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Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (Part II) March 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Canada, Sports, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-nE

In terms of the Olympics themselves, the opening ceremonies were wonderful.  I heard a lot of great reviews from many people.  Of course, we couldn’t top Beijing, and we never tried to.  We did our own thing and had a great time with it.  I am extremely biased, so of course I loved it.  It was artistic and the music was wonderful.  I did, however, fall asleep halfway through, but I blame jetlag as the biggest factor, and it wasn’t very interesting in the middle, to be honest.  In terms of the events themselves, there has been a lot said about different things, and about the Canadian pride.  I will let the media and others talk about that on their own.  For myself, I thankfully had the opportunity to see two events.  I went to see women’s curling on two different days.  When people talk about curling, they only think, “curling”?  It’s a strange sport that is extremely underappreciated.  There is a lot of skill needed to do curling, and there is a lot of thinking involved.  You must use a lot of strategy.  During the games themselves, it was extremely rowdy.  The crowds, obviously it was mainly Canadian, cheered loud and hard for Canada.  Thankfully, many people understand the basic rules of curling, so most of the people could cheer correctly when there was a good or bad shot.  It wasn’t perfect, but people were pretty good about it.  Unfortunately, some of the other players were complaining that it was too loud and they couldn’t hear each other due to the cheering for the Canadian team.  It was part of the Olympic experience, and part of being an athlete.  I personally feel that they should be capable of dealing with these problems as they arose, but I also understand that the fans shouldn’t be as mean about things either.  Even the crowd should get penalties for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

On the Japanese side of things, there were only two sports that really mattered.  The first, and by a long shot, was figure skating.  Figure skating is now the number one winter sport in Japan, at least for the number of fans.  With the rivalry between Mao Asada and Yu-na Kim, it was impossible for Mao Asada to escape the limelight.  She had intense pressure, but by and far, the favourite was Yu-na Kim.  As you must know, by now, the results of their ranking didn’t change anything, and it was a predictable 1-2 finish for them.  The men’s side, however, had a small surprise with Daisuke Takahashi.  He is one of the most passionate skaters I’ve seen in a long time and it was fun to watch him skate.  Many skaters have very little passion when they skate, and it appears lifeless.  He had beaten the odds to become the first Japanese medalist in men’s figure skating.  He should be a hero in Japan.  The second biggest sport of these games was curling.  The Japanese women’s curling team was a young team from Aomori.  They were dubbed, Team Aomori, or Curling Musume (young girls curling).  They were all in their 20s and fairly cute overall.  It was a typical Japanese thing where they took the cutest women and focused a lot on them.  It was a little sad to see them knocked out in the round robin, but I think they did a great job.  If they had another 4 years to train, I’m sure they could come in and possibly steal a bronze medal.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely, but a new group of young girls will take over and I’m sure women’s curling will get stronger and stronger for them.

By and far, the biggest “event” of these Olympics has to be the party.  Everyday during these Olympics, there was a party somewhere in Vancouver.  Whether it was in the bars, or just on the streets of downtown Vancouver, there was a party somewhere.  When the Canadian women’s hockey team won gold, we had a party.  On the final day of the Olympics, the Canadian men’s hockey team won gold in a nail biting overtime victory over the US team.  The entire country roared to life and screamed at the tops of our collective lungs.  There wasn’t a quite voice in Canada.  From that point on, the city partied until the early morning.  It was amazing to see all of the people erupt into cheers, if not tears, of joy when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal.  To see thousands of people jump and scream at the same time is amazing.  The only other time you will see this is during a FIFA World Cup final.  You will never see this again.  The only other time you will ever, possibly, see this again is if a Canadian team wins the Stanley Cup.  It was amazing and I hope to experience this again sometime soon.

All in all, the Olympics were an experience that I will never forget.  I will never forget the energy that was in Vancouver while I was there.  I wish it was like that all the time.  People seemed friendlier, and to be able to see so many people walking around and enjoying themselves was a treat.  After the Olympics are finished, and the city returns to normal, things will be different.  I doubt it will return to normal, but the city itself has changed.  Hopefully, the amount of fun we had, and the amount of fun we will have, will continue to grow.  If you ever have a chance to visit Vancouver, I hope you will enjoy it and see all of the things that are left to see.  It’s amazing to enjoy this beautiful city.  It may not have the fashion of New York, or the history of Paris.  It may not have business of Hong Kong, or the craziness of Tokyo.  I would say it’s the most beautiful city in the world with some of the friendliest people as well.  Make sure you meet some people and have fun with them.

This is Part II of a two part series.  To read more about my experiences at the 2010 Winter Olympics, please go to Part I.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Beijing August 27, 2008

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Beijing” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-beijing

With the Beijing Olympics over, I thought I’d write about my trip to Beijing.  I went to Beijing in December, 2007 for 4 days.  I met up with my father who would be my tour guide for the trip.  Many people say China is a scary place and dangerous.  In fact, it is safer than you expect.  Just don’t expect to feel 100% free.  It is a communist country and the police and army are everywhere.

We arrived on December 1st.  People say that summer is a horrible time to visit Beijing because of the smog.  However, I’d say it’s still nice because it would be a lot greener.  I went at a time where everything is grey and red.  It felt very “communist”.  Imagine troops marching in Tiananmen Square with no signs of life, other than the military marching by.  That’s what Beijing felt like in Winter.  We saw Tiananmen Square around sunset.  I got to visit the political hall and the square itself.  They just closed the political hall, but if you have money, you can get in a little late.  Just pay more at the “side” entrance.  After the political hall, we headed to the square to see things.  I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be, until the lights turned on.  Tiananmen Square has a certain ambiance at night that can’t be explained.  After visiting Tiananmen Square, we headed to dinner to enjoy some Peking Duck.  Cheap, delicious, and plentiful.  I had enough Peking Duck for a year.

On the second day,  we headed to the Great Wall of China.  It’s about 1-2 hours outside Beijing, but a definite destination for everyone.  We spent the afternoon there and it was wonderful.  We took the gondola up and discovered that it was extremely windy at the top.  It was so windy, it felt like the gondola would fly off.  We were tilting at about 40 degrees, I think.  By the time we got onto the wall itself, you could feel the bitter cold.  The wind dried our skin out completely.  The wall is both easy and difficult to climb.  Some sections, you are climbing straight up the mountain.  Others, have huge steps, or a gradual slope.  I made a point to visit one of the guard towers and it was a lot of fun.  I felt like a kid pretending to be a guardsman.  I can imagine what it would feel like to be stuck up there, waiting for days.  Very boring.  After, we drove back to the hotel to relax before heading to dinner.

For dinner, an old family friend picked us up and we headed to a Tibetan restaurant.  We had a delicious dinner, and I must thank my dad and his friend for taking us there.  I can’t truly describe real Tibetan food.  I’m not sure if it was truly authentic, but I’d like to believe it is.  Tibetan food is a mix between Indian and Chinese.  Somewhat dry, lots of lamb, and very spicy.  The spices they use remind me of Indian food, but the preparation and style is more Chinese.  They also have a type of goat milk tea.  It’s somewhat sour, but delicious.  It must be warm.  We were even treated to a wonderful show performed by what I assumed to be real Tibetan-Chinese people.  I couldn’t start to describe the songs and dance, but I recommend you to YouTube it.  Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to sleep.

On our third day, we visited the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.  The Forbidden City is the Imperial Palace of the last Emperor.  It is a vast complex with beautiful buildings.  Unlike Japanese buildings, these are red with very beautiful designs in the crown.  The city was being renovated due to the Olympics, but I’m sure the rest of it is very beautiful.  I could easily spend an entire day trying to explore the city, but I didn’t have the luxury of time on this trip.  We even visited a nice park behind the city.  The park has a small hill you can climb and see the entire city.  Because it was Winter, we could see everything, but in the far distance, it was a little smoggy.

The next stop was the Temple of Heaven.  It is a beautiful park that has a few attractions.  The main temple is a beautiful round wooden building with wonderful art work.  It was a beautiful day which made things much better.  The details on everything was exquisite, and I couldn’t believe they did it such a long time ago.  There was a “hall of echos” where you can send secret messages along a curved wall.  You can’t see the other person, but you can easily talk to them.  Sounds like a horror movie, but it’s scientifically interesting.  The last thing to do is to stand on a stone and start talking.  Your voice will resonate, sounding more beautiful.  As if you have a slight echo.  This is another must see place in Beijing.

On my last day, I just walked around the hotel and visited many shops.  There was still 9 months until the Olympics, but they were going full tilt on Olympic fever.  You couldn’t walk anywhere without them showing Olympic related goods.  The spirit of the Beijing people was quite good and people seemed generally friendly.  Albeit a little capitalistic at times, they were generally nice.  If you visit Beijing, I do recommend a good guide.  I also recommend that you be careful.  Car drivers are number 1.  They will not always wait for you to cross the road, and they go anywhere on the road.  When in a taxi, close your eyes and pray you are okay.  Generally, it’s true.  If you are worried about taxis, I’d recommend taking the subways.  Just be ready to spend 10 minutes figuring things out, but generally, it’s simple to use.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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