Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sakura-Dori Line

Sakura-dori line is the subway that serves my apartment near the Kurumamichi (car road) station. The subway has been going under a major upgrade including new stations, safety gates and electronic signs. Here is the newest electronic sign.The above is no problem. Things that seem rude on the train is: reading a news paper wide-open, talking on phone, listening to i-pod to loud and putting your bag on the empty seat next to you.... make up is okay.

Monday, December 13, 2010

China: Shanghai (part 3)

The third city I visited in China was Shanghai. Passing through the airport, there is nothing more fun then taking the meglev and traveling to middle of no-where downtown shanghai.In English, that is 268 mph, 19 miles in about 7 minutes. This speed is maintain for about 3 minutes, during this time everyone is taking the above photo.Zoom-zoom, passing at over 500 mph... pimp mass transit. Shanghai is a hip, cool and weird place. Below is me at the river walk.The next photo is not a photo of a statue but a photo of foreign people (to the left, this is the weird part).It's amazing, but you can walk for blocks around parts of Shanghai and see only foreign people. Europeans, American, there is nothing like this in Tokyo or Japan. And more so then in Japan, Shanghai has more services for foreigners, which is nice. I happen to be in town thanksgiving day, and China sells turkey.To that point, I was also invited to the most amazing thanksgiving dinner!Thanks to everyone. But, enough about foreigners, there is other stuff in Shanghai too. Parts of Shanghai are really trendy here on the ground floor.Walk around, this hood is called Tianzifang, and all you see are shops, bars and restaurants. It's difficult to believe you are in a communist country with all this what seems to be free-enterprise going on.There are even people running art shops making modern style prints. But to remind you that you are in China, as you are walking, you look up and see:And you are forced to think to yourself, "why would you dry your underwear / clothes outside when there is so much ash in the air?" More fun, you see people doing odd-jobs all over Shanghai, this might be more of an effect of the communist country.This guy is pulling around 100's of chairs.I'm actually more interested in how they stacked that many chairs on two wheels. Another odd job:If you would like to be pulled around the city while taking a nap, no problem.Overall, Shanghai is a great place to visit, very cool city. Above is the famous river walk, people enjoying the afternoon.Another view of the river... One more thing, I almost forgot. I was visiting friends in Shanghai and we decided to get delivery pizza (all that was left was Thanksgiving leftovers, you understand). My friend was able to pick up the phone and order pizza in English, I was shocked.This is something I can't do in Japan. And when we open the box, check this out:Real pizza. NYSP.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

China: Xi'an (part 2)

Above, approaching my train to the right.Transit to Xi'an was a 12 hour overnight train, soft sleeper car. Ticket cost just over $60 and the sleeper car was actually really conformable.I don't know if it was a long day of walking around Beijing but within 10 minutes of leaving the station and carefully placing all my stuff between me and the wall I was out cold.Slept like a baby for 11.5 hours, woke up with just enough time to gather up my stuff and get off the train at Xi'an station... Pollution was bad in Xi'an, looking up you can see blue skies, looking forward the sky is brown.As you exit the station even if you did not know Xi'an was home to the famous Terracotta Warriors (TW), you would soon find out. There were many people at the exit waiting to tell you and even offer rides or help finding hotels or flights to your next destination. You know these people are legit, they all had business cards with there photo on it. That said, I went to see TW.This is a cool place, it was found about 30 years ago by farmers who were digging a hole. Each warrior has been excavated, cleaned up and put in the army... They were not found all standing like this.They were found more like this, if the people who found them were lucky.There are horses too:There are three pits where China is digging up TW. Above is pit 1, it is the largest. Pit 2 allows you to get close to some of the warriors.It's kind of creepy, you are looking at someone from a long time ago (I'm not sure how many 1000's of years).Someone had to carve there self, knowing it would just be buried in the ground.The two most amazing sculptures were these horse and carriage sets.They are made of over 3000 pieces that were re-assembled. Made of brass, ceramic and other, also very old.Then all over the TW site were Chinese army people, not sure what they were doing, maybe vacation like me. By the time I got back to downtown Xi'an, it was dark and I was covered in dust. After cleaning up I went for a walk around the city.Above is the bell tower, below is the drum tower, about 2 blocks apart and closed for the evening. Both originally made to make noise.Behind the drum tower is a large open market area, the Chinese-Muslim neighborhood of Xi'an.Lot's of shopping and food.For a weeknight, lots of people too.After walking around the market, I headed south to a bar area. Another China surprise, every bar has live music, I think every night, and not just in Xi'an.Surprise because it was simply not fitting my China stereotypes.And with that, off to Shanghai via plane. Post more soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

China: Beijing

I have always been curious about China, it's a huge place with lots of history that is often vilified in the US media (for taking our jobs!). I was able to find a free week over thanksgiving to fly over there and check things out.The first thing you notice when getting close to the airport is the layer of smog between the earth and sky... I visited Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai, this post will be about Beijing, the capitol of China.Above is the airport train station, you can see the train leaving shortly after I walked though the gate. But no problem, a new one comes every 7 minutes, this train takes you downtown. My first night in Beijing I stayed in a nice hotel about 20 minute walk from the Forbidden city. But after getting lost, checking into the hotel and dropping off my stuff - it was to late to visit FC, but I was able to walk over to Tiananmen Square.Above is a guard outside Mao's mausoleum.The square is huge too, one of the largest in the world I think. This was also the site of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.Across the street from TS is old Beijing, a neighborhood full of shops and bars. Above is the gate to that hood, it feels a lot like china town in Chicago. Day 2 I made my way over to the Forbidden City.If you watched the last emperor, the FC has not changed much since then. It is large, beautiful and a somewhat of a terrible place to live (if you were forced too).Mao's house, the front door.As you walk through each area of the city, everything is unique, but after a while it seems repetitive. Like seeing the image above over and over again.Again, another gate. The FC is really amazing, one of those places on earth you can't really comprehend.Everything here was built(made in China) in the 13th to 14th century or sooner.THANK YOU! It turns out we help up-keep this place...An old passage way off to the side of the main path.Scary dragon.Local person dressing up like an old school Chinese person.One way to get around Beijing is to ride on the back of a cart attached to a electronic bike. It cost about $1 to go a short distance. Above is the view looking forward from the cart. If you are in China and you see one of these bikes (or cars, or anything on wheels) get out of the way, they don't stop for people.There are also human powered rickshaws. Above people are resting between jobs.It got dark quick in Beijing, the whole country is on one time zone, so I guess they average it out.My day ended at Beijing West Train station.Above is the schedule board, trains leaving today and tomorrow morning. My train is left board center, T43 leaving at 21:36.Here is my waiting room, 1000's of people. At this point I'm thinking to myself "crap, what a mess."And there it is, my train. At the end of my second day, I took a 12 hour sleeper train to Xi'an. I will post more about this soon.