

Bonus panorama. WARNING, massive photo again.

Night temple

I was surprised to find that some of the temples and surrounding gardens are open at night.
By open I mean, you can walk all around the buildings on your own without anyone distrubing you, as far as I can tell theres no way to shut the non existent gate.
Behind the temple there appears to be an extensive garden, I think when I wake up tomorrow and work out what places to visit in Kyoto proper, this will be it.
In the dark, its really dark, theres streams and things lit by eerie green lights.
At the top theres some Yakuza looking restaurants, with no one around that I could see, but a plenty of Harleys. I wasnt entirely sure if I was on private property or not. I made it back down to the street with all my fingers.

Back in the main part of town, and one street back theres a whole heap of really exclusive expensive restaurants. 2 streets back are hostess bars, I think I was wandering about at opening time as lots of taxi's were arriving with heavily made up girls getting out shielding their faces.
Now to continue going insane reading the pilots rumors forum about the global conspiracy that is the missing Malaysian airlines flight.

This is a lipton cafe. The same lipton that make the worlds cheapest and crapiest teabags. Only this place looks pretty fancy, kind of like that Mcdonalds with table service they trialled some place.

They place a lot of trust in letting people wander around these temples at night, in most cities they would be covered in graffiti, broken glass, blood and urine by morning.

Looking back at Shijo dori from the gate. Long exposure nonsense.

Sake god or similar.

The garden on the hill behind the temple with the green lights. Its nowhere near as bright as that, I left the lense open for 30 seconds.

More temple, I did a few chinups on that gate.

Last one of the temple, I rang the bells on these ropes.

Owls are so last season.

Enjoy your private dining room, it probably costs a few hundred for the honour of having me and lots of people with tripods taking your photo.

These alleys contain numerous restaurants without menus. You get what you are given and you pay what you are told.

I however, preferred to find some place with pictures on the menu, up a flight of stairs, and much to my delight, I was seated at the bar looking at the kitchen.

Excellent Okonomyaki. I got added vegetables. Its an activity meal, you get a lot of things to add, and various implements to dissect it and make bits of it burnt on your own private hot plate.
At one point I melted the corner of the laminated menu.

mother on 2014-03-12 said:
I see you have been wandering round kiyomizudera area at night. If you turn right when you come down there are lots of little traditional alleyways with a pagoda. Also you seem to have been close to the Gion area. If you go down the nice side streets at about 6pm you will see the maiko (apprentice geisha with the white makeup) going to work for the evening. they are called geiko in Kyoto. Lots of guys with cameras stalk them. The really pretty one that we have photographed a few times was in Osaka at the sumo today though. Saw her on tv.

jenny on 2014-03-12 said:
I can see a bit of an animal theme happening this trip.

mother on 2014-03-12 said:
The bad news is that you are going to get lots of rain tomorrow.

bobule on 2014-03-12 said:
ginger udon soup look amazing

Day 8 - Thursday, 13 March 2014

The unrelenting downpour

The rain did indeed come as predicted. I think its only supposed to last today. It never stopped raining, but then never rained hard either. Still my feet are soaked through.
Despite the rain, I travelled to the golden temple, more on that below.
I also broke one of my own mantras for better life and bought an umbrella. Theres a first time for everything. I prefer to get wet than carry an umbrella, but I decided my camera was worth more than the inconvenience of lugging around a plastic and metal eye poking catastrophe.
At least Japan is smart enough to use clear plastic on theres, something thats still a rarity in Australia.

For lunch I went to a cafe under a station and had the sandwhich set, which was mainly various creamy substances. You can buy strawberry and cream sandwhiches at convenience stores if you want.
In this cafe, theres plenty of smoking business men asleep in their suits, in the middle of the day. Mostly older men. Perhaps they are so respected they dont need to work anymore, just smoke, sleep and eat delicate sandwhiches.

And now the rain is a perfect opportunity for me to use the washing machines and dryers, total cost of this is 300 yen, so less than $4.

Before buying the umbrella I took a bus. It didnt go very far and I walked back once I had made my umbrella purchase.
People complain its very far from transport to the main sites of Kyoto. People need to harden up. Its a 15 minute walk at the most from the subway.

This is the golden temple. I must say I am underwhelmed. You pay your $5, step through a gate, there it is, then walk about 200 metres and leave.
You dont get to go in it, up it, or up the mountain behind it or anything.
They try to keep you far away from it and I know why....

I jumped a fence and snuck around the back and got up close. Passing whatever this is along the way.

Around the back of it having to flee whilst pursued by old men in plastic covered hats, I can tell you its made of chip board and sprayed with gold paint from a rattle can. I saw some of the cans in a little shed.

You can of course buy an officially licensed hello kitty featuring the gold spray paint fake temple. They should probably turn the actual temple into a hello kitty shop, and golden kit kats.

The treachorous walk down the wet steps was nerve wracking.

Back where I was last night now for the ancient streets. Mainly these are pubs and cafes and crepe shops, but they look good.

Behind many shops are impressive gardens, they are happy to let you roam about it seems.

A different street looks the same as the last. I think a lot of people have paid to play dress up as a Geisha today, only to find that wooden sandals and toe socks and a long dressing gown in the rain is a stupid idea.
Dont presume its limited to teenagers or people who to my eye pass as teenagers doing peace signs. I saw some 80+ year olds giggling away taking selfies and posing with parking attendants to embarrass them.

Once you negotiate about a kilometre of alleyways you get to another temple, just like the one at the other end, only this ancient temple is under construction.
Plenty of concrete with steel reenforcement going on before a veneer of ancient looking cladding is added at the end.

Note these are red cherry blossoms. Everyone hyperventilate with excitement now.

Final photo of the day is the nearby pagoda. You cant climb up it. If you want to see pagodas and climb up them, Suzhou is a better bet.

No more rain

Various weather radars suggested it was going to stop raining. The quality of this data compared to was really crappy though, so I came up with a better plan, check webcams of nearby cities.
This worked great, the weather was coming from Hiroshima direction so I looked at webcams from there and could see the tail end of dark clouds in the distance and clear blue sky overhead.
About an hour later it stopped raining in Kyoto, and theres been no rain since, now I can see stars. Its very cold now as a result!

My feet finally dried though, along with my shoes.

This evening I just wandered around locally looking for food, found a protest, had a really really strong chai latte, played some games, and even looked in a few stores like loft and tokyu hands.
Tomorrow I go to Osaka, dont want to get there too early so probably time for one last lap around Kyoto in the morning.

I considered going to giant animated crab restaurant for dinner. Their plastic window fake menu food looked to be of poor quality though.

Next I found a shop selling fire man and various other rescue persons clothing and gear. In case you want to start your own private fire brigade or make a saucy calendar women love despite being full of average looking men who happen to be firefighters.

Then I came across a protest complete with police blocking the street and loudspeaker vans. Japanese loudspeaker technology is years beyond anything we have. It was deafening yet clear.
I dont know what the protest was for, I want to say it was for no nuclear power since its close to the Fukushima anniversary, but I dont know.
Might have been for no more cat cafes for all I know.

Nearby under the road was a quiet long mall called Zest. This reminds me of Taiwan, where I will be next week, it follows a train line and is mainly restaurants with no one in them.

I decided on curry again, because the restaurant had signs proclaiming it was for charity and all workers were over 70 years old.
I suspect the lady who served me was 90 years old. She spoke great English, probably because she was a comfort girl for American occupational forces.
The curry was really good too, but in hindsight I wish I had ordered root vegetable curry for something different. I asked for spicy and got something that might be medium spicy.

Next I went into a games arcade. Most of the games are multiplayer mecha things. You have to wear a headset and play in teams. At the end of the row of machines you can watch on a big screen all the action from third person perspective.

This is a new type of rhythm game, that appears to be a front loading washing machine. There were other types of games I had not seen before too which seemed to involve a glass cube with lasers projected in it.

Final photo for tonight is my snack, chocolate covered potato chips.
These really do taste fantastic, the crunchiness is preserved.

adriana on 2014-03-13 said:
Hope you bought your brolly from the hundred yen shop.

Day 9 - Friday, 14 March 2014

The tiniest place on earth

I knew that I had booked a tiny hotel room in Osaka, and thats exactly what I got.
I also knew that finding it was apparently quite difficult, because its on the top of Shin Osaka station, which is a maze. When you arrive its hard to work out what level you are on, and then parts of it were closed for refurbishment.
It took me about 30 minutes to walk around it and find the futuristic spherical entry to the lift to take me to the 12th floor ultra modern reception complete with ambient new age music and Phillips Hue changing color lights.
I did considerably better than one couple who I read about who searched all day, couldnt find it, gave up, went and stayed somewhere else and swore never to return to Japan or leave Ohio again.

Early in the day, I walked another big lap of Kyoto, this took me to the top of the station, before returning to my hotel to get my bags, then returning to the same station to take the train to Osaka which took all of 30 minutes despite being a local train.
To kill time I have had 3 coffees and now I can zoom in without using my camera, its quite a weird feeling!

The roof of Kyoto station above the Isetan department store. I took this photo last time I was here also, later I will do forensic comparison to make sure I am at the same Kyoto and they havent made a replica.

The happy terrace. See how happy I am?

My lunch from somewhere far under the Osaka station. Probably the worst meal I have had in Japan so far. I dont think I got what I pointed at, and it was largely instant noodles with no soup which left it quite flavourless.
The other bowl contains various parts of the ocean compressed into a block, sliced into a sheet, then shredded with mayonaise on top of cold rice, with some kind of fish tasting scrambled egg as a bonus.
There were many other places here I want to eat, but it was ridiculously busy when I arrived at 13:00

Too early to check in, I went for a walk. The is the outside of my hotel. Astute Adelaide based observers might notice it belongs to the Remm group, the same people who built the Myer centre.
The Myer centre construction was a debacle that involved the state bank collapse and is listed on Wikipedia as one of the top 10 costliest projects in the world! Right in tiny little Adelaide! I call bullshit on that claim.

Now some photos of the room. The bed is fine, its bigger than a normal single bed and very comfortable. I spend most of my life in hotel rooms smaller than this in the desert.
I kind of doubt my Osaka hotel room will be full of lizards and or frogs and or mice and or cockroaches.

The tv and fridge are built into the wall. Dead poets society is on, in English.

The bathroom as viewed from the bed through the picture window.
This is a common feature in Asian hotels to stop people sleeping 10 to a room sold for one person. At least thats someones theory.

The view out the window is decent, but if I was on the other side I could watch planes descending into Itami airport which seem to pass very close by.
Despite being on top of one of the worlds busiest train stations which includes freight trains, bullet trains, regional trains, local trains and multiple subways, the room is eerily silent.

Freezing walk

It was freezing, literally, I saw a sign that said minus 2.
This seems to not bother some people who get around in short shorts and high heels, where as others are huddled together jumping up and down on the spot shivering.
I decided it was perfect weather to go for a huge long walk, over familiar territory, from south of Namba to north of Osaka/Umeda.
This took about 3.5 hours, stopping occasionally including for dinner.

Along the way I saw a lot of neon, with a brief area of non neon. A lady I was walking behind at great speed due to the cold seemed to be anxious about that fact. So I had to stop and wait in the dark and cold for her to get a few hundred metres away. Thats the sort of gentlemen I am.
I didnt take a lot of photos because I didnt want to take my hands out of my pocket, plus I have been to all these places last time I was here. Now I notice the ends of my fingers are horribly dry when typing back here in my warm room.

When travelling to Namba earlier on the subway, it was really full. I got a seat, and had a good view of a guy who dropped his phone but then couldnt bend over to pick it up. Watching various people try to use their foot to move it to an area it could be collected by someone seated was quite amusing.

The view out the other side of my hotel. Quite superior to mine. I will leave feedback that as an important westerner I should have been placed on the side of the hotel with a superior view.
I am providing a free show to the people in the hotel across the road from me by typing this in my underpants and nothing else with the blind up and the light on.

I emerged from the subway to somewhere very familiar. The covered shopping streets go for many miles. Mishigaki guitar shop was still open when I got to it, and full of amazing guitars you dont find in Australia. The young guys running the store wanted me to play them something on a $5000 Mayones I was looking at.
I told them I wouldnt consider buying it, to which they told me its been here for years and no ones ever bought one, everyone just plays it and puts it back cause its too expensive.
I had to dissappoint my fans, cause my hands were cold, and I suck. Judging by a 10 year old going nuts on a squier nearby who was getting no attention from anyone, I was out of my depth.

Head west of the main street and you get to a lot of restaurants, actually bars.

Look back up the river and you can take the same photo I took a few years ago.

My dinner, from a bar. I was the only customer (this happens when doorways all lead down or upstairs, you cant tell if anyones inside).
It took me some time to decide on this as they had nothing I really wanted. Also they could not understand at all I didnt want a beer. I got a coke in a guinness glass. Pretty sure I got charged for guinness.
At least it came with salad and broccoli.

Back near Umeda now, and this street is particularly full of neon. A sign said it was something to do with a twin suicide of princesses in 1700.
Today is white day, something to do with reverse valentines day? It involves selling white chocolate, and dressing up in white. Thats all I know. Its probably racist.

The very impresive Osaka station. Across from here is the biggest Yodabashi shop ever. I spent a while just walking to the top and back down again.

bobmule on 2014-03-16 said:
i am disappointed that once again you have not bought a guitar in japan..

David on 2014-03-15 said:
Tenjinbashisuji. I have never been there. I can walk there from Shin Osaka across the river. So I will go do that now.

adriana on 2014-03-14 said:
there is a much longer arcade - go find it. Hope your undies have improved from the baggy orange ones I used to have to wash.

mother on 2014-03-14 said:
In japan, Valentine's day females give chocolates to males. White Day the males have to give white stuff to the females who previously gave them chocolates. It's called White day as traditionally you give the females Lingerie ie knickers.

David on 2014-03-14 said:
not going to sumo, you knew that....
Hotel is just called Remm Shin Osaka.

mother on 2014-03-14 said:
what is the name of your hotel? I can't find any hotels on top of shin Osaka station

mother on 2014-03-14 said:
yes magnitude 6 I had the Japanese scale which is always at least 1 number lower. Friend in Hiroshima had stuff fall off shelves and got an earthquake warning on his phone. have you been to the sumo yet?

David on 2014-03-14 said:
Are you serious? change my pose? Why would I do that when it cannot be bettered.
Also I read about the earthquake on twitter when I woke up, but unfortunately I didnt fell anything. I read that it was 6.5 which is pretty high!

jenny on 2014-03-14 said:
How about trying a different pose for your next selfie photo?

mother on 2014-03-14 said:
did the earth move for you at 2.19 this morning? Magnitude 5 Earthquake in Hiroshima and all over the area you are. Room might be small but looks well set out.

On the next page I dissappear in a tunnel.


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
  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
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
Day 15 - Thursday, 20 March 2014
  Still more mountains
  Rear of station
Day 16 - Friday, 21 March 2014
  I hate buses
Day 17 - Saturday, 22 March 2014
  Trains are awesome
  Taipei is human friendly
Day 18 - Sunday, 23 March 2014
  Me vs the volcano
Day 19 - Monday, 24 March 2014
  Goose stepping
  Dog clothes
Day 20 - Tuesday, 25 March 2014
  By the seaside
Day 21 - Wednesday, 26 March 2014
  Its the final mountain
  The new new
Day 22 - Thursday, 27 March 2014
  Homeless person