11 August 2010

Back from Beijing, Kyoto & Tokyo

Wow, it's been a long two weeks. I haven't updated the site in a while, but again, i've been on holiday in Beijing, Kyoto & Tokyo. Weird how I ended up there actually; the original plan was to fly to UK and a few places around Europe, the visas ended up getting delayed because of the summer rush (typical ammaro, leave everything to the last minute), and I wasn't too excited about Europe anyway since i've pretty much seen it all before (well, Italy, France, Holland etc).

Decided it might be time to check out somewhere new. Thailand? No, done it before. China? Hmm, maybe, but it doesn't really hold that much appeal on it's own. Tokyo???? Hmmm, now we're talking.

I've kinda been fascinated with Tokyo for years and years. The appeal of a country that does half of it's work via robots, is completely foreign to the rest of the world in terms of language and habits, comes out with the craziest styles, etc etc. Gotta see it first hand.

So, planned the trip, ended up planning a visit to Kyoto too since everyone I know from Japan recommended it, and added a few days in Beijing to see the Great Wall, Tianananananamen Square (I never know when to stop with the nana's here), etc. I'm working on a short video blog of the whole thing which i'll probably post up tomorrow or so, but for now enjoy some of the pix.

Ended up flying into Beijing first; funny thing there is that nothing is in English, and almost no one there knows how to speak it, so you better be armed with at least some basic vocabulary. Landing in the airport and getting a taxi to your hotel means writing down your hotel's name in Chinese, otherwise, good luck trying to get there :p

It was pretty fun though, everything from getting lost in translation to trying to explain things to people, trying to figure out what certain signs mean, unsafe 2km high cable cars, climbing up the great wall, to finding live edible scorpions on a stick. China is nuts.

Kyoto was next, although the Air China flight that was supposed to arrive in Osaka Airport at 9pm was delayed by around 3 hours. Ended up arriving at Osaka at midnight, and guess what? Everything was closed. That includes ATM machines and no more trains to take you to Kyoto (taking a taxi would have cost around 200 dinars). There was nothing in the vicinity of the airport since it was built on it's own man-made island, with the exception of a tiny hotel (which was fully booked), and a small supermarket. Great, homeless on my first day in Japan. With no ATM machines, no Japanese cash (they didn't accept my lovely dollars), I finally found a supermarket that accepted my visa card. Ended up buying a coke, some chips and some biscuits, which totaled around 10 dinars =o

Welcome to the reality of how expensive this place is ammaro :p

Anyway, had to wait till about 5am when everything opened up, got on a train and headed for Kyoto. Kyoto is amazing; it's like a small town, not too built up, but advanced as hell. And a good 20 minutes walk will take you out to green mountains, rivers, old classic geisha neighborhoods, century old shrines and temples. Some scenes looked like something out of Kill Bill. Wonderful. And the Japanese are great; they're totally organized, they follow all the rules, everything is in some sort of order, from people crossing the street, to eating, to to to... Nuts.

A few days in Kyoto and it was off the to the great Tokyo! Took a Shinkansen 350km/hr supertrain and ended there in less than 3 hours, passing by the ridiculously amazing Mt Fuji. Place looks like something out of a movie.

Arriving in Tokyo and navigating their overly complex Subway system to get to the hotel wasn't as difficult as I thought; luckily their stations are all labeled in English. Coming out of the station straight into Shibuya Intersection (basically Japan's version of Times Square) was an overload of noise, lights and people. The place was crazy, and the without a doubt the best examples of organized chaos i've seen. In Times Square, Picadilly Circus etc there are people walking all over the place, all the time. Here, they all stop for the lights, and gather gather gather up until it turns green, and then within a few seconds they're all let loose on the intersection. It's a pretty cool sight (i'll post it up in the video).

The hotel was right above Shibuya intersection; just the view alone was ridiculous. Here, take a look:

Wow. Of course, with Tokyo considered one of the three command centers for the modern world economy (along with New York and London), this place is pretty damn big. It feels more like a bunch of collected cities than just one single one, each with it's own personality. Akihabara was geek town, full of gadgets, electronics, anime and manga shops. Roppongi held the shady side of town, with seedy night clubs and adult outlets, Shinjuku with it's crazy dressed weirdo's, and so on it goes. Spending a week in Tokyo was nowhere near enough to take it all in, but sadly, that's all I had. But another visit is due, soon!

I've got a ton of photos up on my FB page, so if you're interested in taking a look at more higher res images, check out the Beijing album here and the Tokyo/Kyoto ones here! And don't forget to check back for a short vlog of the trip in a day or two!


Nora-Cassandra said...

i knew japan was expensive but man that was over what i expected... ok to know my next trip won't be to there... pics are amazing man!!! love them! china i do have to do sooner or later after all my brother is living there!!! and you know what? glad you left things for last moment (visa story) and ended up going to much more interesting place... europe? :-P i'm having a break from that!!!

ammaro said...

Yeah true, Europe is so over-done. This place was a refreshing break and more of an adventure than anything, plus u get to learn and see a completely new culture. Amazing stuff; I definitely suggest going to Japan but you need to save up for years and years first :p

Lamya said...

AWESOME! That is wicked! I think anyone would have a hard time exploring japan in two weeks, and you did China and Japan in that time.

Pics r WICKED! I loved ur hotel view. I'll be going to Japan once I inherit millions from some distant relative I dont know, and who probably doesnt know me, but from whom I am the only living descendant. *drools in daydream mode on keyboard* ..huh.. dont wake me..

ammaro said...

lol, yeah honestly it was hardly enough for both, i could easily spend a whole month in tokyo alone and not finish it, but i crammed in as much as i could. and yeah, hopefully when u get that inheritance you could let me know yeah, remember im your good old friend :p

Lamya said...

of course I'll be remembering you.. you can come work for me, and do funny vlogs on random stuff like why ur toast always falls with the buttered side up..

annndddd.. you can have three months off for japan and three months off for china. all expenses paid for u and a friend. Okay, now that sounds like you've just won a competition, lol.

Its the afternoon GI dip thats causing me to hallucinate. *pop* there goes my bubble..

i*maginate said...

Romantic stuff but no lady in your writings.

ammaro said...

you're the lady in the writings lol