Friday, May 30, 2008

From the Himalayas to the burning desert

I took a boat down the Ganges at sunset to see the Ghats. At one point, we put floating candles in the water to remember our lost loved ones. (Varanasi, India)

The Ghats are essentially stairs leading down to the water of the Ganges. In the brighter section of the photo, a celebration of the Ganges takes place, closer to the foreground, individuals set their candles upon the water (Varanasi, India)

Alley scene in Varanasi. These are the same alleys through which the corpses are carried on bamboo stretchers on the way to the burning Ghat. A man sleeps, another man arranges his vegetables for sale, a stairway disappears into the background (Varanasi, India)

Only 5 kinds of bodies don't get burned at the Burning Ghat--Those less than 18 years of age, those bitten by a cobra, lepers, pregnant women, and priests. Those who are not burned on the Ghat steps are weighted and dumped into the Ganges (the same area where people bathe and play). Frequently, the bodies get free from the tethers (The Ganges, Varanasi, India)


At one point I was very frustrated--I love meeting local people, but every person I had met, after a few seconds, sometimes as much as a half hour, it became that what they were REALLY interested instead of my friendship, was my money. After yet ANOTHER experience with a guy who saw me only as a source of income, I was upset and headed toward a light and sound show at the Victoria Memorial. On the way, I saw a food cart and stopped to watch how this sort of food was eaten (The hollow bread is filled with a mixture of onion, aloo (potatoe [thanks Dan Quayle!]), and spices, then dunked in a spicy or sweet sauce, then eaten by popping the whole thing into your mouth). The college-aged people eating insisted I try some, then kept handing me more despite my protests. They were delish! It came time to pay, I got my money out, asked how much, and found out--as the students disappeared into the night--that they had paid for me. (Kolkata, India)

The Indian Museum: It's like breaking into your grandfather's attic... Only to find out that he lived a secret life as Indiana Jones. This ancient and unmaintained museum looks exactly like the day the superintendant put up the last display. The display cases are beautiful old antique wood, with glass splattered with drips from the ceiling, dust since the last cyclone, and piles of uncataloged exhibit pieces unceremoniously piled in the corners (Kolkata, India)

The Indian Museum truly did have some stunning pieces. This Pam-Anderson precursor is called "Devi" (Indian Museum, Kolkata, India)


I SAW THE HIMALAYAS!!! The view from the rooftop of the Aliment Hotel. The highest peak i Kanchenjunga (which means "Five-peaked snow fortress" in Tibetan) (Darjeeling, India)

The bathroom on the Deluxe 2A/C (only 2 bunks, air conditioned) train from Kolkata to Darjeeling (Kolkata, India)

In Darjeeling, up Observatory Hill is a gompa (Tibetan temple). There are Tibetan prayer flags draped everywhere, and the clouds rise through, lending a mysterious glow during mid-day. The monkeys pictured here are aggressive (and frequently are carriers of rabies--and they DO BITE). (Darjeeling, India)

As sandlot baseball is to American youngsters, dirt cricket is to the kids here. (Darjeeling, India)

Darjeeling is a city built along the ridge (and down both sides of) a hill. The roads are very windy and steep, and wealthy Indians on vacation in the cool hills of Darjeeling often opt to have a porter take their suitcases up or down to the Jeep stand (Darjeeling, India)

Darjeeling is known for its tea. The Happy Valley Tea Plantation (only 21 acres!!) was closed that day, but we bought a cup of the plantation's finest from an eccentric lady who runs a teahouse. While we were sipping the very (allegedly) finest tea, we were surrounded by fake flowers, kitschy pictures of Hindu gods, stuffed toy monkeys, etc. It definitely lent something to the experience (Happy Valley Tea Plantation, Darjeeling, India)

These kids were DYING for me to take their photo... So I did. (And the old --let me know if you agree--bears a striking resemblance to a character in the Star Trek movies!) . They all got a big kick seeing themselves on the LCD monitor on the camera (Varanasi, India)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kolkata, India

This was my breakfast this morning: Chapati. It was FANTASTIC fresh from the skillet! (Kolkata, India)

I'm currently in Kolkata (Calcutta), where Mother Theresa was... And her work was cut out for her! The poor are EVERYWHERE--beggars and amputees and gypsies and aggressive touts who want to "take you shopping"--so they get a commission on any shop you walk into...

You can taste the pollution in the air--the urinals drain to the gutter--coal fires burn, heating pots of oil--flavors of saffron, tandoori and sag mix and waft about... People run businesses from their homes which are small--basically ledges in walls.

The streets are largely unpaved (or simply unmaintained for decades) leaving dusty patches that have been filled in with small hills of rocks and garbage. Rickshaw wallas without shoes pull their human cargo around these streets without complaint. The gutter is the garbage can here.

Ramshackle Ambassador taxis from the 1950s bumble about the bumpy roads belching low-grade diesel with extra-high axles--no air conditioning, and no maintenance for two decades. They rattle and bounce, wires stick out of the dash... And the honking is ceaseless.

There is evidence of the British: buildings from the colonial era have not been maintained and they are slowly tumbling to the ground, making a photogenic dilapidated mess while they turn themselves over to gravity--disassembling themselves brick-by-brick. Nobody here will stop the process.

The heat is sweltering. A/C is not common--the hostel doesn't have it, the internet cafes don't have it, no restaurants nearby have it--only fans. My face glistens constantly, and when the breeze from the fans stop... I drip.

The whole place feels like it's falling apart.

It is sensory overload, and my body has responded by getting sick ... My throat only feels good when it's eating, so I've been snacking a lot today. I will hole myself up back at the hostel a little later and plan to read and sleep a lot. And maybe get an ice cream...

I got up early this morning and went for a walk. LOADS of homeless were sleeping on the sidewalk (Kolkata, India)

This man types business letters with an ancient typewriter on the sidewalk under an umbrella (Kolkata, India)

One of the many deteriorating colonial-era buildings (Kolkata, India)

Smoke rises from the coal-fired street-food vendors. The mess in the foreground is typical. (Kolkata, India)

This is my room at the Paragon Hotel off of Sudder St, Kolkata. I pay 170 Rupees a night. (That's about $4 USD). I have a shared toilet (no toilet paper) and a shared shower (no hot water), and a ceiling fan. No A/C (Kolkata, India)

This is the view from my hostel's second level (Kolkata, India)

Here's the most public "public urinal" I've ever seen. Note the mess on the stuff that looks like toxic waste on the left-hand side. That's where the waste goes--into the gutter (Kolkata, India)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thailand! (Diving, architecture, and stolen beer)

Thailand was a means to an end for me: I wanted to be where I could dive and also see Ankor Wat. Thailand has always had a "cheap, anything goes" attitude, and I was intrigued by that too. Also, and perhaps most importantly, there were cheap flights from Hong Kong to Thailand :)

Jim Thompson is a famous American who basically popularized Thai silk on the world market. He loved the Thai way of life. He was extremely wealthy, but in comparison to his wealth, this house is surprisingly modest. It was created by taking 6 thai houses and joining them together. When he died, he left his home to his daughter, who then turned it over to a public trust. He filled his home with the Thai and Chinese art he collected (again, modest--just things he loved--not meant to impress particularly). On the wall is a Chinese wooden carved block which provided some of Jim's original patterns. The pot and two seats are Chinese, and the two seats are meant to be placed over embers, so in the winter, the seats stay nice and warm. (Jim Thompson's House, Bangkok, Thailand)

Photography is not permitted inside the house, so these photos are from the gardens below the house. Of note to me is one particular buddha statue inside the house which is absolutely mystical. I stood and stared at it for MINUTES. There was just SOMETHING about that statue. I wish I could have taken a photo! Some of Jim Thompson's imported artifacts. (Jim Thompson's house, Bangkok, Thailand)

The giant spiky fruit is called "Durian". Sadly, the Durian is most famous for smelling bad--REALLY BAD. I thought that it smelled closest to rotting chicken. There are signs on the subway in Bangkok that notify of prohibitions... Those signs say, "No weapons"... "No bicycles"... And "No Durians"... And so I was terrorized by durian-vendors that could be smelled before they could be seen. I finally decided I would try one out, and my hand is holding the fruit of the durian in my left hand. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, BUT it was slightly sweet, and tasted pretty good. The texture was a bit fibrous and reminded me of a soft onion. I am certainly not a Durian lover, but it really wasn't bad--and far better than it smells! (Bangkok, Thailand)

On the way to Ko Tau (Turtle Island) were these probably hideously poisonous but photogenic tanks (Thailand)

Ko Tao is for diving and relaxation. This is the beach (Ko Tao, Thailand)

One night on the beach, I decided to have a VERY expensive dinner at this fish stand ($11usd). They just put chairs up and the barbequeues, and presto! A beach restaurant! The tide was coming in that night, and so the water swept sand by our feet as we had some of the most delicious fish I'd had in Thailand (Ko Tao, Thailand)

On my last night in Ko Kao (I hadn't planned for it to be my last night), I booked myself into a cute little cottage. It had a double bed, a rotating fan on the ceiling, and a great location close to the beach. It was $15US/night. When I got home that night, I was surprised because there was no porch light... I got inside to discover: NO POWER... Which is not normally a BIG DEAL, but in this case, even though the bungalow was close to the beach, there was NO sea breeze--just still warm humid air... And without a fan, that means sleeping in a pool of one's own sweat. In the morning, I awoke groggy, unrested, and said to myself, "I need to get the hell out of here!"... One small redeeming quality of the bungalow, however, was this little guy. The bathroom was poured concrete, and the rest of the hut was bamboo, and where they met was a 5cm gap. This GIANT gecko (maybe 20cm long) lived there--eating mosquitos and other bugs I didn't want around. (Ko Tao, Thailand)

I was itching to see some traditional Thai dance, and I just HAPPENED upon a free performance in a shopping mall! These dancers were great! (Bangkok, Thailand)

This falls under the category of "I didn't expect to see that until India!"... This is a golden Ganesh sitting in a shrine. Incense burns in the foreground (Bangkok, Thailand)

There was a music festival going on during my stay in Bangkok, and my friend and I decided to go! There was tons of great world music and world food. There were food booths from all around the world (Even from America--complete with BBQ ribs and apple pie!), and beer from everywhere. My friend David and I didn't really want to spend money on beer, but we saw an abandoned "Beer Tower" on a table, and moved in. I felt a little trashy drinking someone else's beer, but it was nice and cool and the feeling went away quickly! This is a belly dancer who was on stage dancing and TORE IT UP!!!! She was fantastic! (Bangkok, Thailand)

On the way up the Golden Mound, these bells blow in the breeze (Bangkok, Thailand)

On top of the Golden Mound is a spire, covered in reflective gold. The monks are preparing for a ceremony (I think) (Bangkok, Thailand)

The Thais have a real appreciation for beauty... Everywhere. This beautiful arrangement sits in a bowl on the counter of... The Men's room (Bangkok, Thailand)

One day I took a wander in Chinatown. I was off the beaten path, as people were looking me like I was a monster out of a horror movie. I had found the "Auto Parts" neighborhood of Chinatown. There were steering wheels, bumpers, tail lights, etc. One of the storefronts had this gentleman sitting inside. (Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand)

There are SO MANY BUDDHAS in Thailand it's amazing. This one is the biggest STANDING Buddha (Bangkok, Thailand)

This detail shows the sort of fish-scale glazed tiles that are used on the roofs. They are beautiful and reflective in the light. Not to mention extremely durable! They could last hundreds of years! (Bangkok, Thailand)

Vespas are cute! (Bangkok, Thailand)

In the neighborhood Banglamphu is the very famous Khao San road. Many times I heard people saying, "It's not as big as I expected it to be!"... My hotel was just OFF Khao San road, and on the way home, there was a lantern seller. These great lamps cast such a beautiful glow that I had to take a picture (Banglamphu, Bangkok, Thailand)

The fine tile work present in so many statues is AMAZING. This is inside the Grand Palace. When and if you go, please be prepared for many people to approach you to tell you that a) Grand Palace is closed today b) you're clothed inappropriately and need to go buy some clothes c) they are taking a lunch break e) etc etc etc. They are all scams. In Thailand, there are SO MANY SCAMS. You have to be prepared to be skeptical when you walk the streets (Bangkok, Thailand).

The foilage in Thailand is so beautiful! In the Grand Palace, there are some particularly beautiful flowers. This one is a water lily. (Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand)

Original post date:5/21/2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lucid dreaming: Ankor Wat!

Although in disrepair, this figure (originally) held the body of a serpent/ballustrade, which is along the walk through the main gates of the walled city, Ankor Thom. There are statues every 2m, and the entry walk is about 150m long, so there's about 150 of these huge things. (Entry to Ankor Thom, Ankor, Cambodia)

I made it from Bangkok to
Cambodia--a HARROWING journey. The roads are bad, there are scams left and right, and the trip was exhausting (even though I made it through in record time)...

And Ankor Wat is incredible. I have been here two days and tomorrow is my last.
I am in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and it has rained HARD every day. Luckily, today it rained only for about 30 minutes, and yesterday for about 2 hours. The day before it rained all night long, but cleared by morning. IT IS HUMID.

Just walking around the temples in the still air creates dripping sweat all over... Add to that the sunscreen and bugspray concoction on my body, and when it drips in your eyes, you'll be sorry!

My camera has not been suffering in the unmoving air and blanket-like heat--like a nerd's steamed-up glasses, I've had a lot of condensation on the lens--leading to some fuzzy photos. So they are not as magnifique as I would have hoped.

Ankor is actually a temple complex--there are SO MANY sites here! (check out the map on the link!--that's only ONE of the sites!). Back in the 9th through 13th centuries, Ankor was a city of one MILLION when London's population was 50,000.

Ankor Wat (the most famous) is teeny tiny in the photo below--but I wanted to capture the magnificent ballustrades, too. TotallyIndiana-Jones-y! (Ankor Wat, Ankor, Cambodia)

Here I sit in the window between the roots. After a thousand years, the jungle is re-digesting the temples (Preah Khan, Ankor, Cambodia)

The enigmatic faces of Bayon (Bayon, Ankor, Cambodia)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where Technology meets Tradition: Japan - Take 4

The entry to the Ikeda home. The topmost branch produces red/gold leaves. The other branches are different color. Akio grafted this branch onto the tree decades ago.

Before I left Japan, Daizo and his family took me sight-seeing one weekend in Kyoto. Most of these photos are from that trip.

Sakura! (Cherry Blossoms!) (Kyoto, Japan)

The streets in Nara are very narrow. This street-sign is kinked so drivers won't hit it (drivers have to basically "park" on the side of the road while other cars drive past) (Nara, Japan)

Beautiful gardens, pools, waterfalls, and sakura at Nijo-jo Castle (Kyoto, Japan)

SO MANY things Japanese! Sakura, Kimonos, technology, and picture-taking (Sakura Walk, Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan)

Daizo, Me, Shoji on our way to Himeji Temple (Kyoto, Japan)

Maiko #1, Me, Maiko #2, Shoji. On the way to Himeji these ladies were walking in the street and I asked them for a photo. Then they asked ME for a photo! (Kyoto, Japan)

At Himeji, the water is purported to cure all ills. Here Tomoko takes a cup and fills it from the triple waterfall of blessed water (Himeji Temple, Kyoto, Japan)

Japan's largest lake (Lake Biwa)

In Kyoto, we went to an after-dinner-and-before-dessert restaurant. Here's me, Akio, Tomoko, Daizo, and Shoji (Kyoto, Japan)

The view inside the Seikan Tunnel--The world's longest tunnel! It's about 54km long! It connects mainland Japan (Honshu) to the northern island (where Sapporo is), Hokkaido (Under the sea, Japan)

The bullet-train cuts quite a striking profile! These puppies get up to 285km/h (Tokyo station, Japan)

Although I do not claim to be able to read Japanese, I do now recognize the kanji for "Tokyo", "Kyoto", and perhaps the most important for this weary traveler: "Coffee"

Inside the bullet train, it is SURPRISINGLY spacious--this is actually pretty luxurious transportation! (On the Shinkansen, Japan)

The view you never see... Mount Fuji is in the background--behind the smokestacks

During the trip to Hokkaido, two bullet trains were connected to one another via this fitting inside the sleek housing at the front of the trains. The hitch is receding into the housing during this photo (on the way to Sapporo, Japan)

If you travel to Japan, you will look at the price and probably gasp, but the JR Rail Pass was probably the best investment I made while traveling so far. I got 21 days of unlimited travel on the EXTENSIVE rail network. I was in Japan a total of 5 weeks, so the middle three weeks were a frenzy of travel on the trains--but it made the investment SO worth it--I went from Kyushu to Honshu to Hokkaido--I went further than most Japanese ever do (Satisfied Shinkansen customer, Japan)

In the bathroom of the Shinkansen with my very trusty Canon SD400 camera--MADE IN JAPAN (NOT CHINA!!!) I have taken SO SO SO SO SO many photos with this puppy!

Photographer's assistants fluff, primp, pose the newlywed couple (Kyoto, Japan)

Traditional Japanese wedding outfits (Kyoto, Japan)

This is an "American restaurant" in Japan. What doesn't feel American about it is all the beautiful plastic food out front! We should have it so good! (oh, and the "no refills on coffee" were a reminder I was in Japan too!)

To attract attention to some shops, ladies stand outside dressed up in maid outfits. I understand this is kind of cute & kind of fetishy at the same time (Tokyo, Japan)

Thought Cameron Diaz didn't do print ads? Think again! SoftBank is the biggest phone provider in Japan.

This is one of the signs at JGH Hostel in Tokyo... Definitely one of the worst hostels on my trip. (Tokyo, Japan)

You may have to click and blow up this photo to see, but if you do read it, you can see that these people are BRIBING people to give them a positive review online (JGH Hostel, Tokyo, Japan)

And this is the reason JGH Hostel is possibly the worst, and definitely the UNsafest hostel I've been in--I was in the top bunk, and while I was chatting with another guy in the bunk across from mine (I was not even moving my body other than my mouth!), MY BED FELL. The ladder-looking structure which you see on the bed below LUCKILY fell on either side of the man's head beneath me. Otherwise it would have smashed him in the skull. (JGH Hostel, Tokyo, Japan)

Luckily the event didn't wind up with any casualties, but I would suggest that people sleep at this hostel with a helmet, or a full-body crashsuit. (JGH Hostel, Tokyo, Japan)

Rare delicacy in Nagoya Japan (SCARY!!!!)

I was and remain in complete rapt, joyous love with this building. It is so unusual--absolutely stunning! (Nagoya, Japan)

From Nagoya, Daizo and I went to see the Toyota factory. This little robot can play the trumpet. REALLY well. Unbelievably well. Beware musicians! (Toyota City, Japan)

I think that's right next to Italy. (Engrish, Nagoya, Japan)

The logo and text give the sort of "flavor" that a lot of ads have. Grammatically they're fine, but NOBODY would ever say that! (Tokyo, Japan)

Sigh! I LOVE IT!!!! (Nagoya, Japan)

I traveled to a small town on Kyushu called Dazaifu. Here is the zen garden. So peaceful (Dazaifu, Japan)

Outside the zen garden (Dazaifu, Japan)

The Japanese readily accept technology in a way that I think most Americans are uncomfortable with. This is a "roving robot" that moves around in the mall. This lady has stopped to ask it for some help. (Fukuoka, Japan)

Food stalls on the street (Fukuoka, Japan)

If you could peek in the box, you'd see a Buddha. I think (it was close up) (Dazaifu, Japan)

The incredibly fabulously gorgeous Kuyshu National Museum. The exhibits in this museum are STUNNING. It is breathtaking, both in architecture and in the exhibit hall (but skip the dorky 4-d theater--it's an ultra-high-resolution projection system--which sounds COOL! And then all they show you is some pots.) (Dazaifu, Japan)

The Red Hell. On Kyushu (southern main island of the Japanese archipelago), there is an area that is active geothermally. In that area there are many onsen (hotsprings) which you can get into, and they also have "Hells" which are so hot that you cannot. The red hell in this photo is colored red because of the clay content of the water. It is not a cold day, and the water is steaming--it is very, very hot (Beppu, Japan)

One of the onsen "Letting Off Steam" (Beppu, Japan)

Instructions for enjoying an onsen! (Click on it to zoom in!) (Beppu, Japan)

This is the size of the salad I was given at this "ultra-high-style" type restaurant (you know the kind: where starlets peck like a bird at a piece of lettuce--swallow--then declare, "I'm so FULL!") (Beppu, Japan)

This is the natural onsen that we hiked to get to. The "capture basin" for the water is man-made (cement and local stones) but the clay content in the water and heat are all natural. My partner and I intended to hike to and back from this onsen, but both on the way TO the onsen and on the way back FROM the onsen, people pulled over (we did not ask them to) to say 'hi' and asked to give us a ride (Beppu, Japan)

One of the normal names that one sees on vending machines ALL OVER JAPAN. "Pocari Sweat" sounds "refreshing" in Japan! Kinda funny, eh! (All over Japan)

One of the places I felt I needed to see was Hiroshima. And although in my mind Hiroshima means only one thing, the residents of Hiroshima have moved on--WAY on. Hiroshima is a vibrant and wonderful and normal city with an important role in history and an important lesson.

This is a cut-away of a bridge support. The arrows show where the metal was so fatigued by the strength and heat of the bomb that it literally warped (Hiroshima, Japan)

Watch that stopped 6 Aug 1945, at 8:14am, then the a-bomb exploded (Hiroshima, Japan)

A scale model of where the A-Bomb exploded (Hiroshima, Japan)

The A-Bomb dome (Hiroshima, Japan)

Outside is a wonderful multi-arched peace tribute--peace is written in (nearly) every language (Hiroshima, Japan)

What's the very LAST thing you'd expect to see outside a nice hotel in Japan? Gremlins maybe? (Miyajima Island, Japan)

The sun set while I was on Miyajima and through a gorgeous temple I saw some lights off in the distance. In the falling rain, I went to find the source of the lights and I found them--these lanterns in the trees... I was wet and a little cranky, and as I headed back, I realized, "this is everything I love so much"--architecture, lights, and water. (Miyajima Island, Japan)

One of the most famous sites in all of Japan, the Torii of Miajima (Miyajima Island, Japan)

This is a change machine on a bus. It allows you to get your change so that the conductor doesn't have to make change for you. How smart! (Japan)

When you pay for something in Japan, you put your money in one of these little trays with the little rubbery "fingers" sticking up in the bottom. It allows you to grab the coins without chasing them around (How smart!!) (All over Japan)

The average height for Japanese business doorways next to the not-average-japanese height Me (Hokkaido, Japan)

The King Xmnu club (Sapporo, Japan)

Engrish--Jumble store indeed! (Sapporo, Japan)

I got a kick out of this one. The two girls here sitting and watching had less of a look of excited fans, and more the look of patient girlfriends trying to be supportive of their not-particularly-talented-but-musically-interested significant others (Sapporo, Japan)

One of the famous quotes in Sapporo is "Boys, be Ambitious!".. And the coffee is "Subaru"! Cool, huh?? (Sapporo, Japan)

At first this little blown-up figure looks all cutesey--but he's not just there to be cute: Inside him is a very bright light being used to do roadwork below. The balloon in addition to being cute, is a light diffuser (Sapporo, Japan)

In the subway on the way to the Zoo, the floor tiles have animals on them. Once while I was walking through this tunnel, a little 2-year-old was so fascinated with them that he had his parents stop and explain the animals. I was amused thinking that they were probably ON THEIR WAY to the zoo (Sapporo, Japan)

This is Aquico! One evening I was looking for an internet cafe and luckily I asked her if she knew how to find it. She called the number, helped me find a different internet cafe, helped me get the local rate (instead of paying the "foreigner tax"), and then took me out to dinner afterward! (Sapporo, Japan)

Cool buildings (Sapporo, Japan)

Japanese Graveyard (Sapporo, Japan)

Cool moderny phone from long ago! (Sapporo, Japan)

Inside the temple, you can get a "fortune", and if you like it, you take it. And if you don't like it, you tie it up to a string there at the temple. Also to the right are wooden planks with prayers written on them (Sapporo, Japan)

Sapporo beer factory. I thought it was amusing that the three languages are Japanese, German, and English (Sapporo, Japan)

Hand dryer. You put your hands in fingertips-down. Then it blows the water off your fingers, starting at your wrists, using gravity to help. Ingenious! (All over Japan)

This building looked to me like it belonged at Northern Arizona University (Sapporo, Japan)

As the chilly sky lit blue behind the clock tower, I had to get a photo (Sapporo, Japan)

Sapporo University was started by an American (the one who sexist-ly uttered, "Boys! Be Ambitious!"), and intended to be a farming college. So here you see period farming outbuildings as they would have looked in America at that time (Sapporo, Japan)

I had no idea the Colonel spoke Japanese! (Sapporo, Japan)

Japan is chock-full of "Cute"... In this case, it's a very cute car (Sapporo, Japan)

HUGE CRAB!!!! (Hakodate, Japan)

No comment

When the weather is as cold as it is in Sapporo, you need plenty of warm drinks to keep yourself going. This is a hot pot, and not just ANY hot-pot. You hit a button on the lid, and it shoots out a beam of light, so that even if it's dark, you won't miss your mug. This is similar to the hot pot at a hostel that I had a hard time figuring out, and it started singing "Beautiful Dreamer" to me (Sapporo, Japan)

It was breezy in Hakodate, and I felt this lady leaning into the breeze captured it perfectly (Hakodate, Japan)

The winter is long and cold in Hokkaido. I loved the textures in this harsh climate (Hakodate, Japan)

This is how lovely I looked in the slippers from the Hakodate Hostel (Hakodate, Japan)

And this is a side-view, so you can see JUST HOW BIG my feet are compared to "average" here in Japan (Hakodate, Japan)

AM/PM is HUGE in Japan. Their stores are EVERYWHERE, and on the counters during the winter, they sell "Uden", which is wonderful fish-balls and other things I can't name but know on site. SO YUMMY! (Nara, Japan)

I had difficulty getting money out of ATMs in Japan. This is the JP Bank logo, which I took a picture of so that I could make sure I could always find one. I also took a deposit envelope with me, so that when I needed an ATM, I could show people my ATM card AND the deposit envelope, and they knew that I needed THAT KIND of ATM. It worked like a charm once I figured out how to communicate it! (All over Japan)

The plastic food in Japan is SO GORGEOUS! (Nara, Japan)

Green Tea KitKat. Unique to the Kyoto region. (Kyoto, Japan)

Bento Box to eat on the train. This one wasn't particularly great, but it was filling.

This is the group photo that we took at a dance lesson Shoji was kind enough to take me and Daizo to. It was an excellent experience! (Nara, Japan)

Original post date 13 Apr 2008