Tag Archives: japan

4 Hours in Malaysia / 26 Hours in Tokyo – Part 1

After leaving Bangkok I landed in Kuala Lumpur for a 4 hour layover. Just long enough to get bored to tears in an airport but not long enough to leave said airport.

I wandered around they duty free shops for a bit and decided to get a bite to eat at the Malaysian noodle place called Nööödles. I got the “beef balls and herbs soup” and a coke for what equated to around $7, not half bad. After that I stumbled onto the airport Starbucks which had a free open WiFi connection… Sweet! Only problem though? No way to charge my devices.. Kuala Lumpur is the only stop on my trip that doesn’t use the standard US two prong wall socket and I didn’t bring my adaptor kit with me. Luckily enough there was an electronics store right below where I was able to pick up one of those little adaptor switch boxes for around $10.

I did have a momentary nerd out moment in there however. They had TONS of Japanese video games for sale and all sorts of bizarre bootleg devices. This was the kind of stuff that 10 year old me dreamed of. I got really really excited at the idea of buying something to bring home and play… Then I remembered that this isn’t the days of old where you could get a cartridge adaptor for your NES and just play Japanese games, the whole industry has switched to optical media which simply won’t play without modding your systems, which thanks to the DMCA is illegal in the USA and with companies like Microsoft blocks you from getting online. Damn. Stupid regions. Stupid DMCA. Stupid Microsoft.

After I got over my heartbreak on this I went back to Starbucks, plugged in and I was off and running! (Note: the iPad’s battery would have no doubt made it fine through my flight to Tokyo, but I knew I was going to use it heavily in the next day so I wanted to start off with a fresh full charge.

I arrived at the Narita airport and wandered around a bit, taking a moment to use the bathroom, clean myself up and change into jeans. It’s 84 degrees here, a huge break compared to the sweltering heat and humidity of Thailand, I’m excited to be wearing jeans again.

I took a bus to the downtown Tokyo Train station which took about an hour but I figured would be a good starting point. From there I began to wander some more, I immediately was able to figure out which direction I was walking from the placement of the sun and when I noticed that I laughed out loud. The boy scouts would be proud. I’m extremely grateful for my iPhone right now as none of the streets are obviously labeled, that said I think I’d be doing okay as there are a lot of maps placed throughout the city which denote where you are. Navigation is all based on neighborhoods and landmarks, and it’s surprisingly clear for someone who doesn’t read a word of Japanese.

First thing on my agenda: find the Apple store. I accomplished this very quickly. Now I know you probably laughed at that and might have even muttered “nerd” but there is a method to my madness. Apple is very selective in the placement of their stores, they are usually in upscale, popular/trendy areas so they can immediately give you an idea of a good place to check out, on top of that they offer free wifi, accessible power outlets, clean bathrooms and friendly multi-lingual staff.

That choice paid off big time immediately I was able to find a guy who had moved here from Estonia who was able to give me a brief run-through of Tokyo basics. First thing he told me, enjoy the free WiFi because I won’t find much of it elsewhere. Not even Starbucks offers it apparently and McDonald’s does but only to Nintendo DS users… great. I also found out the post office here doesn’t sell stamps… weird. I’ve yet to mail out my postcards so that is priority #2.

Christine’s father was able to get me a great hotel rate for tonight so I’ll be staying at the Sheraton, this goes against my usual traveling rules, but I could use a clean bed and shower. Unfortunately I can’t check in until 2 so it I’ve got some time to kill.

I’ve heard a few suggestions / requests of things to do for tonight which I’m excited to start tackling as soon as I’ve put my bags down. I’m still open for more though so hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. More later!

Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key, Christine had some errands to run and I was desperately crazing cheese and gross American foods so we split up. I wound up hanging out at Pizza Hut eating mediocre pizza and drinking unlimited free refills of Pepsi and Christine wound up meeting me there. Word of Saturday’s violence in Bangkok started to trickle in and people started to be a bit concerned. The prime minister was on TV issuing a statement but people’s opinions are mixed. The situation actually seems to get more tense by the day, both sides want something without a compromise, it would appear the only way it’s going to end is with further bloodshed. Thankfully in Nakhon Sawan it was of little local concern.

After pizza Christine took me out to the park on her motorcycle. We relaxed for a bit and she taught me how to drive it, I found it to be surprisingly simple and very fun. I’m definitely going to look into it further when I return to the states. After that we went and relaxed by the pond, we bought a bag of rice balls and fed the GIANT fish who live in the pond, watching and laughing as the jumped and splashed over each other for each piece.

After that we went to a small bar simply named “Cups” to meet her friends Jon and Tom. It was Jon’s last night in town for a while so we kicked back and had a few beers. A few locals that the group knew joined us and we discussed the political situation in more depth and the general consensus seemed to be that both sides of the argument have a ton of merit but are equally wrong in their actions. Unfortunately there isn’t a third active side, the average Thai citizen would rather just ignore it and live their lives. Jon and Christine pumped me for information about the recently passed American health care reform bill, they both are deeply concerned that they may be expected to purchase American health care while living abroad or face steep fines. I admitted that I honestly don’t know how it will affect them if at all.

After hearing about my first drive of a cycle Jon offered to let me try out his. While Christine has a cute little Honda Wave, Jon has something a little more akin to a Harley. Christine had a good laugh when Jon made me get off the cycle when I asked what a “clutch” was and he refused to let me try again. Apparently I’m a freak because I never learned to drive a manual transmission car. How was I to know?

Anyway from there we called it an early night so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok, what to say to Taxi drivers etc. News reports on BBC International seemed to convey even more tension in Bangkok, making me glad I was heading down to the city early for my 4pm flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there I caught a motorbike to a bus station, only problem… Wrong one. The language barrier soon became unsurmountable as I tried over and over to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go, eventually I was forced to give up and call for Christine’s assistance, she came and met me at the station as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops and caught it together. It was a 3 hour ride down to Rangsit and traffic was heavy, as we got closer to Bangkok you could see military road blocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ahuttaya to pick up her Kindle which she had left in the hostel a few days before and I had another 30 min until I arrived at Rangsit. From there I caught a Taxi and head back to Bangkok airport completely avoiding the downtown area and boarding my flight out of the country.

I had a great stay in Thailand but now I’m on to my next adventure: 27 hours in Tokyo! Dear readers my agenda is pretty open. Ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should do.

And We’re Off! – Thailand Part 1

So I’m typing this on my brand new iPad while sitting on a Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver, from there I’m off to Hong Kong, then straight on to Bangkok. In Bangkok I’ll be meeting up with a good friend Christine and the agenda is pretty much unwritten. I just need to be back in Bangkok on the 12th so I can fly to Tokyo for a grand total of 26 hours.

So you’re probably wondering, what is the reason for the trip? My answer of course is the trip is the reason for the trip. I’m planning on continuing the photography and social media adventures that I’ve grown to love so much.

I was hoping to be able to post my photos nightly throughout the trip but unfortunately the iPad camera adaptor wasn’t available in time and since we’ll be backpacking most of the time I decided to leave at home the 7 lbs of computing power that is my MacBook Pro. I did however pay for the international data plan on my iPhone so I’ll probably snap a few photos on there and post them to Flickr as I go as a preview of the final images to come when I arrive home.

For this trip I’ve packed extremely light, since my days on the government watch list (explanation to come…) I’ve learned how to pack lighter and lighter and only bring what I can carry.

On this trip for example I have one bag, my camera bag/backpack. Which contains:

– Canon 5D mk II with 24-105mm f4.0 kit lens
– 4 Canon 5D mk II batteries
– 4 Compact Flash cards. (1 32gb and 3 16gb)
– Canon 50mm f1.4
– Canon 28mm f2.8
– Apple iPad 64gb WiFi
– 6 pairs of socks
– 6 pairs of underwear
– 5 shirts
– 1 pair of jeans
– 1 bathing suit
– 2 field notes, 2 pens
– 1 deck of cards
– assorted wires and chargers

Aside from a few sparse things I’m bringing one way to Christine, the clothes on my back and my iPhone in my pocket, that’s it. As I mentioned before I’ve paid for 50mb of international data but I’ve also paid for 50 outgoing text messages (Incoming are apparently free) and I plan to buy a prepaid phone over there to be able to stay in touch with Christine.

I’ll be active on Twitter, FourSquare, Flickr and Facebook throughout the week as well as hopefully blogging every night assuming I can find WiFi to post from so please follow me.

Actually, I plan to take it one step further than that… As it stands right now, I have no agenda for Tokyo, only a few suggestions. Like my day in Paris before this I know no one in Japan and I don’t speak a word of Japanese. My plan is to crowdsource my day… I’ve got 26 hours there… Where should I go, what should I do? Reply to me on Twitter and let me know how you think. I should spend my day, I’ll go do it, photograph it and write about it right here!

Stay tuned dear readers!