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Ferries of Japan May 4, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Ferries of Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-fk

Taking a ferry in Japan can be a completely new experience for anyone.  Taking a ferry in any country can be new.  Previously, my main experience on a ferry was in Vancouver.  Sailing between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay (Vancouver to Victoria) was a common experience.  It is only an hour and a half on a large sized ferry.  Usually there is a cafeteria and lots of seats to relax.  It plied the waters of the Georgia Strait and went between Mayne and Galiano Islands.  The trip was just over an hour and a half and it was a beautiful trip.  You can see the beauty of the natural forested islands.  The trip itself was generally calm, but at times, it could be rough.  As a motorcyclist, it was also great because you could easily get a spot on the ferry at anytime.  First off, you are usually the first to board the ferry.  You were boarded at the front of the ferry (first to exit) where no other cars could park.  From there, you had a wooden block placed under your bike for safety.  The car deck was also very flat as there were no places for tie downs.

My other experience on ferries was between Dover and Calais in the 90s.  My first crossing was in a hover craft.  Unfortunately, I heard the sailing has stopped.  The hover craft was a nice experience, but nothing to call home about.  It was noisy, bumpy, but fast.  It was akin to being on a small prop plane.  The second trip was on a standard ferry.  I was on a tour, so we walked on.  There was a nice large shop and by the time you finished exploring the ship, it was pretty much time to disembark.  I can’t remember the time it took to cross, but it should be about an hour and a half as well.  Finally, I had a chance to take a ferry between Hong Kong and Macau.  It was so long ago that I can’t remember it very clearly.  It was, for the most part, a short and forgettable experience.  Out of all of my experiences, I’d say the Dover Calais trip on a regular ferry was the best.

Japan is a whole new breed of ferry services.  It is distinctly Japanese.  I have only taken ferries because I was travelling on my motorcycle.  The first trip was a short hour and forty minute ferry ride.  It was between the fishing village of Oma and Hakodate, Hokkaido.  This short ferry ride is a typical ferry in Japan.  It is not too big and not too large.  The car deck was somewhat dangerous on a motorcycle, but I had a nice small area to park.  They would put a towel over my bike to protect it, and tie it down on both sides.  This is a very common thing to do in Japan.  Usually, motorcycles are the first to board, but it doesn’t mean they are the first to disembark.  Generally, they are the last, as the door can be in a difficult position.  It really depends on the ferry, as always.  The trip itself is not special.  There is nothing to really see until you reach Hakodate.  I’d say it was somewhat boring as well.  My second trip on a ferry in Japan was from Tokyo to Tokushima, as chronicled in my Shikoku adventure.  This is a very different breed of ferry.  It is much bigger.  There are two car decks, but only one is for passenger cars.  These ferries are mainly for transporting cargo, rather than passenger traffic.  However, they double as passenger ferries to service long haul routes.  During the busy times, there are dozens of motorcycles strapped to each other with barely any room to walk between each bike.  Thankfully, they still tie them down regardless.  This ferry has all the amenities to survive for weeks, if you have to.  The ferry from Oma to Hakodate had very few amenities.  Mainly drinks, some snacks, and maybe a little alcohol, generally nothing special.  It also smelt bad.  The ferry from Tokyo to Tokushima was a luxury liner compared to the other ferry.  Depending on the ferry, you might get your own restaurant, but both offered vending machine food, desert snacks, alcohol, and alcohol snacks.  You could also buy ice cream, play slots, and take a bath.  While the toilets weren’t great, you had pretty much everything you could need.

In general, ferries all over the world differ slightly from each other.  When travelling long distances, it’s always important to know what to bring and to always be prepared for rough seas.  I was lucky that I rarely travelled in rough seas.  Most of my trips were nice and smooth, with only a couple on rough seas.  I would highly recommend a nice leisurely trip on a ferry if you can afford it and have the time.  It’s a great way to relax and just think.  However, as most people who visit Japan come for only a week or two, it’s not the most viable option.  For those living in Japan, it’s a great way to have a new experience in life, and I highly recommend it.

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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Hong Kong November 25, 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 “Hong Kong” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-1C

On January 23, 2008, I left Tokyo for a trip to Hong Kong.  It was my first trip to the “motherland” since I was in High School.  The Hong Kong I remember is nothing more than flashes of the past and nothing more.  I was excited to head to Hong Kong and re-visit a place that still feels very foreign to me.  While the main reason for me to head to Hong Kong was to re-visit my parents hometown, most of my family would be in Hong Kong at the same time.  One of my cousins was getting married and I decided that was my reason to go.

The day I left was a very odd day.  I took the first Bus to Narita on the first day of snow for the season.  I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to see more snow, but I was heading to Hong Kong, so it was okay.   The flight to Hong Kong is roughly 5 hours, but I went on a “free tour” package.  Basically, you get the airfare and hotel packaged into one, and a free ride to the hotel and airport.  Note that taking free tours from Japanese companies means you’ll have to wait for everyone to come out.  I had nothing but carry on luggage, and had to wait over 1 hour as everyone came out.  I would rather take the train in and I’d be fine.  Also, I was the last person to be dropped off.  Oh well.

My first day in Hong Kong was more of a night.  I had a nice “lunch” (it was around 5pm) near my hotel.  This place would be where I’d eat every breakfast.  I’m not a fan of congee (おかゆ – Rice Soup) so I didn’t order the tour breakfast.  Plus, it was probably cheaper and much better in the small shop.  They had traditional Cantonese food.  I can’t tell you how good it was, but I was brought up on Cantonese food, so I was so happy to have it.  Everyday, I had “lo bak go” which is “fried daikon cake” (やきもち).  It is still my favourite type of Chinese food.  After a nice lunch, I went out for a quick tour of Kowloon with my parents.  We went to see the Peninsula Hotel and the Star Terminal.  We even took a quick walk around Sogo.  It’s strange to be in another country and see a Japanese Department Store.  It was very similar, yet also very Hong Kongese.  That night, we went to dinner with a family friend and had a wonderful dinner.  If anything, the food is the main attraction in Hong Kong.

On my second day, I went for a tour of Kowloon, did some shopping, then headed out for a night on the town.  My cousin, whom I haven’t seen since I was a child, took me and my cousins (from Vancouver) out for dinner and dancing.  We had an East meets West dinner.  It was very British in the fact that it doesn’t look good, yet it had some Canton flavours.  The most memorable part was the cow’s tongue (牛タン).  This isn’t your Japanese cow tongue that is sliced very thin and barbequed.  No, this was an entire tongue and you can easily see the taste buds.  It looked very disgusting, but it didn’t taste bad.  If you ignore the looks, it’s fine.  We also ate some pigeon (a little dry and gamey) and then we were off to the club.  Our cousin did a great job and reserved a table for us on the dance floor.  There was a fillipino band playing rock music and it was great.  Lots of old songs from the 90s that made you want to rock out.  Needless to say, I drank way too much.  The night was half spoiled when my parents came.  Oh well.  I still enjoyed the drinks.

Being a “holiday”, I had to wake up early the next day.  I was going to Ngong Ping 360.  It’s a large national park that has a large Buddhist monastary the largest seated Buddha, outdoors.  However, the only way to get there is on one of the longest gondolas in the world and it wasn’t the safest either.  Shortly after they opened, it was closed because 2 cars crashed to the ground.  They fell off the ropeway.  After a year, they re-opened and we travelled on the “safer” version.  Hopefully.  🙂  We also had the luxury of travelling with a scared Chinese girl and 2 Japanese guys.  Everyone was teasing the girl and having fun.  I felt a little sorry for the girl, but I’m sure she felt fine afterwards.  The Buddha was nice, but I found the entire trek to get there to be nothing too special.  Honestly, I wanted to go hiking in the mountains instead, but I knew I didn’t have the time to go.  Afterwards, we had a little time, so we had dim sum for lunch and went shopping at the outlet mall.  At night, we went to Victoria Peak.  It was a nice place, and we took the historical Peak Tram.  There was one major problem.  It was raining most of the day and the peak was fogged in.  We couldn’t really see anything.  At night, we could see a little of the city, but not much.  It was also very cold.  I feel sad that I couldn’t really enjoy it, but that’s life.

On my last full day in Hong Kong, I had a lot of free time.  I just walked around my hotel as my family went to the wedding.  At night, I went to the wedding and had a nice time.  Lots of free drinks.  I even got to see my cousin who was getting married and a lot of her photos.  Apparently went to Hokkaido and a few other places in Japan.  The wedding banquet was okay.  Just a typical banquet.  Showing the bride and groom, lots of drinking, and many drunk relatives.  The only drama was when one of the staff dropped a bowl of soup on me and my suit.  They cleaned it up a little, but I was already a little drunk, and I felt that I shouldn’t complain.  I found out that another cousin of mine is the manager of the banquet hall and that someone got into big trouble.  I felt bad, but I didn’t make a fuss about it at all.  Plus, the next day I had to leave.  I almost couldn’t leave because my drunk cousin (the one that took us dancing) was trying to get me to party all night.  However, I still had to pack.  Oh well.  I did get back to the hotel okay and I did make my flight.

Going to Hong Kong is not difficult, especially from Japan.  There are only 2 places to really see in Hong Kong.  Ngong Ping and Victoria Peak.  The harbour is also a must, but you can do that at any time and it’s very easy.  Other than that, food and shopping is probably the main attraction.  I’d recommend eating everything you can, visiting night markets, and going to every shop that is unique.  Buying old Japanese music, or the most popular albums, is very cheap compared to Japan.  However, selection is very weak.  Taking the subway is very convenient, but sometimes it’s easier to walk 2 stations.  The amount of people and the noise is something that you can’t be prepared for.  I started to go crazy because there is noise on every street, all the time.  It’s not just the people, but the walk signals emanate a loud ringing noise for the blind.  You’ll also see how multi-cultural Hong Kong can be with lots of Caucasians and South-East Asians on all the major streets.  Lastly, bring lots of money as Hong Kong can be expensive, depending on what you do.

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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