Wrapping up

This is it, the last post, that glorious time of transience and utter self-reliance and detached discovery is over, or perhaps postponed. In other words, its time to rejoin my life and take on some actual responsibility again.

Despite the mixed feelings, Hong Kong was a great way to end the trip. The Hong Kong Sevens rugby world series was in town when I arrived, and while I’m not a big rugby fan, it made for a great atmosphere. Foreigners had arrived from all over the world to party and cheer for their team, making the city feel even more international that it already does. And of all the places in the world, Hong Kong feels more connected to its international identity than to any local region. It’s and extremely bilingual city, with Cantonese and English being spoken by most of the locals and often mixed together in a way that kind of reminds me of how Acadians use french.

Red taxis are a Hong Kong institution and, unlike a lot of other places I could mention, actually pretty cheap. The payoff is a near universal surliness and from drivers who make it know that they are performing a huge favor for electing to drive you anywhere, and will actually happily turn people away during peak hours if they don’t like where you are going, or don’t like you.

Image

Image

Image

Image

 

 

 

 

Guangzhou Food City

Guangzhou is a massively underrated city you guys. Good vibe, interesting streets, and people that understand the value of good, fresh food. My favourite was the small dumpling place that will form and then cook your dumplings fresh to order in front of the shop. Look for the big sliver vat on the street and the amazing smell.

20140330-211526.jpg

20140330-211404.jpg

It’s not the Great Wall, but it’s a pretty good wall.

I find myself seeking out the green spaces in the Chinese cities that I’m in, just as a rest from the dust and traffic. Fortunately, the parks in china are great. Nanjing has a wall around most of the old city, which follows for a ways around beautiful small lake. It was Sunday, and tons of families hastens and picnics set up on any bit of grass they could find. Kits and snacks were being sold.

I never did find out how they got that poor cat down from the tree. He kept climbing away from the guy with the net trying to get him down.

20140326-171317.jpg

20140326-171353.jpg

20140326-171458.jpg

Port of Shanghai

I would highly recommend taking a ferry into shanghai for the view alone.

The Su Zhou Hao leaves from Osaka international ferry port midday every Wednesday and docks in downtown Shanghai on Friday morning. Meaning, that I got to wake up last Friday in the middle of the Huangpu River, and the massive port of Shanghai.

20140319-232541.jpg

20140319-232616.jpg

20140319-232649.jpg

20140319-232735.jpg

20140319-232832.jpg

Cool things about Japan #3: Railpass

There’s something enduringly romantic about train travel, no matter where you are in the world. Whether its’s a leftover of the last century’s dream of progress or some nostalgia for that age, I haven’t yet decided. Maybe it’s more their synonimity with possibility and adventure, old school open road syndrome.
image

The point is, I never felt more like I was part of a Miyazaki film than when I was waiting at train stations in the evening. There’s a quietness and stillness in those moments as you watch trains pull in and away, the passengers at the window anonymous in their own worlds. The moment is ruined somewhat by the fake songbird noises they inexplicably play over the speakers in most stations. Am I supposed to be comforted by the natural world as I walk through concrete subway stations?

The JR Railpass, for those who don’t know, is essentially an unlimited, all access granted no questions asked pass onto any JR train, bus, or boat the in country, minus the fastest version of the Shinkansen. I honestly cannot reccomend this wonderful thing enough. It’s not cheap, and probably isn’t worth it if you’re only planning one or two stops in the country. But if you’re like me, and like to travel a little haphazardly, or want to get to as many places an possible, don’t even think about it, just get it.

The catch is the pass can only be purchased outside of Japan, once you arrive, it’s too late. They’ll mail an exchange voucher to you, which is meant to be exchanged at a JR station once to arrive.

image

image

Cool Things about Japan #2: Rules of the Road

If you’ve noticed a lot of bikes in my pictures, good for you! Japan is a country full of cyclists, and so naturally, I love it. But, as always, the interpretation is a little different. For a culture that is perceived as untra rules conscious (Jay walking is barely done here), peoples biking habits kind of defy expectation.

The attitude here is that bikes make faster pedestrians, not slower drivers, and that really is the key to everything. You more or less follow the same rules you would as a pedestrian. This means most people bike on the sidewalk, purse or briefcase tucked neatly into the front basket. On a crowded street, you might be weaving in and around crowds of pedestrians, dodging parked bikes and baby carriages, maybe take an important phone call while you’re at it. If there was ever a debate about helmets, it was short lived. Women in four inch heels and stylish outfits that somehow match their bikes cut their way across intersections and bike up the street (on the wrong side) for a while before turning down another side street.

Since this is Japan and not Vancouver, where people will take an Allen wrench to your wheels if they look nice enough, theft is not a problem. You can leave your bike on pretty much any corner of the sidewalk you want, run a lock through the back wheel, and walk away. First time I tried that, I was so paranoid I kept checking back on it as a I walked away, expecting it to disappear.

While I was in Kyoto, I rented a little yellow bike for a day to bike up to Arashyama bamboo grove and joined the crowds of cyclists making their way down the (thankfully) wide sidewalks. To my inexperienced eyes, it makes for a refreshing bit of anarchy in a world that is otherwise so meticulously in control.
image

image

image