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Showing posts from September, 2007

In the mood to book

As I stood on the beach at Kurnell and watched the aircraft fly overhead on descent to Sydney Airport I felt my travel addiction stir. I felt like attending one of those Flight Centre travel expos (next one November 4 in Sydney, a fortuitous date for us!) and booking a holiday to Europe right there on the spot. Despite the fact that it's mostly tour packages on offer there's something seductive about the expos. Maybe it's the airline stands with their glossy aircraft brochures promising all sorts of comforts and the photocopied special deals. To make a snap decision, then to spend the time until departure fitting in an itinerary. It's a thrill! I feel like finding some way to combine my love of travel with my work. I must look into Operations Research further. It's one reason I am sad to leave one division now as they had an OR group. To combine travel and mathematics. What a dream!

Floriade

It's been quite a few years since we last visited Floriade. When I lived and studied in Canberra the tulip festival marked the end of the dreary colourless winter and the beginning of the far more pleasant spring (albeit one with the hazard of the swooping magpie). The effect is lessened by living in largely seasonless Sydney but I'll take any excuse to visit one of my favourite cities. It is only a two and a half our drive from our house and dual carriageway the whole route. We have travelled this route countless times, but there are always differences to spot in the landscape. As a whole, the fields were quite green, although the poplars lining the start of the Federal Highway were still empty of leaf, despite the looming arrival of the second month of spring. And Lake George was still an empty expanse of green pasture, though I thought I could see some water in the distance. I love that stretch of the highway, steep hills on the right and the mysterious lake on the left. I c

The return of travel addiction!

Our last four trips shared one thing in common. Our last port of call was Japan. With the first three of those I left Tokyo feeling depressed that the holiday was over, unprepared to return to normal life. As soon as I reached Australia I wanted to travel again. I missed the planning, the dreaming, the new sights everyday and the return to hotels where you never needed to do housework. The recent trip to Osaka was the first in a while where I felt satisfied upon our return home. Perhaps six nights is not enough time to get into the travel habit, maybe it was because we didn't stay in Tokyo or maybe we just did enough. I wasn't homesick, but I was happy enough to be home with our adoring puppy. Earlier in the year we spent a month travelling through Hong Kong, China and Japan. I spent months before hand researching and planning to the point where I had to stop for a while just to clear my mind. This last trip I did hardly any planning. My well worn Japanese Lonely Planet liste

Heading home along the Path of Philosophy

On our last day in Japan we packed our bags and caught the train to Kyoto. Leaving our luggage in the baggage office of the architectural wonder that is Kyoto station we bought a bus pass from the tourist office then caught bus number 5 to Ginkaku-ji Michi. The bus was absolutely packed and, though the distance was not terribly far, the ride took almost an hour. It was very hot and almost the first thing we did once leaving the bus was to eat ice cream. Last time we had walked the Tetsugaki-no-michi, or Philosophers' Path, in Kyoto it was early evening and most of the nearby sights had closed. This time we stopped first at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Temple. I was just expecting a moderately attractive Buddhist temple, but what was so impressive about Ginkaku-ji was the gardens. Soft moss covered the ground beneath maples, leaves bright in the sunshine. Tall bamboo and cedar surrounded the garden, while streams and waterfalls tinkled along with the sounds of the grasshoppers and cica

Koya-san

Kyoto or Koya-San? They both begin with the letter K. They both have magnificent Buddhist architecture. But Koya-San has a pretty train ride and the station is very close to the hotel. So Koya-San it was. We rode the Nankai line to Hashimoto and then changed trains for the ride up to Gokurabashi. It was one of the most beautiful train journeys that I have taken. The line winds its way up into the mountains above a steep gorge past forests of cyprus pine and bamboo. From Gokurabashi there is a cable car up to the top of Koya-San. Actually, it's more of a funicular than a suspended cable car. The track looks incredibly steep but doesn't feel as scary as Hong Kong's Peak Tram. From the cable car's summit station we caught the bus all the way to the Daimon gate, a massive red structure flanked by guardian demons and tall cyprus pines. From there we walked along the road, stopping by at the many Buddhist temples, including the magnificent Garan complex. We had thought t

A big kid's den in Osaka

The Japanese news has constant coverage of Typhoon Fitow as it heads directly for Tokyo. The Shinkansen isn't running and Shinjuku is wet and windy. I'm glad we aren't staying there this time and hope that we will not feel any effects during our flight back to Australia on Saturday night. Meanwhile CNN would rather talk about microwave popcorn health scares and US senator busted in a toilet. Actually, it's not all crap news from them. They did feature the Chaser's APEC stunt, but with the headline "Who's laughing?" Well, me for one. Legends! Seeing a rose tinted world through our hotel lobby doors Today was a shopping day. The intention was to take it easy. Personally I found tramping around the shops more tiring that a four kilometre mountain walk. Unfortunately most of the shops in Osaka open around 11am, closing at 9pm, so we had to do a lot of walking before shopping. Our first destination was Den-Den Town, the electronics shopping area of Osa

Foxy Fushimi: Wandering in Kyoto

There is nothing like a deep, hot bath after a day of walking. Our hotel room has such a bath. But being Japanese, it is important to clean your body before entering the bath. So we sit down on the plastic stool and wash all over using the flexible shower outlet, now and then pouring a bowl full of hot water over the head. It's a wonderful way to wash away the day's grime. I felt a little guilty over wasting water in the bath, but I did return a lot to the atmosphere through perspiration. Kyoto was hot and sticky. We caught the Keihan line to Fushimi-Inari from Yodoyabashi station, changing trains at Chushojima. These private railways give you a great view of Japanese suburbia that you miss from the Shinkansen. We had left late from the hotel room as I was busy setting up our new Panasonic TZ3 cameras. Still getting the hang of them, hence some blurry photos. Before ascending the hill to the Fushimi-Inari shrine we stopped for some lunch in a small and friendly restaurant n

Kurashiki

It's a shock how much a Shinkansen ticket costs when you don't have a rail pass. But it did mean that we could catch a Nozomi and race along at 300 km/h. But I am getting ahead of myself at very high speed. We caught a Rail Star Hikari bullet train to Okayama, home of the beautiful Koraku-en garden. Today's destination was a little further on, the city of Kurashiki. The name means warehouse village and the Bikan area of the the town retains the old wood and black-tile warehouses, now converted to shops and restaurants. A willow lined canal runs through the area, swans and a punt cruise the waters above giant carp, while a heron searches for smaller fish to eat. Many of the shops sell Japanese sweets, usually featuring the white peaches and muscat grapes of the region. We were overcome by temptation several time, helped along by samples of the wares. The iron glazed Bizen pottery also features prominently. Despite the heat, it was a very pleasant stroll along the canal, a

A long flight

Dotombori Street in Osaka is lined with advertisements for Jetstar's service between here and Sydney. So how was the flight? Pretty good overall, though the air was a little stuffy for my liking. We pushed back a little late and we stuck behind an Air China flight and a Qantas 767 decked out in the Wallabies Rugby Union World Cup Supporters' livery. B fell asleep and didn't awake until we were well into the air. The Airbus 330-200 turned south, taking us over our local suburbs. The cabin crew handed out the amenities pack. I had preordered one for B and she needed the black blanket to keep warm in the cabin. I found the inflatable neck pillow quite comfortable for head support while staring out the window. The black leather seats were fairly comfortable, but I think the blue armrests had been inherited from somewhere else. My earphone jack didn't work, so I couldn't listen to the inflight entertainments: Spiderman 3 and TV shows. We had also prepaid for a portab

Arrived in Osaka

We made it to Osaka. The Jetstar flight was pretty good although I found the air a bit stuffy and carried a really bad headache for most of the flight. Right now I'm exhausted so I'll write more tomorrow. For now, just view photos of the flight .

C'mon Aussie at Sydney Airport

Woke up just before the alarm sounded and quickly washed and packed the last items into the bag. B drove me up to the bus stop along with our bags, then returned the car to the garage and walked back. That way the neighbours don't see that we are off on holidays. Out the window of the bus I could see "godlights" shining through the grey overcast sky. We caught the train to the airport, arrived early. As we were walking along the departures area B spotted someone. "He's that rugby player!". I looked. She had mistaken Andrew Symonds for Lote Tuquiri! The whole Australian cricket team was unloading their green and gold bags from a truck in preparation to fly out to the 20-20 Championship. A pretty exciting start to our trip!

On the eve of departure

Tomorrow we fly off to Osaka. Almost everything is packed, I have copied umpteen video files on to a variety of storage devices. I know I won't watch most of them, but at least I have the option. I should be excited, but as usual, a few morbid thoughts cross my mind: what if the aircraft crashes? What if there is an earthquake? What if the house is burgled while we are gone? What if something happens to our dog? There is not much more I can do about any of those things so I put them in the back of my mind where they belong. It's interesting how we find often find flight so frightening in comparison with the statistically more dangerous activity of driving in a car. For me I imagine that most car accidents are sudden, that death will probably come quickly. However, aircraft crashes may be preceded by long periods of time where the plane is falling out of the sky or shaking wildly. Even after a high altitude explosion you may be conscious as you drop to the ground (as is suspect