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Japan and Taiwan March 2012 - Tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto - Taipei - Keelung - Page 3

Day 7 - Monday, 12 March 2012

Kaiyukan Aquarium

The Osaka aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in the city, so I decided the best time to visit would be as soon as it opened on a Monday morning.
It is not very far away, but strangely the train here cost more than the train ride to Kyoto or Kobe. It was just 3 subway stops so this must be a bit like the Sydney airport line where they rip off tourists.

The whole area around the aquarium is a sort of ghost town, no real traffic etc. I took a lot of fishy photos so I wont talk too much about it here.

On the way back, it snowed! Yes this is the first time I have ever been snowed on in my life. Unfortunately it wasnt enough to leave any snow on the ground and I couldnt photograph it in the air as much as I tried.
At first I thought I had slowed down time and rain was falling very slowly. I was a little dissapointed when I discovered it was snow and not my ability to alter time. However then I was excited it was snow. I am sure the screaming running locals found it strange that I stood in the middle of the road looking upwards.

Finally, I have noticed on tv, billboards, trains etc. that the big thing in Japan now is alcohol free beer. Both Kirin and Asahi are heavily advertising zero or free brands of beer with ads showing businessmen remaining in control at parties etc.
So you can look forward to this trend coming to your country soon, in Australia I am looking forward to VB Zero.

On my walk to the subway, I passed the Mclaren dealer. This claims to be the real thing, as driven by Ayrton Senna. Back in the days when F1 cars looked awesome, such clean lines. It has a sign by it 'For mr Senna's exclusive use only', I guess they will be waiting a while for him to move it.

Might as well take a photo of the Mclaren road car whilst here.

No, you are not glowing red and on top of a building, so I will not go on you inferior ferris wheel.

The outside of the aquarium.

I was one of the first in the place, and this guy was still cleaning a tank, I kid you not he bowed apologetically when he realised people were watching.

Kids with nintendo ds or 3ds or 4ds or whatever they are up to are not even excited by fish in giant tanks these days. Japan has taken care of that. If you bought your nintendo with you, you can install an educational game that involves looking at the fish.

What sort of an aquarium is a forest?

You start at the top of the building and descend, they have land animals like this giant guinea pig roaming around.

These are digusting creatures. I am glad there was thick glass between us.

Now we will have lots of fish photos.

Sorry for the glass reflections.

One of these killed Steve Irwin. Possibly this actual one.

Despite these being tiny fish I enjoyed this tank the most. Literally thousands of fish.

I high fived a turtle.

Theres a plastic one of these out the front of the David Jones store in Rundle Mall. Heres some real ones. I of course dont use flash, but just the orange focus assist light was sending them crazy.

The jellyfish tanks were the best. The shark tanks briefly shown above are probably not as good as the Sydney aquarium, the water was too cloudy, but I have never seen jellyfish like this and especially the ones in the following shots before.

If one of these touches you, you die in excruciating pain in under 30 seconds. Actually I have no idea if thats true.

They also come in red.

Outside the aqaurium, a shot of the bay. That silver dome thing is Universal Studios theme park (I think?)

Couldnt take a photo of snow, so took a photo of my computer showing the latest weather for osaka that says its snowing. Yep.

Umeda Sky Building

The Umeda Sky building is quite new, its a twin tower with a bridge half way up and a glass elevator in a tube that then takes you to an escalator that bridges the gap to the 'sky garden'.
Some people claim this is a rip off, but for $8 I thought it was excellent. You can hang out on the top floor inside with heating and a cafe that charges reasonable prices, or go out onto the 360 degree roof in the freezing cold.
I alternated between both and took a heap of photos, so brace yourself, or prepare to scroll.

This is the side of the building, and I was excited about the light. I think this may be the best photo I have ever taken!

Looking up you can see the lift tubes, the bridge and the escalators. If you suffer from vertigo, theres a lot of opportunities to prove it here.

Ascending through the escalator, if you are a massive tight ass I think you can go up here and go back down again without paying.

Now some photos of the view at sunset, you can appreciate how big the entire Kansai region is. The sheer number of bridges and railawy lines is amazing to me.

More view.

Looking down on the escalators.

Still more view in the excellent light. It was absolutely freezing at dusk, wind was blowing, so hardly anyone was on the roof.

After this one I headed down a floor for a matcha latte until it got properly dark. I read about how earthquake proof the building is. Apparently nuclear power plants are tsunami proof too.

Its a great place just to sit around and appreciate the view, and yet theres hardly anyone here.

You can come up here for a romantic evening and hold hands on a special seat and things light up and then you attach a padlock etc. What sort of food do you need to appreciate this? A tin of wieners of course.

I lined up to pose in front of the heart. This had some locals very amused.

After my tinned wieners and latte I headed back out on the roof. This is why its called a sky garden I guess, they make the path light up with black lights.

Now for some night shots, 15 second exposures. I had to rest my camera on the rail, in the sunset shots its being held above my head so you cant see the safety barriers.

Yep

Another one.

Ok this is the last one.

In the basement theres a fake ancient Japan restaurant street. I decided to have a typical bar meal, a rice omelette with potato croquette things. The bonus wiener was not in the photo on the menu. What is it about this building and wieners?

David Newton on 2012-03-12 said:
As my mother kindly pointed out, I forgot to add a comments link to this day.

Day 8 - Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Osaka Castle

Osaka castle is one of the main attractions of Osaka. Its also listed as the number 1 tourist trap. I figure it cant be that bad since it only costs $5.
The reason its considered a tourist trap is because its largely a fake re creation. Whoevers running it is keen for people to not take photos inside of the 8 floors of gift shops, escalators, lifts and hostpital style linoleum decor.
Still I didnt mind, I knew this in advance and wasnt expecting an ancient castle. On one of the floors they have these cool 3d dioramas that project multiple video images at different depths.

On the way back I had a look in Tokyu Hands, to check on what the latest colors in decorative sands are, the new sizes of camel leather available, and to check out the special prices on coke can shaping tools. Tokyu Hands is a chain of massive hobby shops for Japanese people who didnt get the memo about dedicating themselves to computer gaming.

The castle is surrounded by 2 moats, this is moat 1 of 2.

And this is moat 2 of 2. I guess these parts are genuinely old, the castle was originally built in about 1600, but seems to have been rebuilt every few years.

Outside the main gate theres some sort of old village recreation being almost completely ignored by everyone.

The outside of the castle, there are no pictures of the inside.

Theres quite a nice garden to appreciate, especially since its quite a bit warmer today. My jacket is an annoying me.

More castle.

There are quite a lot of very well fed cats roaming around posing for pictures with visitors.

Here I am hugging a cannon.

Time for some more view photos.

Golden dragon head.

Look at all the blossoms! I must check the hourly blossom schedule.

Another golden dragon head to end my series of landscape photos.

Last night in Japan

Tomorrow I go to Taipei. Flight is in the morning so I have to get up fairly early to get to Kansai airport, which floats in the sea on a man made island thats slowly sinking.
Thats not a joke, they know they cant stop it sinking, so theres actually 2 islands and they alternate between them every 20 years whilst they add more rocks on top of the one thats sunk most recently.
Of course, a man made island in the Sea of Japan sounds like a tsunami taunt. So I will be keeping an eye out.

Because I have to pack and get up early and also find out what train to take, I didnt do much except wander around the local area, so theres not many photos!

Osaka and more correctly the entire Kansai area is a great place to visit. I filled all my days. If I had more time I could spend another full day in Kobe and Kyoto, as well as go to Nara, and explore more of the mountains etc.
One day I will man up and come here when its properly winter.

First some Engrish. In case you are too lazy to look at the bigger picture, allow me to type it out....

1. In the following cases, you cannot stay, and must evacuate the hotel.
*When you get dead drunk or violent speech and behaviour is done and it troubles other hotel guests. *When you do the gambling in the hotel. When you disarrange the hotel rule. *When you bring the animal for fondling in to the room. When you bring dangerous articles such as gunpowder, the gun, swords, and the poisons, and the thing that becomes troubled to other guests due to the stink in to the hotel.

....I know the girls outside in the street are probably of questionable character, but to suggest they are animals is taking things too far.

Light was good for one last photo of the canal.

And a final bowl of ramen. Although Taiwan does cater a lot to Japanese tourism, so I might end up having some there. I dont really like it much but its convenient for solo diners.

Day 9 - Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Travel day

Today I went from Osaka to Taipei. I often think my favourite part of travelling is the actual travelling. Today was one of those days.
There were trains, busses, motorised autonomous busses, planes, bullet trains etc.
The Osaka Kansai airport was actually quite dissapointing on the inside. Its impressive that its on a man made island, but they dont have nearly as many flights as other airports and the lounges and facilities were frankly, crap.
Its also a long way from any city region, dull and dated looking.

Taipei airport is STILL under construction. I cant see that they have done anything since I was here a year ago. But there were thousands of workers making a hell of a noise, perhaps they are building a new airport underground.

Like Osaka, the airport that serves Taipei is a long way from Taipei, in fact its in a completely different sizeable city called Taoyuan. It was pouring with rain and foggy so I decided to take the short bus to the bullet train stop and go for a bonus 300kmph train ride.

The photos will be quite boring today unless you like transportation!

First train of the day is the Kansai Rapi:t (they use a random colon for no known reason). This was pretty dissapointing. It runs on the normal tracks at normal speeds, but skips many stations. Which means we went really slowly as a regular train in front of us stopped at all the stations.

It does however have huge windows to enjoy the view, a beautiful day it was too.

Despite Japans best effort to not allow you to see the sea whilst travelling out to the island, I managed to get this photo by standing and holding my camera above my head like an idiot.

Inside the departures hall of the airport. Check in was easy as Cathay has a first class line and some really bored looking people thrilled to have something to do. Customs however was a zoo, no priority lane and lots of people pushing and shoving etc.

The view back to natural land with the bridge to fake land on the left.

This is the Cathay Pacific lounge. It is without a doubt the worst airline lounge I have ever been to in the world. By comparison, Launceston in tasmania is bigger. They had a coke machine and little cups with peanuts in it and thats it.
I turned around and went straight back out again! The girl on the desk that took 5 minutes to scan my passport and boarding pass was very confused.

I took the autonomous bus to the other terminal, where JAL have a sakura lounge. I hadnt had any breakfast! This bus is silly, it goes all of 50 metres. But they dont let you walk it for some reason, even though the buildings connected.

The JAL lounge was hardly any better. They at least had real drinks and some food, but it was small and very crowded. The bathroom was tiny, there was a line to use a urinal.

I exited the lounge and bought a green tea kit kat. Some Japanese people nearby were amazed that I ate the whole thing in about 3 bites.

This is my plane. The flight was good, Boeing 777's are very comfortable due to being 9 across rather than the 10 across of an airbuas a330. The meal was good, beef with rice and some soba noodles, I didnt take a photo of the food.

After arriving in Taipei and clearing customs (where some black people were getting the third degree), I took a bus to the bullet train, this only takes about 10 minutes and costs $2

Next up, the bullet train ride, takes about 20 minutes. I bought an un reserved seat, but didnt know what carriage to get on as they all said reserved. So I stood up in between 2 cars. No one seemed to care.

Final mode of transport for the day, the Taipei Subway. Very shiny. They have added a couple of lines in the last year too.

My hotel room is great, such excellent value!

Bonus hotel room view. Now I just need it to stop raining so I can go out.

Food capital of the world

Its well known that I like Taiwanese food.
Beef noodle soup, flavoured tea, Din Tai Fung etc.
Tonight I am ready to declare that Taiwan is officially the best place in the world for food.

Also, somehow the last time I was here about a year ago, I never went to the centre of the city, apart from the train station.
I dont really know how thats possible, but the centre of the city is great. Taipei is also a lot more compact than I realised, last time I was here I rode the subway everywhere, and never go an impression of where stuff is.
Tonight I just walked, it stopped raining and the temperature was good. The walk to the centre of the city I assumed would take over an hour took only 30 minutes, and then whilst wondering around I realised Ximen is located on one corner of the city, not even a kilometre away.
I feel quite silly now.

A few tips, its never safe to assume you have right of way, even on the footpath. Walk signals just mean you can walk now assuming no one is going to run you down. Scooters frequently ride along the footpath, at speed.
Also, the footpath, dont be looking around taking photos whilst walking. Every shop front maintains their own bit of footpath. Often theres a foot drop between shops, or even worse a slippery tiled ramp.
Its also cool to park your scooter on the footpath, making pedestrians have to walk on the road into oncoming traffic.

The streets however are great, you get the nice bits with great shops and restaurants and whatever, but then you get some alleyways that are like hong kongs wet markets. Also some areas are genuinely dark and mysterious with smoke coming out of the ground.

A typical street scene, near my hotel. Lots of scooters and bright lights.

Underground I discovered this series of pedestrian shopping malls, all up about 2km of them snaking around under the road (going by the map). They have sections for different things, this is the comic book and computer game section.
A bit like den den town in Osaka but a lot more innocent. They did have similar shops with old consoles and games though.

It was amazing how long this went on for, so I took another photo at what seemed to be the end of computer game alley.

Every 100 metres or so you get to an exit area with a performance space. There were tai chi dancers at one, and this really really crappy band at another. However rapturous applause erupted when they finished their song.

Without a doubt, this is the greatest food court I have been to in my life. Everything looked awesome.
It was also on basement level 4 of I am not sure what building! I somehow got into here via an exit through a car park via that other mall above. And then I connected to the train station to get out.
Which means I am not sure I can get back to it, which will be a tragedy because I have planned 10 meals from here.

This is where I ordered from. They have all my favourites, dumplings, beef noodle soup, that rolled beef thing with the crunchy pastry shown on the right of the sign, pan fried pies....
Its a good thing its going to be warmer weather so I can wear shorts, they are a looser fit than jeans.

Heres what I ended up with, braised beef noodle soup, fried eggplant, and a green onion pie. All of it was amazing. I also succesfully ordered speaking only Chinese, a little bit of pointing and nodding since I dont know how to say eggplant or green onion, but I could name the pie, soup and confirm the price and say I didnt want a drink all in Chinese.

I dont recall this tall building, or any tall buildings except Taipei 101 from my last trip. This only adds to my suspicion that I missed most of the city.

As mentioned, go one street back and you get crowded laneways like this. And running off these are alleyways with various things being butchered and tiny restaurants where people sit on coke crates.

And then every now and then you come to a shrine like this.

There is now a page 4, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.

Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 March 2012
  Adelaide to Sydney
  Sydney airport
Day 2 - Wednesday, 7 March 2012
  I made it here
  Around Shinjuku
Day 3 - Thursday, 8 March 2012
  Ginza and a garden
  Indian curry in Japan
Day 4 - Friday, 9 March 2012
  Bullet train to Osaka
  Shinsaibashi
Day 5 - Saturday, 10 March 2012
  Kyoto
  Umeda
Day 6 - Sunday, 11 March 2012
  Kobe
  Den Den Town
Day 7 - Monday, 12 March 2012
  Kaiyukan Aquarium
  Umeda Sky Building
Day 8 - Tuesday, 13 March 2012
  Osaka Castle
  Last night in Japan
Day 9 - Wednesday, 14 March 2012
  Travel day
  Food capital of the world
Day 10 - Thursday, 15 March 2012
  National palace museum
  Ximending
Day 11 - Friday, 16 March 2012
  Climbing the elephants back
  Shilin night market
Day 12 - Saturday, 17 March 2012
  Keelung
  Wufengpu
Day 13 - Sunday, 18 March 2012
  Bali
  American diner
Day 14 - Monday, 19 March 2012
  Yangmingshan national park
  Just one photo?
Day 15 - Tuesday, 20 March 2012
  Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
  Yay, a ferris wheel!
Day 16 - Wednesday, 21 March 2012
  Leaving Taipei
  Hong Kong airport