Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Cruise Day 2 – At Sea

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

I wasn’t sure what the days at sea would be like. I’ve been on cruises before, but they were Geek Cruises that had classes when we were at sea and geeks to chat with. We started our first morning with a long breakfast. It wasn’t quite as relaxed as I had hoped, as we had to queue for quite some time at the restaurant with grumpy people, but the food was fine.

After breakfast we went to the library to read. I have 25 unread books on my kindle and there are hundreds of books in the library. I curled up on a sofa and read a book about the Celts. I spent some of the day at the spa, as I encouraged Marty to get his unruly hair trimmed, and he hadn’t found the time to do this before we left home.

The dinner was formal and since it was our 17th wedding anniversary I tried to get over my loathing of having my picture taken and posed for pictures with Marty. Hopefully I managed to smile in at least one of these.

Cruise Day 1 – Kobe

Friday, April 5th, 2013

It’s been a while since Marty and I went on a cruise. I think the last time was 2004 when we went on a Geek Cruise in the Mediterranean. We loved that you could sleep comfortably at night and wake up somewhere new in the morning. We have considered a number of cruises since 2004 but they were either too expensive or the dates didn’t quite work. This cruise from around Japan and China fitted well with a couple of our holiday plans. We were able to take a train to the port, so we didn’t have to start our trip with flying, and we would get to see more of Asia including some more of Japan. It also began just before our wedding anniversary.

We are very excited to be on holiday.

(All of my blog posts about the cruise will be posted late. There is no internet connection aboard the ship in Japan or Japanese waters. Even if we are in a place where they will be a connection it is a very expensive satellite connection with no guarantees that it will actually work. I plan to check on some email while I am travelling but there will be days when I won’t have any connectivity at all.)

Heading Home

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

I’m back in London Heathrow waiting on my flight to Japan.  I did not manage to blog at all while I was in the UK, but then I rarely managed to get online.  The house we were staying in was supposed to have wifi but it broke completely for a few days and when it was “fixed” it was incredibly hard to get connected.  There were a couple of spots – like the second step of the stairs – where it was possible to connect for a minute or so, but it was incredibly frustrating trying to connect and I mostly gave up.  This means that I now have hundreds of unanswered emails.  Joy.

I’m starting back to my Japanese class on Monday morning and I feel horribly unprepared.  I tried to keep on top of the work over the past two weeks but it’s very hard to study when you are trying to do family things and catch up with friends.  I have a feeling that February is going to be a busy month.

Travelling to Europe

Monday, January 21st, 2013

I was going to start this post by saying that travelling is no fun.  But that’s not true.  There are lots of aspects of travel that are fun, but getting to the place where the the fun starts can be grim.  At the minute I am in Narita airport.  My flight to London has been delayed for a couple of hours, but at least I get to wait in comfort.  I am feeling a little stressed as I could easily miss my connection to Belfast in London.  And even if I arrive on time to make the connection I could still end up spending the night in Heathrow as British Airways are cancelling flights because of the weather.

Getting to the airport this morning was stressful.  When we arrived at the train platform we had no hope of boarding the train.  It’s hard to explain just how full trains become in Japan.  I have been in other countries where people have complained about the train but you could easily get on and still move your arms and feet when inside.  This train was so full that people’s faces and bodies were smashed up against the doors and windows.  When the train stopped and more people attempted to get in they did this by walking on backwards and pushing as hard as they could.  When that failed they started to run at the passengers who were spilling out of the train to see if that helped to push them further in.  The train was late leaving the platform because people got stuck in the doors.

I could not have gotten into the train on a normal day but trying to do so with a couple of suitcases was a horrific concept.  We ended up buying a ticket for the first class car and waited on another train.  We did not get seats but we were able to at least get on to the train and stand in the corridor beside the doors.  Then we had to get off the train.  The platform at Nippori Station is old and narrow.  It’s really hard to get off a train with the people waiting to get on.  And incredibly difficult in rush hour to walk down the platform to the exits.  To get to the Skyliner we had to walk past the exit that most people want to use and there were hundreds of people pushing and shoving all attempting to not fall off the platform on their way to the stairs.  And I do mean stairs and not an escalator.  I carried my case up the stairs hoping that I wouldn’t get pushed over by the crowd.

After that things got easier.  My train ticket didn’t work but that was fixed by asking for help and did not involve being worried that someone would knock me off the platform.  At the airport there was no queue at all.  I assume that some of the passengers decided to come late because of the delays.  I did managed to get confused again, but that’s because of my understanding of Japanese.  I didn’t understand what was being said to me at the automated immigration gate. Being a foreigner I can sign-up for this service but my passport can’t be read correctly and I have to go through the line that is staffed.  It’s not exactly automated but it’s still quicker and I use it because it means you can ask for no stamp in your passport.  My last passport was filled up in 5 years and I would like this one to last a bit longer.  I asked for no stamp and the person behind the desk just said “sorry, you have stamp”.  It took me much too long to work out that she had made a mistake and stamped my passport before asking if I wanted this or not.  We both did a lot of apologising and I rushed on to the lounge so that I could sit and wait and try to think of something other than travel.  As you can see I failed.


Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I have been trying to sort out my travel plans for 2013.  Last year I spent 144 days away from home and I don’t want to travel quite that much this year.  Since 2007 I have attended three Perl conferences a year, but I don’t think that I will be able to attend  YAPC::EU this year.  It doesn’t coincide with any family events and it’s expensive to fly to the Ukraine from Tokyo.  Actually, it’s noticeably more expensive to fly to anywhere from Tokyo this year. I do plan to attend YAPC::NA in Austin in June and YAPC::Asia if it is held in Japan. I also want to attend some TPF Community events that should take place in Europe around the time I am there for my aunt’s wedding in May.

Although I travelled a lot last year I didn’t actually manage to have much of a holiday with Marty.  We have been been talking for a while now about seeing more of Asia while we live in this part of the world.  We haven’t been that great at doing that but we have booked a holiday around our wedding anniversary which will take us to China and South Korea.

I started the next level of my intensive Japanese class a couple of weeks ago. It’s utterly brain melting.  I was unsure about doing this as I’m flying to Europe on Monday for a family birthday.  I’m really looking forward to catching up with people but I’m not looking forward to missing two weeks of this term.  I am going to miss a lot of material and I will be expected to somehow cover this myself while travelling.  When I get back I’m also going to have to find time to complete the 10 hours of written homework, the two essays, the three kanji tests, and the two weekly tests that I will have missed.

Phone Pictures

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I find it hard to travel with my Canon camera.  It takes great pictures, but it is heavy and not as important as my laptop or my kindle.  I took it with me this summer but it was often left in a bag in my room.   I have been trying to remember that my phone, which is always with me, also has a camera.  It’s nowhere near as good as the Canon but it’s often better than I expect.

Pictures taken with my iPhone

Leaving Frankfurt

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I leave Frankfurt this morning and I will be happy to say goodbye.  I did not see much of the city but what I did see was not special.  The service in the restaurants and bars was so bad that when I had to eat by myself I just bought something in a supermarket.  I usually don’t mind eating out on my own but then I usually don’t have to wait more than an hour to be served food.

I was attending a conference and the venue was not great.  It was unbearably hot.  There was no air conditioning, very few windows that opened, and it was about 36 C outside.   The first day was the hottest and it is very hard to listen to talks or to even speak to people when all you can think about is the heat and how you need to cool down.

Last impressions also count.  It was difficult to check out of the hotel and the taxi ride to the airport made me fear for me life.  When the driver arrived he complained at length about the construction as if it was somehow my fault that there were roadworks.  I can handle grumpy but I could do without road rage.  He got so angry on the way to the airport that he banged his fists off the dashboard, beeped his horn, and started to chase the car that had overtaken him incorrectly.  He nearly crashed on a bend on the way into the airport because he kept impatiently changing lanes and accelerating wildly.

I hope it’s a while before I need to come back to this city.

City Sights

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

I did read a guide book before coming to Seoul but I didn’t know what I wanted to do yesterday. Marty had no strong opinion either but I gave him the guide book and asked him to decide. After a long lazy breakfast in our room we headed out for the day.  The first stop was Samsung D’Light.  Marty started raving about new phones and tablets, and well, what was I expecting when I handed him the guidebook?

I’m not overly excited by Samsung products, but it wasn’t a bad a way to spend an hour or so.  I spent much of my time there playing Angry Birds on a variety of devices but I did look at some other things.  There was a large LED display that looked really impressive.  It played music when you touched the glass and Marty had a lot of fun moving around quickly making a lot of racket  I was more excited by the interesting photographs that could be taken but I didn’t think it would be appropriate to spend too long taking pictures.

Marty at the LED Drum Display

Marty at the LED Drum Display

There were also an exhibit that allowed you to put a picture of yourself into an old painting.  It was using LCD technology, which in itself is nothing new, but it was on the front of a display cabinet containing cameras.  Once you took the pictures you could email them or post them to twitter.  The place was mostly empty so we did spend a bit of time messing around with this.

Karen, pretending to be serene

Karen, pretending to be serene

Once we left we decided to walk to the main bus station.  Things didn’t go quite as planned as I got tired walking in the sun after about an hour. Thankfully Seoul is like Tokyo with a great public transport system and we were able to hop on a train.  We had plans to go and see the Cathedral and to maybe do a bit of shopping.  I wanted to stop walking for a while so we decided to try to find the shops first.  We messed up.  When we arrived at the shops we appeared to be in a hardware store district.  I have no desire to buy a new set of ladders and at least four shops had displays of these.  We gave up on shopping and starting walking again and did find the Cathedral.  We also found the shopping area that had been recommended to Marty but then so had thousands of other people.  In the end we just walked through the streets trying not to get crushed.

Busy Shopping Street, Seoul

Busy Shopping Street, Seoul


Gangnam Road

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I woke up and the road with seven lanes on one side wasn’t a dream, no matter how dream-like the view from our hotel room is.

Wide Road

Wide Road

Arriving in Seoul

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

When we moved to Tokyo we had great plans to go and visit the neighbouring countries.  Great plans, but very little action.  It’s Golden Week in Japan and instead of staying at home for the holiday we decided to escape the crowds in Tokyo to go and see the crowds in Seoul.  We didn’t know anything much about the city apart from the fact that it’s very large, close to North Korea, and contains lots of spicy food. In my head Seoul was going to look something like Tokyo, but I was wrong.

We arrived at Incheon airport, which is about 40 kilometers outside the city, late last night.  We did consider getting a bus but our plane had been delayed and it seemed easier to get a taxi.  We got a bit confused as there were a number of different types of taxis but without too much hassle we were soon on our way to the city.  Our driver had quite a bit of trouble understanding where we wanted to go but we had a map in our guide book.  We should really have had the name and address of the hotel printed out in Korean, but we’ll know for next time.

It took no time at all to see the lights of the city, probably because the taxi flew along the wide empty roads.  From the back seat I could see the speedometer.  I asked Marty if he knew what unit of measurement they used for speed – miles or kilometers.  He thankfully said kilometers as the car was moving at nearly 150 of these.  When we got to the city we slowed down to about 90. Our driver wasn’t overly concerned about speed limits as the ones I glanced at the side of the road were for much lower speeds.

I could smell the river before I saw it.  I do think that we crossed it but in the dark I couldn’t see if the bridge was anything other than long.  Gazing across the river the city appeared to be full of very tall buildings.  As well as the lights of the skyscrapers I spotted at least six large Christian crosses decorated with lights.  Coming from Northern Ireland I have certainly seen crosses but those were mostly made out of wood or stone and do not glow in the dark.  They also aren’t stuck on the roofs of what must be incredibly large churches.

As we got closer to the hotel I stopped gazing into the distance and focused on the roads as now there was a lot of traffic.  In Tokyo they have built roads in the air but here there are wide roads on the ground.  I counted seven lanes on our side of the road, four for going forward and three for turning.  I tried to count the lanes on the other side of the road but there were too many cars and I was having difficulty believing that there could be seven lanes on any side of a road.

Wide Road

Wide Road