Smart cards

I’ve got some smart cards left over for Tokyo, Singapore and Shanghai and the latter two even have some credit on them so if you’re going to any of those cities and would like a smartcard then drop me an email. Note that the one for Tokyo is less useful as if you dont have a railpass you get a “free” one with the narita express into central Tokyo.

Summary of the trip: Overall – new content

Note, I haven’t dealt with my photos yet, I’ll post when I’ve got them onto Flickr from the final part of my trip.

I do have a few extra awards that only make sense on an overall position looking at the whole trip, these are below:

Best country

China, overall I think my favourite country on the trip was China as it had good and surprisingly good museums as well as a lot of great sites. New Zealand, Peru and Japan also stood out.

Most difficult country to manage with only English

Japan and China, well neither of them uses roman script and although China is slightly harder to get around, the Chinese museums and sites mostly had excellent English translations. Whereas Japan was easier to get around, but the sites had poorer English translations. All-in-all I’m calling it a draw between the two.

Most useful material possession

iPod Touch for letting me write these blog posts when on buses and public transport and having lots of other useful information on it, from exchange rates to games. It looks like Apple will get all the features that everyone had over them as well.

Just because sometimes you book too much and sometimes too little I’m giving the next couple of awards:

Most overbooking

The flight from New York to Washington DC. given that the public bus was probably superior in every way the main reason was that I met a really cool girl called Sophie the night before who I didn’t get to know as well as I’d have like to. If you’re reading drop me an email (don’t worry if it takes a while to notice this).

Most underbooking

As I stray towards overbooking this didn’t happen very much – though hostels in China often gave a much better deal online than if you just turned up.

Japanese and Chinese

A joke that is often made about Japanese is that they don’t have a word for no but just say hai in an uncertain manner. They actually do though: ie (pronounced ee e).

Now one of the very few things I’ve learnt with my very limited Chinese* is that the Chinese actually *don’t* really have a separate word for no in fact saying bu shi which translates as “negative yes”. Of course as unlike Japanese, Chinese is tonal which means it is impossible to just say yes directly in an uncertain manner as it could well mean something entirely different. Maybe at one time the Chinese had a proper word for no, it’d be an interesting thing to find out.

* this means I’ve just about made it onto really tough words like yes for example :p.

Photos uploaded

My friend Rupert has kindly uploaded a bunch more photos for me, which I’ve started to name, I’ll finish when I’m not in the most expensive internet cafe in Malaysia in the KLCC complex (it costs RM8, 1.60GBP for 1 hour!). I’ve named some of them as well

Photos uploaded

I’ve been slowly uploading some photos this afternoon, but its so slow here that I’ve got bored of the process, but more should join them in the next few days. They are of course as usual on my Flickr acccount.

I’ll also title/tag them in due course.

Further photos uploaded

I decided to get my computer time finished this weekend and I’ve uploaded and named all the photos I’ve uploaded over the past couple of days.

A final reminder, personal photos require having a Flickr account and me as a friend, view the help page for how to do it, though its not completely intuitive it is worth persevering on.

I’ve updated the instructions a little to make it a little more than a link and send me an email if you have any problems, as someone who wants to work in computer programming its important for me to be able to get this stuff right.

PS I should note I’ve met and helped people who’ve had problems switching off the flash on their digital camera and that is always incredibly easy, so I won’t bite your head off for asking for help :p.

Visiting Japan around New Year

It’s worth noting that if you choose to visit Japan in the few days around new year that many attractions will be shut at that time. Lots of museums and attractions aren’t open for the week around new year and some aren’t open longer.

Yokohama and the journey there

So I got the train up from Hiroshima to Yokohama on Monday the journey was fairly uneventful (I even got 2 seats for the price of 1 for most of the journey.) except when I was told to move behind the yellow line on the platform. Now this would be fair enough except firstly there was a big metal fence between me and the train and secondy the train was stopping. Even if I’d had a heart attack the train wouldn’t have hit me, and even if I’d got crazily towards the train somehow 999 times out of 1000 the train would have been able to stop in time as it was going slowly probably making the odds of something going really wrong like 1 billion to 1. This is an example of the Japanese going too far on safety.

One interesting thing to note about the Shinkansen in general is how it runs entirely on seperate track from other Japanese trains. They are narrow gauge and the Shinkansen is standard gauge (which unsurprisingly is wider) also a huge percertage of track is built either on bridges or in tunnels which is different from standard railway construction. This is because the track is new and most of Japan is built up and so difficult to find space to build new track on. That the Japanese have managed to sucessfully build a new railway like this makes technologies like maglev which allows you to run trains at more than 500km/h look more promising as they also have to be built on an entirely separate line. That kind of speed allows you to compete directly with airlines.

After arriving into Shin Yokahoma I caught a couple more trains to where I’m staying over New Year or Oshogatsu as it’s known in Japanese.

On Tuesday we headed on the train to Kamakura which is an interesting collection of Buddhist shrines and temples and it includes an 800 year old giant copper Buddha that unlike the Buddha in Nara is outside rather than protected by a building. You can also go inside this one which is really cool as well. After seeing this we went to dinner to have Okonomiyaki at a traditional Japanese restaurant that involved sitting on the floor around a low table. You even had to cook your own food as well.

After that I went back and went to bed. In the morning I got up and headed into Tokyo for the day to Akihabra. There seemed to be a lot of electronics shops (though they all seemed to be more expensive for cameras than Bic Camera in Kyoto was) and some manga stores as well. It was quite good but not amazing – probably because it wasn’t that busy around Tokyo today. After this I had some lunch before getting the train south on the Yamote line so I could get a picture of a Shinkansen. As I’ve been using the Shinkansen as a train I hadn’t got any pictures of it. But it is cool so I thought I should get one and right on cue a Shinkansen appeared. After this I headed on another stop on the train line and had a walk down to the bayside; or rather part of it as much of the bay is actually surrounded by canals. There are a lot of cool buildings down there as well as the fish Market which were worth seeing briefly. After that I returned to Yokohama for the evening meal of Kobe beef which was delicious and after that to welcome in the New Year. In the evening we sat on the floor in the traditional Japanese style and watched the temple bells being rung all over Japan. This is because the Japanese ring their temple bells 108 times to ward off evil at New Year.

The next day we headed out on a short drive to see the sea and also Mount Fuji in the distance before returning for lunch. In the afternoon we then headed out once more to Yokohama where we went on a harbour cruise and look at the, frankly garish and overly golden, temple in Chinatown.

Then the next morning I got up at 5:45am to get the train and bus to Narita airport so I could get my flight to Delhi.