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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gamagori and more bike stuff

Gamagori is a city east of Nagoya in Aichi prefecture.Gamagori is notable because you can rent for free electric assist bikes made by Panasonic for the whole day.These bike are pimp, from Gamagori station, exit towards the ocean, turn left and find the information office.Once you are there, submit a $12 deposit and they give you a bike. MSPR, these things cost about a $1000 and have a range of 18km.... Make biking really easy.When you start to peddle, the bike can tell how much you are working. If you are working to much, it will take over and get you on your way. Above is the control system, you can pick between auto, power or eco mode. I have picked auto mode, you can also see there is 2/3rd power left. So what can you see in Gamagori?There is a temple at the end of that bridge. And:Koyasu-Daishi on the top of Mount Kobo... Mt. Koko at 84 meters above sea level, no problem to reach the summit if you have a free-to-rent electric assist bike.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to: Removing Bike Locks

First of all, I did not steal a bike, but if you were in Japan about to steal a bike these steps would be similar. What did happen, a friend left her bike at the train station.The bike was left with a one lock around the wheel and frame and a second ring-lock attached to the frame left open with the key in place.Typically bikes in Japan only have a ring-lock that keeps the rear wheel from spinning. Other then that, bikes are not locked to anything else. Over night, the open ring-lock had the key removed, maybe a joke, making the bike more-or-less unusable. Thus, the perfect opportunity to figure out if I could remove a bike ring lock in less then 3 minutes. Step 1, remove ring lock from frame, for this you need a plus head screw driver (Philips head in English). Second, exam the back of the lock to determine there is nothing really useful back there.Next step, take a flat head screw driver and apply some force to the key hole.And if you apply enough force, the inner mechanics of the lock should just fall out freeing the ring.With that you are done, less then 3 minutes. For over 10 million bikes in Japan, we can now see what keeps them locked up.That thing on the left interacts with the key (this was flat key style) and ring-spring. And those two screws hold the lock to the frame.... that's it.mon-dai-nai (no problem)