Sunday, 31 August 2008

Talking Japanese

In some ways, Japan was just like I expected it to be. Tokyo is definitely a visual assault. The city is massive, and the 1.5 hour train trip from the airport seems to go on forever. Getting around isn't too tricky, but conversing with the locals can be, especially if your knowledge of Japanese doesn’t go past 5 words. The place seems kinda familiar, in the way that New York does to a first time visitor. The amount of people, advertising and neon everywhere can't really be captured in single shots.
It's pretty incredible

After a couple of days of jetlagged wanderings around Tokyo, it was time for the bullet train to Kyoto. In contrast, Kyoto is a relatively relaxing place, with countless peaceful Buddhist temples and Zen gardens in the areas close to town. Many of which are Unesco world heritage sites. And tonnes more that probably could be. Indeed the less visited ones are actually some of the nicest.

Apart from temples, Kyoto is also famous for it's Geisha's, though most of the Kimono clad girls you see around are just apprentices learning their trade. It's surprising to see the practise still alive and kicking in the 21st century. I did manage to see a couple of real Geishas on their way to appointments. Memories of Memoirs of a Geisha.

Then it was back to Tokyo for a couple of days before departing for Melbourne. This time I based mysjavascript:void(0)elf in the relative tranquility of Asakusa, away from Roppongi, the main areas where foreigners go, and a bit of a nightmare IMHO. A couple of almost relaxing days and it was time to validate that Ozzie visa. With all of 2 days to spare.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Home and Sweden

Well, home at last and a well deserved break from travel and all it's associated stresses. It's always great to get home after travelling, but generally speaking the initial excitement of seeing everyone starts to pale soon enough, and the latest edition of the Irish "Summer" certainly doesn’t help.

There is the odd ray of sunshine though, and a drive through Connemara in the evening light is a good way to appreciate it. Even if it looks like some of the locals don't welcome the intrusion.

After some r+r at home, its was time for another mini trip to Sweden, which almost didn’t happen for Martin who couldn’t remember the safe place he had carefully left his passport, the day of the flight. Unfortunately, the weather in Stockholm was only marginally better than that we left behind, though we did have one afternoon without rain, and despite Martin's expression, the city was an interesting place to spend a few days.

Even if we didn't do much more than eat, drink and be merry. The old town area was especially pretty. And the locals were generally pretty friendly, especially when accosted and plied with food at 5am, and their English was quite amazing, some even having completely Irish accents to boot. Still, I can't help feeling on the whole that the Baltics offer a better deal for an extended break than Scandinavia. So after a brief stopover to catch up with Mr Dave and friends in Glasgow, it was back home and preparing to board the coffin ship. Sorry, Qantas plane.