A Travellerspoint blog

Tried to do a little work in Bangkok


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March 1, 2020

I got to Bangkok in the morning. I checked into my hostel. They put me in a room full of Thai prostitutes. Everytime I came in the room they were pulling their phones out of their crotches, giggling and getting dressed really fast. I wanted to throw up all the time. Sometimes I could even see the inexplicably confident neckbeards on the other end of their video calls. Blech. I'm happy they have each other.

I didn’t have any summer clothes so I had to go to a thrift store to augment my extensive carry-on sized wardrobe. I thought I was going to teach english in Myanmar so I bought 6 dresses for work.

Then I was starving so I went and bought the most Thai thing I could find. I can't remember what it was, it looks like laarb.

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March 2, 2020

I had my first food assignment with an Israeli guy. He told me all about his band and how cool he was all night long. We ate a lot of Thai food, I had some of the best Pad Thai in my life and also the best laarb in my life.
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There was a broken tile and *gasp* some kind of bug in the washroom. It all went in the report!

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One of my dresses I got at the thrift shop.

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At the bar, they were having happy hour so we got double the drinks we would normally have gotten.

March 3, 2020

I finished my report early and I was pretty hungry. I asked the lady that I had planned to go with, if she could come for lunch. She said she couldn't, so I went by myself. I had an amazing flourless chocolate cake. The service was the best I had in Bangkok.
Another dress.
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March 4, 2020
I walked to the Myanmar embassy to apply for my visa and then walked back - 2 hours total.

I went for Italian and, I had eaten so much the night before I wasn’t too hungry. However, I had to do this assignment. I am such a hard worker! Lexi met me there and we had a great time. She was the best person to join me on my last assignment. I wanted her to come to all of them after that, but the other 12 assignments got cancelled due to the corona virus...I was devastated. All my plans went out the window for the 3rd time… That corona virus.
Another dress that kind of looked like a tent.
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And a scratched up bathroom door. How awful.

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March 5, 2020

I wrote my report in the morning and picked up my visa in the afternoon. Another 2 hour walk.

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I had a really great dinner on the sidewalk to celebrate. I was also feeling homesick for China. I missed the little plastic chairs and tables.

March 6, 2020

Since I had nothing else to do, I went to random tourist places I hadn’t seen before in Bangkok. So that means I went around town to places that aren’t really high on the priority list for anyone.

The National Art Gallery was ½ closed for renovations but I still paid full price.
There was an temporary exhibit full of naked ladies. I thought I had seen enough naked Thai women already.

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There was an old water tower in the backyard.
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The National Museum was really great.
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My favourite part was looking at the palanquins. I immediately began recruiting volunteers for my palanquin team. All positions are still open.
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March 7, 2020

I was soooo bored I checked the couchsurfing app to see if there were any events and I was lucky. Some people were walking around on a foodie tour. I had another plate of delicious pad thai wrapped up in an omelette and went to a museum I had already seen.

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I got some Thai tea in a bag and just generally died of heat exhaustion.

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This is also how I met Fanny, my friend from France. She was working in logistics so she was very busy at this time. After our "foodie" tour, we also went to a meetup.com event at Terminal 21. This would become my own private dining room for the rest of my time in Bangkok. It was clean, cheap and good and air conditioned.

March 8, 2020

Fanny lived about 10 minutes walk from where I lived so we got together often. We wanted to go to a flash mob for International Women’s Day but it got shut down by the police. I didn’t know if it was for corona virus or if it was because unsanctioned gatherings were not allowed in public parks. Yesterday, I had seen people in a huge group working out in Lumphini Park, so it didn't make a lot of sense to me. Nobody explained it very well either.

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Posted by baixing 14:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Weird tourist stuff in Osaka


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Feb. 23, 2020

I got a little tiny room in a crappy hotel near Spa World, just so I could go to Spa World. I went there in the morning to check it out. It was full of kids and really loud so I thought I would go the next day. I just walked around the tourist area.
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It was full of Pachinko casinos and cheap restaurants. The “golden boy” Biliken was everywhere.
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I also went to the top of the tower for free.
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Things were starting to close down because of the corona virus. I wanted to go to an art gallery at the top of the tower but it was closed already. In the south of the city, there was a famous shrine (Sumiyoshi Taisha) where people got married, like a wedding machine. I didn’t know that until I got there and I was trapped between a bunch of weddings.
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It was far but it was a nice walk. At one point, I thought I was in Toronto because there was a streetcar and the urban density was low. Maybe that’s why I stayed so long. As soon as I arrived in Osaka I didn’t want to leave because I felt so comfortable.

I think Osaka was my favourite place, Kyoto was too pretentious, Tokyo was overhyped and expensive but Osaka was like the blue collar scruffy brother. It was easy to find affordable things to do. For example, I pretty much spent all my money at Super Tamade, a crazy cheap grocery store that had everything any backpacker might need.

Feb. 24, 2020

I spent the whole day at Spa World, it was a Monday so it was quiet. large_a0230600-7b88-11ea-8fa2-4f76f0ce1328.jpg Every room had a different theme, for example, Roman, Asian, Turkish. It was well worth the admission and cheaper than Lonely Planet said it was.

Feb. 25, 2020

Since everything was closed, I didn’t know what to do so I went on a walking tour to Ohatsu Tenjin shrine, dedicated to the Japanese Romeo and Juliet. It was the scene of a double suicide and their ghosts are still there!
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Then I went to go find a weird clown robot thing. His name is Kuidaore Taro. Just like Biliken, from the day before, I didn’t understand him either. People lined up for maybe half an hour to take a photo with him. And it was a slow day.
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Feb. 26, 2020

I slept in and then I went to the cup noodle museum.
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I learned the ancient Japanese secret of how to get the noodles into the cup. The secret is: they make the noodles first, then put the cup on top of the noodles upside down and then flip the cup over and put the rest in and seal.

There was a workshop to make your own cup noodles from scratch! I could have joined if I had a partner. They wouldn't sell me a ticket if I was alone.
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Feb. 27, 2020

I slept in again and spent the whole day at the underfunded human rights museum. I learned all about the tannery people, disabled people, people with AIDS and native people. There were a lot of good videos to watch but the rest of the museum was a little cheap-looking and kind of thrown together haphazardly.
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Feb. 28, 2020

I had an assignment at an Italian restaurant. I posted on facebook to find someone to go with and I went with Richard. An interesting guy who is a Japanese/English translator. He could speak a mile a minute and had a million random stories to tell. It was pretty hilarious but I didn't get much work done!

Feb. 29, 2020
I wrote my report up in the morning and I changed hotels to get closer to the train station. My flight to Bangkok was leaving early in the morning. There was a small onsen on the first floor, you can judge for yourself about that one. See photo below.
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Posted by baixing 17:01 Archived in Japan Tagged osaka Comments (0)

Maybe I stayed in Kyoto too long...


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Feb. 7, 2020

I got to Kyoto in the morning and took the subway to my hostel. It was really difficult to figure out how the transit cards worked there. I ended up getting one that was like buy 5, get 1 ride free. I tried to do laundry when I got there and I spent about $9 for the dryer and the clothes still weren’t dry. So I complained, I wasn’t going to spend anymore money on this stupid dryer. The guy at the front desk couldn’t fix the dryer and it took a lot of convincing but he finally let me hang my clothes up outside.

I met a transgender woman named Avery from Australia, we bothed laughed at the dryer together and also the front desk man’s reaction to my request. Then I went out to buy some dinner of sushi from the grocery store.

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I chatted with Avery for a while and a Chilean family brought a whole lot of pizza to share. Then I slept for a really long time because I didn’t sleep last night on the bus.

February 8, 2020
There was a monastery, Tenryu Temple, founded in 1334 about a 20 minute walk from my hostel so I went there in the morning.

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My illness was almost over, I thought I could handle the hike but I almost didn’t. I coughed through the whole trail and barely made it to the top. The ambiance was nice, it was shrouded in mist and overgrown with moss. It was as mysterious as you'd expect Japanese monasteries to be. I could imagine being some kind of buddhist monk as I wandered along the trail.
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I remember there was a really loud little girl running all around. I could hear her from the top. We met up at midpoint. Her family and I both sat down at midpoint. She really liked hiking and was really into it. She was really excited to be there.

I went back to the hostel and met up with Avery again. We made a plan to go out the next day. I had to change hostels because they were booked up and I had only booked one night because I didn’t trust hostels in Japan anymore. So I went to my new hostel and I booked one night there to just try it out. There was a drunk guy that stumbled into our room about 2 a.m. and proceeded to snore loudly the whole night. At some point I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed his foot and shook it as hard as I could. I yelled at him “Sleep on your side”. He just grumbled and went back to snoring.

February 9, 2020
The owner told me that the drunk guy was checking out and I thought the hostel was OK, so I booked a week there. Then, in the morning, (after I booked and paid for the whole week) the old man who worked there (I believe his name was Hiro) became a complete jerk. It was very cramped in the kitchen and I was enjoying my breakfast and coffee. He came in and made a big fuss and shoved me off of the chair I was sitting on because he needed it to reach something in a cupboard. Annoying. Five minutes later, he started making noises at me. I had asked to switch beds and assumed that I would do this at about 10 a.m. (checkout time) after the other people had left. He was telling me to move out of my bed at 9 a.m. I was still trying to enjoy my breakfast and look at the map to plan my day. He would not stop making noises and having a fit at me, until I packed up and moved my belongings. One hour before official check out time. I couldn't take it anymore, so I went to move my stuff. Then, my stuff was not in the exact right place. So he simply grabbed my belongings and threw them against the wall. (I had put them out of the way in a corner, but my bags were about two feet from where he wanted them to be). I think he made calls to the owner, who I believe explained to him that he should not be a jerk to me anymore, as I had told the owner over the booking.com messenger that I would be giving a one star review. Unfortunately, I was stuck there for a whole week at this point. Later in the week he calmed down and didn't try to tell me to do anything. However, one morning my friend wanted to use the hot plate in the kitchen, and the old man had a fit again because she put it on the wooden table and not on a PLASTIC STOOL. He wanted her to put A HOT PLATE on a PLASTIC STOOL. Think about it. So we got in another fight about that. I hope that this guy retires soon, then this hostel will be an OK place to stay in downtown Kyoto. He really should not be doing this job.

After the fight with the old man, I walked all the way to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It was very busy but Avery and I were both punctual and we found each other quickly. Also she is very easy to spot in a crowd. She told me all about the JPop concert she went to the day before. We walked up the small hill through hundreds of orange gates. Each one represents a large donation to the shrine.

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There were a lot of cats around and people fed them. Avery really loved cats, we spent a lot of time following cats around. This is a shrine to the Japanese Fox Goddess so there were a lot of cool statues of foxes everywhere. A lot of people also bought toy foxes to take home.

Then Avery and I said goodbye and I walked all the way back to my hostel. There was a nice Spanish lady there named Cristina. I took her to try some okonomiya and walk around at night. We decided to go around to different temples the next day together.

February 10, 2020

Cristina and I went to the Imperial Palace together but it was closed. So we continued to the Golden Temple, Kinkakuji. It was raining a bit, but that was fine.
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It cleared up when we got there and then we went right back downtown. We walked most of the way there and I had a granola bar that someone gave me in my pocket. I ate it and my lips felt a little numb so I was a little afraid of having an allergic reaction to something in the granola bar. It was one of those weird health bars. So on the bus back to our hostel, I took an antihistamine and I started to feel a little sleepy. We had a little lunch of grilled eel and then went back to the hostel.

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Cristina really wanted to see a temple that she had a photo of but didn’t have the name of it, so we went on a wild goose chase to find it. The only thing she knew was that it was in the Higashiyama district. It’s a really big district. We walked up and down the streets showing people this picture and we eventually found it. Most people didn’t really know where it was. We found it about 20 minutes before it closed.

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The sun went down and I wanted to go back. I was still very sleepy, but Christina went on a big walk to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It’s supposed to be beautiful at night but I didn’t care to find out.

February 11, 2020

We tried again to go to the Imperial Palace but there were no tours until late afternoon so Christina wanted to see a bamboo grove and I really didn’t care what we did. I have seen a million of them but there was nothing else to do in Kyoto for me so I went with her. It was so commercialized and busy all because of some bamboo. It was very strange.

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All the food was overpriced, everything was expensive so we didn’t stay long, plus we had tickets for a tour at the palace. We made it back just in time for the tour and saw some more gardens and old buildings.

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The most interesting thing was the riverbank full of smooth rocks. It was made by rocks that the workers in the garden brought in every day. If the rock was perfect enough they would get paid a certain amount for the rock.

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We were starving after that, so we went for Ramen and then went to bed.
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February 12, 2020

I went on a little architecture tour to the train station. There are a whole bunch of escalators
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and a garden on the roof.

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Then I went to the tourist info centre where they booked me a kaiseki lunch and I got a cheap ticket to go up the Kyoto Tower. It always pays to go see the tourism ladies but you will always leave with a handful of pamphlets that you don’t want.

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It was just before closing time, but I made it to one more temple. The temples are a little bit different in Japan because you have to take your shoes off even if it’s cold. So every time I was at a temple my littles tootsies were freezing….

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I walked back home and Christina had this idea to go back to Spain because of the virus and she was also tired of Japan, like me. A group of us from the hostel all went out for dinner together to say goodbye.

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Feb 13, 2020

I had a reservation for Kaiseki at lunch so I put on my new kimono. It took 2 hours. The other Japanese lady in the dorm didn’t know what she was doing either. She tried to help. It was a nice sunny day, so I walked over in my little costume but I wasn’t the only one. Lots of young Japanese women put on Kimonos to take pictures at the temples in Kyoto. I was the only one at the restaurant so I had a hostess and two chefs to myself. It was good but I wouldn’t do it again. There were 8 courses. Every other course was paired with a different sake. They also gave me a big box of rice to take home. The service was nice and pleasant.

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I just hung out in the hostel that night. Somebody was making chocolate chip scones for valentine’s day and they gave me one.

Feb. 14, 2020

Finally I could leave this hostel and I would never have to see that old man again, however, I had an interview just after check out time. It seemed like the old man waited until I was mid way through my interview to unplug my computer and start vacuuming because of course there were no other plugs he could have used. I finished the interview and then I started getting messages on booking.com app, the owner said they were going to call the police because I stayed too long after checkout and used the power and internet too long. So, of course, once again. I had to pick up all my stuff really quickly and run away. I have never had to do this in any other country.

It was still a really long time before check in time at the next hostel so I thought I would walk there. It was a good choice because the hostel was located on the Philosopher’s Walk so I had a nice stroll.

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I checked in and everyone was really nice here even though I had arrived early. I hung out at the hostel all night long with friendly staff and guests in the common room.

Feb 15, 2020

I met another Canadian who was working in China and also stranded. Geoff. The staff at the hostel told us about a crazy art exhibit at the Kyoto University of Art and Design. So we went there. Geoff stayed until lunch and I stayed for about 6 hours looking at all the crazy stuff the students made. This was their graduation show so there was every kind of art you could think of, video games, board games, ceramic, architecture, regular paintings, performance art, digital art, industrial design, marketing type stuff, that’s why it took all day.
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Feb. 16, 2020

It was raining but I felt like going to see some temples and gardens while they wouldn’t be busy. I went to Nanzenji Temple which has a fancy gate
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a fish pond
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aqueducts
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and a strange shrine you can find in the back. I went there mostly for the shrine. People go there so they can take a naked shower in the waterfall but no one was there while I was there, it was too cold to try.
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I went to another zen garden, still didn’t get it. I decided that was my last zen garden. Kyoto is supposed to have the best gardens in Japan. I went to two of the best zen gardens in Kyoto and still don’t get it. So I decided that was the end of that.
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Feb. 17, 2020

Didn’t really do anything today. I went to the 7 Eleven to print out stuff to get my Myanmar visa. I probably just hung out with Geoff in the hostel.
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Feb. 18, 2020

Geoff and I went to english talking group. He took me to his friend’s noodle shop. Apparently he comes to Kyoto every year for Chinese New Year so he was stuck longer than he expected, just like I was.
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I had just been assigned a report to do on another restaurant and I was looking for someone to go with me. It’s not required but it’s preferred to bring a guest as it is less suspicious. I went to the common area and the first person I saw said he couldn’t do it. The second person I saw said that he could do it so I immediately made a reservation with his special diet request. When I came back out to remind him to wear nice shoes and a jacket of some sort and he told me he couldn’t go suddenly. So he assigned someone else to go with me after flaking out. I was really annoyed. Someone cancelling is one thing but then assigning someone else to you is super annoying. I was going to ask Maka anyway but it was annoying that he assumed I would.

Feb. 19, 2020

I didn’t do anything this morning. I waited for Maka to come home and then we walked for one hour all the way to the restaurant. We had a really great meal. We spent $300 and had a great time.
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Feb. 20, 2020

I spent my report payment on sushi and sake dinner after I finished my report.
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Feb. 21, 2020

I was completely out of ideas for things to do. Whenever that happens, I climb a mountain. There happened to be one down the street. So, I climbed it. When I got to the top, there was an English couple and they had an actual map so I followed them down the other side instead of coming down the same way and it was a lot prettier. I was glad that I met them.
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Feb 22, 2020

I slept in until check out time, in the afternoon I took the bus to Osaka. I walked all the way to the bus station because I had nothing else to do. The walk was completely uneventful...finally.

Posted by baixing 13:08 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto Comments (1)

Back to Tokyo


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Jan 30, 2020

There was a poster in my hotel that said I could get a cheap train ticket . I asked the sleepy man how to do that. He couldn’t tell me. So I went to the tourist info centre with a photo of the poster. The nice lady took me personally to a restaurant next door where they sold me a 1/2 price ticket. I asked her what to do until the onsen opened, she told me that I could go for a hike. I was still really sick so the hike was really slow. I climbed up a small hill and rang a bell.
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I ate my lunch at the top of the hill then I went back down to the Kinugawa Park Hotel for another hour of onsen.

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The next free onsen was Kinugawa Plaza Hotel, this is the one that didn’t want to let me in.

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I showed them the pamphlet and two of the front desk attendants didn’t understand it, even though it was ½ in Japanese. They ran around for about 15 minutes trying to figure out if I was allowed in the hotel. I showed them my passport and then they let me in. Nobody was there, so I had the whole place to myself. This onsen had the best view out of all of them.

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There were also mechanical massage chairs you could use.

large_0864b400-790b-11ea-b585-d31a2b5a29fe.jpgI still had one more onsen to visit. Hotel Kinugawa Gyoen, this last one was the busiest. It seemed like a local gathering spot.
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I still snuck into the VIP area anyway.
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If you act like you belong, they don’t question you. By then it was time to catch the train to Tokyo. I had an assignment on Feb. 1.

Jan. 31, 2020

I went back to the same hostel I had last time called Obi Hostel and I was sick in bed all day.
I only thing I went out for was soup and to mail my ferry ticket back to the company for my refund.
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Feb. 1, 2020

I had dinner with Toshi at a fancy Chinese restaurant. The service was terrible for the amount of money they charged and one of the dishes was really strange so I politely told them. The manager apologized and gave us free wine and dessert and he didn’t even charge us for the weird dish.
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Feb. 2, 2020
I wrote the report from the restaurant yesterday all day.

I thought that I might stay longer in Tokyo so I changed to a cheaper hostel outside of the downtown area. On our way there, Toshi took me shopping and I bought a solar powered watch.

large_a07a63e0-790e-11ea-86e9-0beb379242f2.jpgNow I never have to ask my dad for a battery again. You could see all of the maid cafes and various places to have drinks with the various domesticated animals like owls, cats, dogs, ferrets etc. Then we had an early dinner in the little village where I was staying.

I put my stuff down and I laid down on my bed, when I got back up again I found a bed bug full of blood on my sheet. That was the second time in Tokyo. I called booking.com again, tried to get a refund, tried to get them to find me another place to stay, but it was too late, there was nothing close by and I didn’t feel like going across town. The owner gave me a different room with a top bunk. I left quickly in the morning. Later I eventually got a refund.

Feb. 3, 2020
My favourite jeans were ripped, so I went to a sewing workshop to turn them into a skirt. It was more expensive than I thought it was going to be.
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Feb. 4, 2020

I had an interview in Myanmar at around lunch time. I didn’t want to waste the whole day inside so I went to the Tokyo National Museum. I spent the morning there. They had really good wifi, so I had my interview in the basement.
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Feb. 5, 2020

I looked at my hand and I had some weird bumps on my finger. I asked the people at the front desk what it might be, and they said they didn’t know. They were a little itchy and kind of looked like little worms, so I immediately went to a clinic. The doctor at the clinic told me they were “caterpillars” and gave me some topical steroids. He said they would go away in a few weeks. Weird.

At sunset I went out again. I went to Sensoji Temple, which is famous for some reason.
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I got a fortune that said I would get well. I was still sick at this point.
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I walked back to my hostel along the canal and saw the famous Golden Turd Building, it’s the headquarters of Asahi Beer.
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Feb. 6, 2020

It was really cold and windy, but I wasn’t far from the Sumida Hokusai Museum.
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That’s the guy who made “The Wave” woodcut. Although there is no “original” print because they made more than 5,000 from the first woodcut, you could see some pieces of the original wood which made the print. I think. It might also have been a replica and I’m totally wrong. You never know.

I also went to the Tokyo City Museum, where they give you a free guided tour. The woman giving me the tour was really interesting and we chatted a lot for many hours. I think I took up her whole shift!
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I was getting really tired of Tokyo and my hostel was really cramped. I didn't feel like moving to another one at that point. There was nothing else I really wanted to do in the city, so I made my way to Kyoto on another Willer bus. This time it was overnight and I got a cheap ticket so there weren't any "egg" seats on that bus. It was definitely not worth it. They cram everybody into this tiny room to wait for their buses, it was so ridiculous. It was cold outside and some people were huddled outside also waiting for their buses. I thought the design of the Tokyo Station bus station was horrendous.
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Posted by baixing 13:00 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

Kinugawa spa resort


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Jan. 29/20

I woke up early again and crossed the street to the train station. I decided to go to Kinugawa, which is a natural spring onsen town. There were about 10 free onsens for foreigners until the end of February so I wanted to take advantage of them. It was only about 4 stops and I arrived there at around 9am. My hotel check in time was 3pm and in Japan, good luck to you if you show up early because sometimes nobody is there.
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I thought I would put my bag in a locker at the train station, but it $7 so I decided just to carry my bag around to the onsen. However, I was still too early. I sat down on the bench and used the free wi-fi in the train station. I checked my wechat and I had a message from the ferry company saying my ticket back to China had been cancelled. Did you know there was a pandemic? I immediately called the ferry company and they told me that they couldn’t give me a refund, I would have to contact Ctrip directly because that’s who I paid for the ticket. Do you know how hard it is to find an english speaking operator at Ctrip...it’s hard… They have a North American office so I called there first. They wouldn’t give me the refund because I bought it on a Chinese app. It was a little bit lucky that Kinugawa was having this promotion today because there were four very polite ladies standing doing nothing behind a bright red “Welcome to Kinugawa for Chinese New Year” sign. Do you know what that meant??? They all spoke Chinese and English, exactly what I needed. Kinugawa was expecting a lot of Chinese people to visit. Lucky me! One of the women volunteered to translate for me on the phone after I explained the situation, however, the wi-fi signal did not reach her table and she would not be able to walk over to the bench I was sitting on using the wi fi approximately 20 metres away. So I went back to the bench and I asked her if she would come over if I waved at her once I got an answer because the hold times were very long and she said yes. I may have been on hold for 20 minutes but when I looked over at her, she was busy with someone else. The other 3 women didn’t speak English, only Chinese and Japanese. So they were also useless. I used my vast Chinese vocabulary to try to tell the woman on the phone to wait and she got the message. She also managed to find someone that spoke English at Ctrip which was amazing. She promised to give me a full refund. Mission accomplished.

As soon as I hung up the phone, a man came over to me and asked me if I needed help in perfect English, he spoke Japanese and Chinese. I thought “if you have been listening to me this whole time, why on earth are you telling me now, after I’m finished with my struggle?” I said “no thank you” and left the station. By now the rain had stopped and the free onsen was open.

The first onsen was called Kinugawa Park Hotel.
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This was my favourite. It had long hours and two enormous pools inside and one rock pool outside and a wooden boat shaped pool also outside that was boiling...you boiled your skin off it was so hot!
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I went there twice in two days. It’s a shame we can’t take photos inside because all of the onsen were very beautiful! It was fantastic! All of them also had luxurious undressing and dressing areas with amazing hair and skin products.

So throughout the two days I was in Kinugawa I had six showers and tried samples of at least 32 different Japanese hair and body products. This marketing plan didn’t work on me though, because I didn’t know the names of any of the products I was using.

After about 1 hour there, I walked to the next one across town which was called Kinugawa Onsen Hotel.

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Once again a beautiful hotel but I was a bit early, not to worry, there were free tea and snacks in the lobby as long as you showed your foreign passport.
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I asked someone if I could stand outside on the small porch and she said ok. She opened the window and I stood there for a minute with my tea until someone came running and ushered me back inside. I guess it wasn’t a very sturdy porch. By that time, the onsen was open and I took another shower and another bath and tried at least 4 more beauty products.
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The last stop of the day was, Isshinkan. It was also a very nice onsen but I only had about 45 minutes to try it out. There was another rock pool inside which was not very hot.
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I returned to my hotel.

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There was a sign on the front door that said closed and so I had a bad attitude since I got there. It was about 4:45pm so this didn’t make sense to me because check in time was 3pm.
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To my surprise the door was open and there was a man sleeping on the bench inside. The hotel had given me instructions on how to do a self check in on a small computer. When I tried to put my code in...it didn’t work. So I woke up the sleeping man thinking he could help me. All he said was “no, no, no, no” and he started to make a pot of tea. I gave him my passport and I just said “key”. He just kept repeating no. I saw the wi fi password on the wall so I connected to it and called booking.com again. After 15 minutes or so on hold, the woman on the line said she would talk to the man for me in Japanese. So, I waved him over, he talked to her and then he gave me my key.

I went up to my room, finally put my bag down and then I was hungry. There is a cheap grocery store in that part of Japan called, Lion D’Or. Golden Lion. I found one on Google maps that was about a 30 minute walk away, so I made it my next destination. I got there in time for half price sushi, after 7 p.m.! I went home with a bounty of grocery takeout, again. As I walked pass the main town square, I noticed they still had a Christmas tree up, at the end of January. It was funny to me.

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Before I got to Kinugawa, I thought that my illness was over. But after soaking in 12 different pools of hot water and running around soaking wet, I was sick again. I just ate my sushi and blew my nose all night long, again.

Posted by baixing 13:28 Archived in Japan Tagged kinugawa Comments (0)

Snowy Nikko


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Jan 27, 2020
Toshi’s mom was very worried about me taking the train by myself. She took a giant piece of paper and wrote every step of the directions to my next destination in Japanese for me. I was going to Nikko to see a famous temple and bathe in the natural spring onsen. She also gave me at least 3 pamphlets from the train company written in Japanese. I was about to walk to the train station but Toshi’s dad made me get into his car. He said good bye and despite all their worry, he left me on the wrong side of the tracks. I almost got on the train going in the wrong direction.

I thought that the bus would be easier because I checked Google maps for the directions, but it ended up being kind of a mess. The bus dropped me off at another train station. It was only one or two stops to Nikko from there. However, the ticket seller only saw a white lady and sold me the most expensive ticket, of course. But I didn’t know what I was buying because it came off of my Pasmo (debit) card. I don’t know what happened, I thought I tapped on, but when I got to Nikko, they told me to give them more money! I was so confused and angry, I just ran away.
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My hostel was across the street from the train station but no one was there to check anyone in. It was freezing and the lobby was not much warmer than outside. I didn’t know what else to do so I sat down and worked on my next assignment in Tokyo. When the hostel manager finally showed up he pretended not to see me, I had to beg him for bed. After a strange conversation, I finally figured out that there was one bed available for the night. I took a shower and put my stuff down. There was a guy from France who hardly spoke any English. I tried to talk with him for a bit and he was so patient with my horrible French it was hilarious. He wanted to know if there were any onsen nearby and I told him I didn’t know. When I went to the tourist information centre, I remembered his idea. I asked if there were any onsen nearby. The tourism agent had already given me about 10 maps and pamphlets for things I didn’t ask for. She became really excited and told me that there was a special promotion for foreigners. There were about 30 free onsen in town and in other towns nearby this month. If I had never met the French guy, I wouldn’t have asked and wouldn’t have known about the free onsen!
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I got back to the hostel and showed him all the free onsen. He was really excited. I went out to get more sushi and takoyaki (squid balls).

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I had a leisurely dinner by myself because the french guy met a Japanese motorcycle gang leader and left with him. Then an American lady came with her Spanish boyfriend. He had left his international driver’s licence on the table in the shared kitchen. I had already started to look for him on Facebook, in case he was gone. So, when they walked in, I recognized him and gave him his licence back. He didn’t seem to care, he just said, “I leave everything everywhere”, and I found out later this was true. His junk was all over the common areas all the time. At first I made friends with the American lady. We went to the free onsen together and some German people we already met were also there. They had already found out the ancient Japanese free onsen secret. I thought I was special.

Jan. 28, 2020

I woke up early and went to the Tosho Temple. It was snowing a lot and the snow was really heavy, wet and horrible but I got there before the crowds. I walked around in the snow until I was sick of it and my feet were freezing and soaked right through.

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Luckily there was a free onsen nearby at a 5 star hotel. I showed them the pamphlet I got yesterday and they let me right in. You could sit in a small wooden tub with 2 other old Japanese ladies outside in the snow...fantastic. At least my feet were warm and clean again. I stayed there for a while and ate my snacks of oranges and nuts afterward.
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I went back to the hostel and the french guy told me all about his party with the motorcycle gang. I tried my best to speak french to him. The american woman, Aleasha was listening. Apparently my french was causing her mental anguish. I went to bed and I heard her say “Are they finished? That was the worst french I ever heard.” I said from behind my hostel bed curtain, “That was my french Aleasha” she didn’t reply. Later I heard her trying to force the french guy to speak english to her because she didn’t speak a word. Goodbye Aleasha.

Posted by baixing 12:09 Archived in Japan Tagged nikko Comments (0)

Utsunomiya with Toshi


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Jan 25, 2020
I had to wake up early to meet Toshi. He knew the ancient Japanese secret of buying train tickets in Tokyo. We had to go the basement of a mall first and then wait in line for a store to open up. Toshi called it a shareholder store…. I don’t know what that means but we waited in line a bit for the store to open and when the garage doors opened dramatically, everyone ran in and got their cheap tickets. So we took our tiny tickets to the train and headed to his parents’ house which is near Utsunomiya. I think it took 4 trains to arrive there.
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His parents live in a small town with one onsen and one grocery store. We ate sushi from the grocery store and then went to the onsen. When we got back his parents were home from playing pachinko. They said hello as their english is limited and they called their other son over, because he speaks English. He wanted to ask me all about Toshi. They were very worried about him and they wanted me to tell him to “settle down”. I told them, don’t worry about Toshi, he’s like the wind! Toshi goes where the wind blows. It was weird and uncomfortable. Then I just went to bed on a futon on the floor.

Jan 26, 2020
Toshi went back to Tokyo in the morning and his parents took me to a small waterfall after they watched their other son’s relay team on TV. They lost. Their other son is a high school phys-ed teacher in Utsunomiya. So it was the teenagers in the race on TV. It took a long time for them to communicate this important information to me. They had a paper dictionary and I had Google translate.
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Toshi's mom bought me stuff everywhere we went. She got me a wooden spoon and a cell phone bauble. We also went to a strange robotic puppet show.
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I went to the grocery store to buy dinner and I thought I explained it to Toshi’s parents but they still sent their other son to drive around until he found me walking back from the 5 minute walk from the grocery store. He had a big black van and told me to get in. I didn’t recognize him immediately so I was a little shocked until I realized who it was. Toshi’s brother took me back to his house to have a snack and I met his wife and two children but they were afraid of me. The day before he mentioned going to eat sushi together in Utsunomiya, so I thought this was a precursor to our sushi dinner. But the sushi outing was never mentioned again. That was fine, I had my own sushi in my backpack. So, Toshi’s brother dropped me off back home. Toshi’s mom made me some avocado salad and I tried to share my sushi with her but she wouldn’t eat it.

Posted by baixing 12:02 Archived in Japan Tagged utsunomiya Comments (0)

Tokyo with Toshi


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I arrived in Tokyo at Shinjuku station. I was really nervous because of what everyone says about the difficulty of the Tokyo subway system. Actually, it wasn't that hard to navigate. I jumped on one train, but I had second thoughts at the last second, and I jumped off quickly before it left. At that point, I realized that I was in fact on the correct train. I just took the next one and then made it to my hostel finally.

It was not a very good hostel, dark and none of the other people staying there were happy to be there at all. Toshi met me at about 8 p.m. and we went out for izakaya (barbecue and beer). He ordered strange things like horse meat and intestines.
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Jan. 20, 2020
I woke up and found some sort of dead bug in my bed. I decided to change hostels, obviously. I gave them the bug in a little baggie and went around the corner to another place, which cost a few dollars more, but was a huge improvement. They wouldn't check me in until 3 p.m., so I went to "Ramen Street" and stood in a random line that had formed. Ramen Street is under Tokyo railway station and apparently the most unique way to eat it is in two bowls. To prevent the chewy noodles from getting too mushy, you dip them into the soup instead of eating it all together. At first, I didn't understand the point, but after trying it, I realized that it really made a huge difference. I sat down beside a Canadian lady and we agreed this would probably sell well in Canada. The Singaporean women on my other side seemed to know exactly how to eat it and so I followed them.
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I tried to see the Imperial Palace gardens but everything was closed on a Monday again.
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I passed by a few architectural sighs such as the old Tokyo station
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and the Tokyo International Forum.
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There was also a neat bridge that used to be used as mile zero of every road in Japan.
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Then I was tired and went to bed.

January 21, 2020
I had an interview in the middle of the day, so I used the wifi at the Museum of Modern Art. It was pretty OK, but I thought the craft gallery next door was just as good. In the MOMAT, there was this strange 10 part video series that tried to interpret a travel story from a few hundred years ago into modern times. They followed the trail of the characters in the book in a car and did little challenges that corresponded to the events in the novel. It didn't always make sense, but I guess it was an interesting idea. It would be cool to try something like that for the Odyssey or something, if it hasn't been done before.

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I stayed at the craft gallery until it closed and then went to bed early again. I met a Vietnamese lady in the kitchen and we planned to go to the Imperial Palace the next day for the official tour. We also talked for a while to a guy who called himself a refugee from China. He wanted to create a political party in Japan in order to draw more attention to the problems in China. I asked him why he wasn't in Hong Kong and I didn't really understand his answer.

Jan. 22, 2020
Emily came to Tokyo. In the morning I went with my Vietnamese friend to the Imperial Palace. We joined the official tour and you could see the buildings where the Emperor gives his birthday speech. Everything is minimalistic because there was no money after the war.

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After the tour I had to meet Emily so I said good-bye to my Vietnamese friend and then I walked to the restaurant where Emily and I were to have dinner later. I was really confused about the assignment as the instructions were not clear so I ran around trying to understand the menu before Emily arrived. When Emily arrived we went to see the Tokyo shopping area, Harajuku neighbourhood. Emily was hungry, so we had Mexican food before our wanderings. I was underwhelmed by the whole trendy area and so was she.

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There was also a Shinto Temple nearby. We left at around closing time and I bought a used kimono at a craftsperson co-op that Emily had found.
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By the time we got back downtown we headed we headed out for dinner. We had a really pretentious 6 course French meal. At the top of the hotel on the 17th floor.
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Jan 23, 2020

I spent the morning writing up the report from yesterday’s meal and by the time I was done, I had to return to the same hotel. It was really busy and I got the last table and waited for Emily to arrive. They told me that they were very sorry, there was no pizza today. I did not care, I wanted risotto. There was a real Italian chef and everything was really good. However, the table behind us was doing something very interesting. I looked over and. they. had. pizza! What! The woman at the front desk lied to me! I made a faked shocked face and told Emily that I was jealous that they had pizza and we were not allowed to order anything. Someone came over right away and explained that they were very sorry and that this table was very special. They were allowed to have pizza and no one else was. Ohhhkay whatever. We laughed for a really long time about how many times they apologized in varying degrees of sincerity.
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Then we had to go to the lounge area where they were doing molecular gastronomy. So that kind of messed up my report again because I couldn’t sit at the bar as needed. I was stressed out the whole time because I thought I would fail. The lounge was also really pretentious. If you want to sit in the corner window, you had to provide your hotel room key so we sat on the side windows as the corner window area stayed unoccupied. We had two drinks there and I had to order a snack, we weren’t really hungry so I just ordered some nuts for $7. We laughed when the server didn’t even charge us for the $7 nuts. Before we left the server also gave me a bag of rice crackers in a beautiful gift bag. I returned the gift bag but took the rice crackers.

That was the last time I saw Emily.
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Jan 24, 2020

I finished up my report and celebrated with some convenience store sushi and a jar of sake.
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Posted by baixing 11:39 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (1)

Nagoya for an assignment


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I took the bus to Nagoya in the morning. It was a little difficult to find at first, but I made it. I arrived at Leo Star Hostel in the afternoon in time for my assignment at Wolfgang Puck again. It was up on the 10th floor, but there was a private party going on at the time. I was almost shooed away, but I persisted and eventually got my hamburger and wings.
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I had a drink upstairs in the bar and went to bed.

Jan. 19, 2020
I had planned on checking out and hanging out in the lobby writing my report, but at 10 a.m., the owner actually kicked me out. I spent about an hour on the phone with booking.com, but there was not much they could do. The owner threatened to call the police. I packed everything up, put on my coat and hat and booked my ticket on my phone while standing in the doorway. I literally had nowhere to go. Somehow, I found the bus stop, just outside the train station. There was a power outlet and wifi on the bus, thank god, and I wrote my report all the way to Tokyo. The Willer bus was really comfortable and perfect for my "homework" assignment. It had electrically adjustable seats and small personal egg shaped pods to relax in. There was also a nice big table that I could pull down in front of me.
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Posted by baixing 11:09 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Arrived in Japan


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We arrived in the morning at Osaka. I followed the Norwegian couple through customs and we took the subway into town together, stopping at a 7-11 for cash first. I found my hostel (Roots) quite easily and slept most of the day in my bed, I was exhausted and still sick as a dog. For dinner, I went to the top restaurant on TripAdvisor, which was sukiyaki. I didn't know I had to cook it myself, but it was pretty good, even if I burned it a little bit.

Jan. 17, 2020
I had a lot more energy in the morning, I walked to Osaka castle, which had quite an exhibit on the warlord who had built it, Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 1500s.
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I spent a good chunk of time at the Osaka museum.

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Then I found myself at Okonomiyaki Chitose, which had a kind of long lineup. I waited about 40 minutes for my large omelet type pancake thing, which was plopped on a hot steel plate embedded in the table in front of me. I had to eat it with chopsticks and a kind of putty knife. I sat with a nice couple from Singapore and then walked all the way home again and fell asleep immediately.
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Posted by baixing 10:28 Archived in China Tagged osaka Comments (1)

Shanghai with Emily

overcast
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When I woke up, I had sweat right through my shirt, it was really soaked and disgusting. I guess I had a fever al night. I went straight to the train station and arrived in Shanghai a few hours later. I checked into the hotel near Shanghai Disneyland around noon and tried to find a laundry service. The good news was I found one, but the bad news was that he wanted 100 yuan for one load! I went back to the hotel and the woman at the front desk gave me laundry soap and a bucket. I did a whole load of laundry by hand. I hung it up inside, hoping it would dry over the next three nights. It was still raining, it hadn't stopped since we had started our trip in Jinan.

Just after Emily arrived, we went and did one of my restaurant audits at Wolfgang Puck outside Disneyland in "Disney Town". It really was a big let down, but it was cool to see the fireworks at the giant castle.
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Horrible presentation

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A mess on the bar!

Jan. 12, 2020
I spent the morning doing my report and Emily went out to see the Bund on her own. When I was finally finished, I went to the glass museum which I had missed the first time I came. It was pretty nice, but the ticket was expensive, so I felt a little fancy with all the other fancy people spending $10 just to look at some glass.
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Emily told me via text that she had gone home, but I wanted to see the other side of the Bund from Pudong. I arrived exactly at 6 p.m. when they switched on the fancy lights on the other side of the river. I watched them all become illuminated one by one. It was pretty magical. Almost like I switched it on myself by stepping onto the boardwalk in a romantic movie. Nobody was there waiting with dinner for two and rose petals though...
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Soon however, I was cold. I headed back home again and brought Emily some soup to try and apologize for making her sick.

Jan. 13, 2020
I had the mission of trying to buy my ferry tickets to and from Japan. I found the office at about noon and was assisted by three people in the office. They told me that if I downloaded the CTrip Chinese app, the tickets would be almost half price! They sat there on my phone with me and walked me through it. So kind. I saved a lot of money because of their kindness. They told me not to tell anyone they did that, so it must be an ancient Chinese secret.

Afterwards, I figured I needed to find a train back home in February. I knew it would be busy because of the end of Chinese New Year, so I went to the train station. I found the tickets hadn't been released yet, so I booked a sleeper bus to Qingdao, that was the best I could do. From Qingdao, I guess I'd book another train later online when I would be in Japan.

The rest of the afternoon, I spent in the M50 art district, which was cool, but most of the galleries were closed on Mondays. The Island 6 Collective was open, so I spent a good hour or so thinking about their interesting digital multimedia art.

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I got back to the room, drank the rest of the wine and got super excited about my ferry to Japan in the morning. I was even feeling a little nervous for once. I didn't have a whole lot planned before I took off on this adventure, but it was happening anyway.

Jan. 14, 2020

I woke up at 7 a.m. because the people at the ferry office told me to get to the port before 9 a.m. I didn't make it until 9:30 a.m., but it was OK anyway. The two Norwegians I met the day before at the office were already there. They were smart and stayed nearby. I on the other hand needed to take three subway lines and descend into the madness of rush hour in Shanghai. I lost my poor sippy cup in the process. :( The day before, I had bought over 100 yuan worth of food for the trip. It was going to only be two days and two nights, but I guess you never know.

I stayed on the top deck of the boat until the city turned into tankers and container vessels. It was an unsightly mish mash of colours and shapes, chimney stacks and 150 ton cranes alongside giant shovels collecting unidentified ore from the boats passing through. The overcast weather made the farewell ominous and muted my excitement. I was happy to see Shanghai go. I wondered how many others have had that same feeling, as they watched the banks and office towers on the Bund slide by and out of sight, swallowed up by soupy Chinese fog.
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I had been assigned a first class cabin somehow, and had one roommate in a room with four beds. It was really lucky.
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I drank tea and ate snacks all day. I drank a lot of Chinese brandy too. I made friends with a cute Norwegian couple. We talked until very late at night the second night. Otherwise, I was just sneezing, coughing, blowing my nose and trying to finish the books I had brought. I didn't want to carry them around any longer than I had to.

Posted by baixing 08:43 Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

Nanjing with Emily

rain
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It was about 11 a.m. when I checked into the nice hotel in Nanjing's old town. I headed to the Nanjing Museum on another free share bike. It was 7 km away and a little rainy, so I guess that contributed to my subsequent illness. The museum was new and way too big for me to see everything.

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When it closed, I went to see the palace ruins and a couple of city gates on my cycle home. Emily got there just after I did, and then we went out for hot pot. There was a pig made out of soup stock that melted into the pot as we ate. So sad.

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We slept in again and then went to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. When I first entered the building and was greeted by hundreds of photos of victims, I was overcome and immediately began crying. All of the faces, quite literally looking down from heaven were very touching. The rest of the museum was overwhelmingly informative. All the facts of the Japanese invasion were written down and proven with mind numbing detail. There was no way anyone could claim it didn't happen. Three hundred thousand victims in less than a week is astounding but this museum made it easy to see how the Japanese accomplished this exact feat. An interesting aspect of the museum was the corner for foreigners who helped smuggle letters, photos and videos about the event. I found this fascinating. The Chinese people really relied on foreigners for their message to get out. There were also a few businessmen and teachers who sheltered refugees. Somehow, the presence of foreigners at that time was a safety net for the victims. I rounded one corner and was met by a video of women recounting rape stories. To my horror, this was the most popular exhibit in the entire place. People had crowded around a tiny screen to hear all the titillating details of the countless women and girls who were raped and killed at this time. I was utterly disgusted . Is it that important to revel in these details? Why is just knowing that not enough. Why do these sick puppies have to hear about all the details? The amplification of such pointlessness subtracts from the enormity and seriousness of the atrocity.

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After seeing those curious gawkers, I could not learn anymore about this event. I strolled through the rest of the exhibits feeling numb and angry. I met Emily at the exit and we tried to warm ourselves up with a late hot pot lunch. At this point, my body had already succumbed to illness. I ached and could barely stand. We made it back to the hotel after taking the wrong bus for a bit. I thoroughly enjoyed a nice hot shower and soft, warm bed.

Posted by baixing 06:16 Archived in China Tagged nanjing jiangsu Comments (0)

Jinan with Emily

snow
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I took the train to Jinan very early in the morning. When I arrived it was snowing with rain, like sleet. It was about 6 a.m. and Emily wouldn't be there until evening. So, I went out into the snow and got a hair cut at a trendy salon I found on Chinese Groupon. After that, I didn't want to go anywhere, so I stayed in bed all day. Emily arrived and dried out her socks and shoes on the heater. It was so wet out and she didn't have boots! We had a nice room in an old hutong with crazy Jesus and angel decor everywhere.

Here I am eating some fresh baked Chinese bread in the morning after checking in. I love it so much.

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The next day Emily went to some springs that I had already seen, and I rode around on the free mobikes, trying to get credits for parking them in the designated spots.

All of the days I travelled with Emily, we usually left around noon. It was not my usual style to get out so late, but I didn't complain about it either. Emily went to see Baotu spring and I went around using the red packet free share bikes. Later on, we went to the spa where they tried to get me to buy pyjamas again, even though I had my own. It was a Japanese style onsen with rocks outside. There was also a milk bath and electric shock bath (?!)

We left without eating dinner there. The nice lady at the hotel showed us where some nice noodles were so we had takeout for dinner then.

In the evening I took the overnight train to Nanjing and checked into our hotel before Emily got there again.

Posted by baixing 05:33 Archived in China Tagged jinan shandong Comments (1)

Finally hiked Tai Shan

sunny 11 °C

I live on the bottom of this holy mountain and still haven't hiked it all the way up. Legend has it, anyone who does, will live 100 years... or you will become immortal... one of the two. So, watch out.

There's not much to say about it. I brought a ton of snacks and a ton of water, I hiked 5000 feet straight up into the sky. It was really cool to be able to ride a bike to the trailhead from my house. When I got back down, I just walked back home... very very slowly. large_IMG_20191229_094404.jpg
The long way up.
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The river was all dry.
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Everyone who goes through this gate is immortal.
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Steps steps steps
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All day steps
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"North pointing rock" naturally just sits there like that.

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The frost was really magical.

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You can see the ocean, 250km away.

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I took this photo in the beginning, not sure what I was getting myself into...

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Magical frost at the summit

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Archway made by rocks that fell down perfectly upon each other.

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I'm coming down now!

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Some of my favourite Chinese fruit snacks.

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OMG soooooo sweaty...I sweated through three shirts and two pants, but I needed all the layers FOR SURE.

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Everyone's exhausted at the top.

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Posted by baixing 05:35 Archived in China Tagged shandong tai_shan Comments (5)

Zhujiayu village

I took the city bus all the way across the city to Zhujiayu village. It is 4000 years old, but most of the buildings are probably 500 years old or less. The streets are from the Ming dynasty, whenever that is. There was a 2.5 km walk from the bus stop on the high way to the village. By the time I got there, the ticket office was closed, so I got in free!

But then there were no lights at all anywhere inside. I had to stumble around in the dark to find my homestay. Eventually I found some sort of restaurant that was open and they called the owner for me. He came to get me and made me dinner of fried fish, eggs and tomatoes.
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Wenchang Pavilion, a place where people worshipped Confucious before their first day of school every year.

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The famous elementary school. (Only for boys, obviously)

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Old street with two tracks. I wonder how long these old people have been selling their crap alongside it.

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There are lots of arched bridges such as this in the town. It's used as a movie set for many Chinese historical movies. They make a TON of them.

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Famous Kanxi overpass. Built in 1670 ish. It's apparently the first in the world to have a design like this. One road going over another road.

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Corn drying on the side of the road. I like to see that, it's neat.
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That dog followed me around for a while. Maybe I smelled like snacks...

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Under Wenchang Pavilion
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Giant portrait of Mao circa 1966
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More archways near my homestay
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In the morning I hiked up the little hill near the village. I took my tea and was sipping it at the temple at the top. Some ladies had the same idea and they invited me to follow them down with them. They showed me a nice place to have breakfast. I was glad to meet them. I had some "tofu jiang" (soy milk) and "baozi" (steam bun) with locally grown pumpkin inside. Best baozi I've ever had in my entire life. All for one Canadian dollar.

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Kangxi overpass
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The view from the top of the hill.

Posted by baixing 18:00 Archived in China Tagged shandong zhujiayu Comments (0)

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