Wandering around Tokyo

Tokyo is a wonderful city. Even in the rain. Despite a delayed start (we were up late — it doesn’t help that Chris and I yak a lot), we soon found ourselves in Ginza, walking through the mist-like rain in search of not much except yarn (Amy’s got a project she’s trying to finish).

We went through the sweet electronic sanctity of the Sony Showroom [insert drool marks on the screen here], then over to the Apple store (four floors of pure industrial design nirvana), before crossing Ginza dori in search of, well, food. Amy spied a small sign that led us down an alley barely wide enough for us to walk, then down a set of barely-marked stairs into a basement restaurant that served some darn fine raumen, and some pretty funky dumplings.

A small alley, and the stairs we had to go down

Next to that was a paper store. I think Amy’s heart raced pretty much the whole time she was in there from the paper overload. Too much to choose from, and we’re almost out of money.

Matsuya and Mitsukoshi (two massive Japanese department stores) were next. But the illusive yarn Amy needs was not to be found. So we went to the food floors in Mitsukoshi to see what samples we could find. There was quite a lot.

We caught a subway over to Akehabara. This is geek heaven when it comes to all things “batteries not included”. [Insert more drool marks on the screen here.] Then it was over to Shibuya. The only real things to see there, aside from Shibuya itself, was the HMV, where I hoped to snag some of the music my cousin Jen had asked me to find. I found the artists, but sadly, all sold out. (Go figure.) Sorry, Jen, I’ll have to keep looking.

Akehabara Electric Town

We were late meeting up with Chris and his friends Jessica and Alex for a late dinner in Chiba. They didn’t mind at all. Shinichiro was out again (he’d come out last night, too) as was another of Chris’ japanese friends (whose name I don’t want to screw up by spelling incorrectly).

We’ll be off for Nara before too long. Then Osaka, then home.

Three more sleeps!

Our first plane ride in a month

We left the hotel early this morning — before 7:00 am — to catch a train to the airport. Strangely fitting that our last train would be to our first plane in quite some time.

Chek Lap Kok airport was designed with an express train in mind, which is great considering how far out the airport is from Hong Kong Island. The train system (the Aiport Express) also lets you check in at the train station, so you don’t have to check in at the airport.

Chek Lap Kok airport

At the airport, we did a last bit of souvenir shopping. Well, Amy did, anyway. We then headed out to Gate 63 for our flight to Japan. It seemed strangely final. This was our first plane since landing in St. Petersburg all that time ago. Amy flew Biz class (as you already know), and I flew in Galley Slave (aka Economy) class. Lest anyone think I resent Amy for this, I don’t. We flew to Russia on Amy’s points. She had some leftover on United Airlines, and upgraded to Business Class. All the power to her.

Our official exit from China

Doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna bug her about it, though. I gotta have fun with this, don’t I?

Our plane to Japan

For the record, I ended up with about as much footroom as Amy, if not a bit more, because I asked for an exit row. You want to have a good long flight? Get an exit row — you’ll be able to stretch out without concern. Doesn’t matter if the row is full and others are not — you’ll have tonnes of room to spare.

The footroom in my row -- figures that I had that bulge at the door in front of me

Two flights left. I hope they go quickly.

Macau!

One of our more recent schedule changes allowed for at least a day on the tiny penninsula of Macau. Like Hong Kong, Macau was recently turned over to the Chinese as an S.A.R. However, Macau’s influence is decidedly Portugeuse. Even though the day was hot, humid, and rainy, the architecture glowed.

This will largely be a photo entry because we basically just walked around the town and appreciated the cool historic buildings.

Me in Macau

More Macau Architecture

And more

And yet more Macau

Still more Macau

Look! I\'m still in Macau!

They have palm trees too

One of Macau\'s many public squares

The ruins of St. Paul Cathedral

Ohio, Nippon!

Last country. Almost home.

Being in Japan, actually, is almost like being home. This country is so familiar to me (well, certainly Yotsukaido, Chiba, and Tokyo) that I didn’t actually notice getting off the plane, going through immigration, getting the bags, getting on a train, finding Chris, and getting to his apartment. I think I might actually have been here too much…

The flight from Hong Kong was okay. While Amy was enjoying her champagne at take-off, those of us in Galley Slave were firmly chained to our iron racks. (One minor improvement: less flesh-mauling spikes.) The smell of previous passengers’ fates faded once we got above 20,000 feet, though I suspect that might also be due to the thinner air at that altitude. (They save pressurization for the VIPs, you know.)

They still feed you, though. I always wondered what they do with the leftovers from the various peanut and pretzel packages. Now I don’t wonder anymore. I really don’t want to know what the liquid was, though. “Orange” isn’t supposed to be a light purple.

In the past, entertainment was watching your blood vessels bulge (due to air pressure, or more importantly, the aforementioned lack thereof). Those around me obtained a far greater spectacle, though, when the staff realized I was flying free on points. I think the whip marks will fade in about a week or so…

Amy looked quite relaxed and happy when I finally managed to break free of my shackles. I really need to remember to consider those USD$79 upgrades the next time they offer…

after all

This constant forward movement
has made a blur of everything.
Even you
are not as clear
as even yesterday.

Is it bad that I miss you
not with the decapitating pain
of a crushed bone –
not with the haunting memory
of a missing limb –
but with the sweet senese
of a secret
I can’t wait to reveal?

After all, loving you
does not hurt.

I do not bruise
remembering your touch,
I do not burn
imagining your breath,
I do not cry acid tears
when your eyes
dance circles around me
even in this photograph,
even in my mind.

Is it bad that I do not fear this slight separation?
This pause?
This insignificant
delay
between our life and

our

life?

After all, I am never alone.
You are here, even here,
even now.

You are the business man
sleeping soundly in the next seat.
You are the impatient woman in 15B
who cannot wait to land.

You are Joni Mitchell’s sweet
sweet voice and
you are a hundred country songs that leave me
choked up
every time.

You are the baby girl several rows ahead.
You are every laugh from my
tiny tiny screen and every
witty line of dialogue in Ocean’s 12.

How can I miss you any other way?

You are my pilot
after all.

You bring me home.

First post from Japan!!!!

We made it safely to Japan after a relatively non-eventful flight in… *ahem*…. business class. All in all, it sounds like Geoff actually had more legroom than I did, but anyway, it was fun actually sitting upstairs on a 747! I’ve always been curious what was up those little stairs.

As it turns out, it’s much the same as what’s downstairs in business class, just smaller.

So, we’re here at Chris and Kaz’s apartment. Kaz is on her way to Calgary tonight, so I won’t get to meet her. And, Chris is still at work so I won’t be seeing him until later. I think the general plan is to settle in a bit, and then go get sushi!!!!!

A side-trip to Macau

One last thing we needed to do before we leave the Hong Kong area was check out Hong Kong’s forgotten half-sister, Macau. Macau was founded a couple hundred years earlier than Hong Kong by the Portuguese, and was originally the heavy weight title holder of foreign trading port until the British dethroned it with, shall we say, some less-than gentlemanly behaviour to get their way (I refer to the events leading up to the Treaty of Nanking).

Getting from Hong Kong to Macau is a fairly simple process: you either go overland (through China, which we can’t do since we’ve officially left China and don’t have a multiple-entry visa), or you take a ferry. While Macau might be Hong Kong’s forgotten half-sister, they seem to have a pretty solid relationship, especially now since they’ve both returned to the stewardship of China. The ferry service is perfectly representative of this — they run every 15 minutes.

We took the smaller one on the right

The trip is 65 kms in between. It takes about on an hour. On a hydrafoil. How cool is that??

Macau is simultaneously different than Hong Kong, and very similar. It’s similar because, like Hong Kong, it’s a place where two cultures collide and coexist. It’s different because you don’t see English a lot (you do hear it, though, English is well-known), it’s mostly Portuguese (obviously).

Macau is small — much more than Hong Kong. You can walk around much of Macau Island in a fairly short period of time. After endulging in another round of dim sum, we proceeded to walk pretty much right around the southern tip and up to a small temple called A-Ma. It was easy to see the Macau Tower as we rounded the tip, on our way.

Following the temple, we walked along the walking path suggested by the Lonely Planet guide, but only in reverse. At least until we got rained on. A lot. Near torrential downpour. That kind of slowed us down. We were actually trapped under an eaves for about half an hour waiting for Niagara Falls to let up enough for us to continue on our way. As it stands, it barely let up enough for us to find a cafe to hold out until the rain stopped.

Caught in the rain

It got harder before it got better

Not long after, we found a main square (the name of which now escapes me) that has very interesting tiling on the surface. There’s a fountain in the centre surrounded by lotus flowers. After the square, Amy and I kind of wandered a bit aimlessly until we found ourselves at the Royal Hotel — mostly to escape the intense heat and humidity for a while. There, we realized that sticking around in Macau, though nice, wasn’t entirely what we had in mind. A quick visit to the ruins of St. Paul, and we’d head back to Hong Kong.

Main square in Macau

The ruins of St. Paul are what is left of a grand cathedral that caught fire and burned to the ground … except for the facade, which still stands (partly thanks to a supporting structure still in place). It sits very out of place with the rest of the buildings surrounding it, except for the fort sitting next to it. The fort is quite old, dating back a few hundred years. The view from up there is quite good. The Macau Museum is there, too, but we didn’t get a chance to see it — the museums are all closed on Mondays.

A view of Macau from the fort

Back in Hong Kong, we went immediately to dinner at Jade Garden, a thoroughly uninspired restaurant in Star House. (If you’re in Hong Kong, and reading Lonely Planet, take their advice and don’t go there. There are plenty of other much better restaurants in Kowloon … and plenty more in Hong Kong, for the HK$2.20 ferry fare.)

Sadly, we saw not much of Macau. There is definitely more there to see.

One week

Seven days from today, and I’ll be home.

I’ll be walking off an airplane, revelling in the familiar, the known, the certain. Home.

Home is where the heart is, and I left mine with Alex. I cannot wait to see her. See you soon!

Amy’s ready to kill me, I swear…

I complain a lot.

Unintentionally, I swear, but I do.

(Amy says I like to complain, but I actually hate it. I don’t even realize I’m complaining until I complain. I complain to myself that I complain, and get stuck in a vicious cycle of complaint. But I digress…)

It’s hot here. I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but it’s hard to really appreciate how hot it is until you’ve been to a place like this. Amy has, so this doesn’t really seem to bother her much. I, although raised in a hot and humid environment, never liked it. (This is why I love living in Calgary.) And even in the shade or on a cloudy day (such as it is today), it’s still hot. Sweating is simply unavoidable. The goal is more survival to stay cool.

I mention, maybe every ten minutes or so (read: complain constantly) that it’s too hot. Although Amy agrees, I’m sure there’s an unspoken “I know, now shut up about it, already!” that goes along with it.

It’s hot. Have I mentioned that it’s hot? It’s far too hot. I don’t understand how it can be this hot. Man, I’m hot.

And yet, Amy hasn’t killed me yet. Way more patience than me, I gotta say…

The dim sum curse lifted

The dim sum curse is lifted, finally! After a few days of trying to figure out where to go, we hit Hong Kong Island to see what we could find. Our concierge had recommended a place called “Luk Yu Teahouse”, which according to the Lonely Planet guide is full of surly staff. When we got there, it wasn’t even close to full — a sure sign of a not-so-good dim sum.

We tried another nearby restaurant that we’d spied a couple of days ago. Didn’t look any better. At this point, I was willing to walk 100 miles for good dim sum. We’d backed down twice on dim sum, going for something that looked decent, rather than what we’d really wanted. I wasn’t willing to back down a third time.

I think Amy was about to ready to strangle me. She holds her composure a lot better than I do.

Our third and final attempt was a place called Fung Shing, next to the Western Market building. The LP guide said it was “cavernous”. I honestly think the LP guides really need to check their use of the English language — “cavernous” doesn’t do the place justice. It’s large, yes, but the ceiling is just too low to require a word with such connotations.

Fung Shing in the Western Market

I have an English degree, so gimme a break here, eh?

It didn’t have the carts we so highly desired. But it was packed to the gills with locals — the bare minimum for good dim sum. The food quality was also quite good, though the English menu (which, sadly, we had to use) didn’t offer nearly the variety the Chinese menu did. It was too bad we were unable to get a hold of Vitralis, a connection we were provided, to try and hook up for dim sum. But you make do when you can.

Dim summy goodness

Stuffed, our one true mission in Hong Kong was complete. The only meal goal left on the trip — at least for me — is sushi at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, and zushi (yes, it’s spelled that way, too) in Osaka.