Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Japan Impressions

Jenna and I just spent the weekend in Tokyo visiting friends. There will be pictures up later, but first, my initial impressions of Japan. These are the impressions of someone who is accustomed to living in Korea and Taiwan, but has never been to Japan before except for a single day spent in Osaka in 2003:

- Tokyo is pricey, but not as horrifically expensive as I'd expected. As far as food and other minor purchases go, it's a good deal cheaper than London. The mass transit system can be expensive, though - especially since you must buy a new ticket when transferring to a train run by a different company (and Tokyo light rail and subways seem to be divided between several transportation companies).

- The Japanese have raised the art of separating garbage to a very high level. I wandered around for hours holding an empty Pocari Sweat bottle because I couldn't find a suitable place to throw it away. There is no such thing as ordinary garbage - everything must be seperated into burnables, cans, bottles, PET bottles, and probably a couple more categories I can't remember. And leaving your garbage at a restaurant you've just eaten at for the waitstaff to throw away is apparently highly rude in Japan - though it's perfectly normal in Taiwan.

- I saw cigarette vending machines for the first time since I was a kid. Korea and Taiwan don't have 'em.

- One more thing that was new to me: the whole system of ordering food in a restaurant by buying tickets from a machine and giving the tickets to a server. It seems like it would be beneficial for people with little Japanese ability since you don't have to actually say anything to order, but you still have to be able to read the monolingual labels on the ticket machine.

Friday, September 07, 2007

My first earthquake.

Got woken up by an earthquake last night. Didn't do any damage but there was a lot of rattling.

It was my first earthquake. I've apparently slept through earthquakes before but this time I was awake and aware of what was happening.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Second Day of Hiking

On Sunday we tackled Shulongjian, the highest peak in the area.
Here are some pictures of the way up.
The view from near the top.

If you look closely, you can see Taipei 101 in the far distance in the center of this picture.
After we ate lunch on the summit, the sky began to darken and storm clouds began to roll in. We heard thunder. We headed back down the mountain quickly - we never got rained on, although things might have become unpleasant at the top of the mountain had we stayed.
Jenna on the summit.

First Day of Hiking

We had the great fun of taking these stairs both days of hiking. They actually go quite a bit higher than you can see in the picture.
These two very friendly dogs belong to our hotel. Despite our efforts to dissuade them, they insisted on following us halfway up the mountain. They eventually got bored of us and turned back, making it safely back to the hotel on their own.
These stone benches kept showing up by the trail. They were helpful, when not overgrown with vegetation.
A crashed motorbike several hundred meters up. It was fun to think of scenarios of how it came to be right there.
Jenna takes a picture of mountain scenery.

We ate lunch near that electrical tower.
That tunnel is damp, slippery, and there is no trail leading away from the far end of it, making it seem pretty much useless to us.

Jingtong the town

Last weekend Jenna and I went to Jingtong, a town in Taipei County. It used to be a coal mining town and still retains some coal-mining-related tourist attactions (the museum didn't interest us); we went for the hiking and the chance to get out of Taipei. Jingtong's less than an hour away by bus and we could have made it a day trip, but we decided an overnight trip would have been more relaxing. We stayed at a very nice little place that might have been the only hotel in town.

Jingtong pictures:

This is Jingtong Railway Station, the terminus of the Pingxi Branch Line, a historic railway line that winds through this section of Taipei County. It was built by the Japanese in the 1930s and is very well preserved.
Many of the souvenirs you can buy in Jingtong have a old-time railway theme to them (as opposed to other touristy towns like Jioufen, which is full of souvenir shops but most of them are filled with generic Taiwan items, which have little to do with the town itself).