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Showing posts from February, 2011

Oito Line

I was looking through some photos of our 2006 trip to Japan and noticed some lovely pics taken along the Oito line between Shinjuku and Matsumoto. This was the first time we saw Mt Fuji. The line actually runs all the way to the west coast town of Itoigawa. Very tempting. My photos are here . Other photos of the Oito Line (Japanese) and more photos and videos  (English). Added 9/3/2014: A beautiful video lamenting the forthcoming closure of the Minami-Otari to Itoigawa section when the Hokuriku Shinkansen is opened to Kanazawa.

Paper phantoms

We picked up our 14 day Japan Rail Pass vouchers from Pitt Travel this evening. I also grabbed a copy of the free JNTO Tourist Map of Japan, a treasured reference when it comes to planning trips. The map shows major railway lines, roads, onsens and other sites across the islands. While gazing at Hokkaido, the large north island to which I've never been, I noticed a long stretch of private railway running between Ikeda and Kitami. That would probably contain some pretty interesting scenery, I thought to myself.  I wonder what it's called and what its story is. Some net searching later I had my answer: the Hokkaido Chihoku Highland Line. Sadly, after 95 years of service, it closed in April of 2006. The (Daily) Rail Photo has an account of riding on the line in its last days  of service. Now it exists only as a phantom line on a piece of paper.

Two days in Kuala Lumpur

My mum, uncle and aunt are spending a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur on the way back from Europe. This is only her second trip overseas and she asked me what to do in KL during her stay. Below is an edited version of my reply, keeping in mind that they are all getting on in their years. Despite four previous trips there, the city of Kuala Lumpur itself does not rank among my favourites. It has improved over the past few years. Public transport isn't the most convenient or reliable, although the newer light rail and monorail lines are okay, though poorly integrated. Taxis will usually try to rip you off if catching from city tourist areas. They refuse to use their meters and you have to haggle. Outside of the city centre and for longer distances meters are used by default. The fastest and most comfortable way to get from the airport is by train. Note that you can check in from the Central Station as well, if done early enough before your flight. Then catch a taxi (using the vouc

Welcome to 2011: Japan again

First trips for the year are now booked. I'm off down to Melbourne for a day next month to watch a concert of John Williams music. Then a couple of weeks later the three of us are flying back to Osaka courtesy of a very cheap Jetstar deal. We have 16 days there, but I was rather tempted to book onwards travel somewhere else - like Europe or the US while the dollar is strong. It still works out about the same as flying from Australia though, once the Japan fares are taken into account. Why Japan again? Apart from cheap flights, there is so much yet to see there, so many railway lines to catch! Just doing some planning I realise that 16 days is not enough for all the itineraries I want to follow. There are so many railway themes I could choose, like the entire west coast of Honshu, or the length of Japan by rail, or every Shinkansen line... But I don't just want to take fast trains, I want the slow locals, I want to stop off at odd towns and explore. We did a little of that la