Sunday, September 23, 2012

Typhoon Sanba

This past week I was in Sacheon, South Korea and found myself under another Typhoon, this time Typhoon Sanba.  This photo is the morning of September 17th, about 3 hours before the eye came over Sacheon.

You can see on the map below, I was under the line between the 3rd and 4th (blue and yellow) dot from the top, by the time the Typhoon came on land it was really just a bad rain storm with some strong winds. But the $4 umbrella I purchased the day before was unable to survive the wind.
This has been a strange year for Typhoons, this is the 3rd of 11 named typhoons in 2012 that have made landfall in the city I happen to be in.  The other two was Typhoon Vicente in Hong Kong and Typhoon Guchol in Nagoya.  In previous years usually I experienced 1 or none Typhoons.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Small Cans

The standard Japanese beverage can size is 330 ml (almost the same as the US), for a couple of years now manufactures have been selling 135 ml cans.  It's kind of convenient, especially is you are not that thirsty.
Above are three cans of Asahi Super Dry, 135 ml.  These made it to the summit of Fuji!
Coca Cola also sells drinks in little cans.  In Japan, Coca Cola is made with Sugar, just like Mexico. Like the can says, it's refreshing & uplifting.
This summer Pepsi sold Salty Watermelon, it's okay.  Pepsi makes this drink using high-fructose corn syrup, not as good as soda's made with sugar.
Above is an old guy enjoying a 135 ml super dry during a festival in Nagoya.  You can get an idea how small they are.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mount Fuji

I have lived in Japan for over four years now and have yet to climb Fuji, not sure why I guess I have just been lazy.  Two weekends ago I finally got around to making the hike, below is my backpack. 
I do think I packed to much, that thing weighed about 10kg.  The things I used during the hike was head lamp, extra shirts, water, power bars and other food, gloves, flash light, camera and jacket.  Things I did not use during the hike was extra pair of shoes, rain coat, towels and a few other things.
The idea is to make it to the summit around 4:30am in order to see the sunrise, one way to accomplish this is to leave from the 5th station at 10pm and hike non-stop till you get to the summit.  The 5th station is at 2300 meters (7545 ft) and the summit is at 3776m (12388 ft).
It quickly becomes cold, this thermometer is at 3100m (10170ft) and is all ready reading 8C (46F).  This photo was at 2:03am
There are many stations along the route, each station provides a place to rest.  But they also sell expensive food and water.  Many people also have walking sticks, at each station you can get a symbol of that station burned into the stick.... at a price.
It's amazing the number of people climbing the mountain.  Looking down you can see the location of the trail lit-up by all the people on it.
You can see Tokyo off in the distance, I think that is the north star above Tokyo but I'm not sure because I think I'm looking east.
At 4:25am, I looked over my shoulder and saw sun light breaking over the horizon but I was not quite to the summit.
At 4:43am, still hiking and not to the summit.  Hiking up the Yoshida-trail is a good way to make sure you see the sunrise though.
 Sun rises quick, at 4:54am the sun broke the horizon.
The trail is kind of single file and since the sun was rising everyone was looking backwards and taking photos.  Because of this, everyone on the trail came to a stand still, we decided to step aside and watch the sunrise.
Around 5:13am we decided to get back on the trail, here I am trying to stay awake, about to get back in line.
Looking down the mountain it's still amazing how many people are walking up the hill.
I reached the entrance to the summit, the tori above at 5:40am.  The total time hiking was about 7 hours and 40 minutes.
The summit was crazy, 1000's of people.
Another thing I did not know was there is a village on top of fuji, again you can buy almost anything up here.  If you climb Fuji but don't want to carry so much you can get water and food along the way.  It will cost a fortune but might be worth it.
Me sitting next to a famous shrine on top of Mt. Fuji.
The summit of Fuji is actually an active volcano.  People walk down to the base of the crater but I was to tired to do that.
Another great view looking out from Fuji.
If you watched the movie The Lorax, the bad guy sells fresh air in the absence of trees.  Fuji is kind of the same thing, I took two cans of fresh air and ended up using one.  I'm not totally sure I actually needed air but it was advise that we take some.  This is the second tallest mountain I made it to the summit too and I did not use air on the way up to Kota Kinabalu.
I almost made to the station where I stared, BUT at 0.9km (0.55 miles) they had a horse taxi sitting there with $10 rides to the finish line.  I took the horse taxi, that last 0.9km was up hill... 9:42am, almost 12 hours from the time I started the hike.
One more story... The train above was my transit from Gora Station in central Hakone to Odawara Station.  From Odawara Station I returned to Nagoya using a shinkansen bullet train.  Because I was leaving from Odwara I had a to use a local train that stopped at all stations along the shinkansen route.  The person sitting next to me on the train was an old Japanese man who was returning from an US East Coast business trip.  He could tell that I just finished climbing fuji (because I had hiking gear and unable to walk).  But we started talking, he was from a prefecture called Shizuoka, for his whole left he has always had a view of Fuji.  As part of our Fuji discussion he noted that a long time ago the Fuji climbing season lasted until October 15th, today it ends at the end of August.  He concluded that todays shorten climbing season was attributed to climate change.

 I put more photos of the climb here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mongolian Armed Forces

My flight back to Japan was scheduled to depart from the Chinggis Khaan International Airport at 2am.  I got to the airport around 9:30pm without much to do other than wait.
The Chinggis Khaan also has a military base onsite.  It's difficult to see, but the photo below is Mongolian troops lined up to the left and boarding the 767 to the right.
Lined up on sidewalk were a bunch of family and friends waving to the troops boarding the plane.  I asked a person next to me what was going on and was informed that these people were about to fly to Afghanistan to assist NATO.
This was a very emotional group of people.  Wives and mothers were filling small cups full of milk and throwing it in the air in the direction of the troops.

Mongolian Railway

The Mongolian Railway, also known as the Iron Silk Road is a short link between China and Russia, and part of the Trans-Siberian Corridor.  For fun, I took an overnight train from Ulaanbaatar to Mongolia's second largest city of Erdenet.
Reading signs is impossible but getting a ticket and using the rail is not difficult.  The ticket office is just east of the main train station and a 1st class sleeper car train ticket cost about $22.
The trains are old school soviet style.
This is interesting, below is a Russian Locomotive that was upgraded by GE.  I think the upgrade improved the diesel electric system and reduced annual maintenance cost.... Good job Mongolia!!
People waiting for the train to Erdenet.
The monk waiting for the train happen to be my roommate on the way to Erdenet.  Turns out he was not a monk but a Lama, same religious background as the Dalai Lama.  He was traveling to Erdenet to visit with his family, spoke english too.  Below he is helping me find the room. 
This is your typical first class car on a mongolian train.  Not bad for $22.
Another person traveling on the train but in a different room was this guy.  He was a member of a band calledшар айрагor 'Beer' in English. The rest of the band was in the room next door sleeping, so he stop by to talk fora while.
Below is Dzuunharaa station.  The distance between UB and Erdenet is about the same as the distance between Chicago and Detroit or Tokyo and Nagoya.  But the Mongolian train is slow and stops moving near here for over 2 hours in the middle of the night. The total travel time is about 10 hours.
Still waiting, this is about the time everyone retires.
This is the station at Erdenet.  Most people on the train had someone here waiting for them, including the Lama.
Erdenet is a small city compared to UB and known for being the site of the largest copper mine in asia. The city really feels like a typical stereotype of the formal USSR, you can see images of Lenin everywhere. 
 Below is an abandon school yard.
Number one is the copper mine, but below is the second major attraction in Erdenet, the Friendship Monument.
This was my ride back to UB... Cheap but a little scary!
Quick video