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Showing posts from March, 2011

Yufuin no moreish

When I woke up the next morning it was almost 9.30am. Check-out is a strict 10am and we had reservations for a train at 10.18am. Just as I was about to exit the door and try to book us in for another night, Alex woke up. We didn’t quite make it out by 10am. And we missed the train, though with JR Passes we hadn’t paid anything for it anyway. There was another at about 2.30pm, so we left our luggage at the hotel and walked to the station to make a new booking. Alex was definitely recharged and raced around everywhere at top speed and with a huge grin, while B and I struggled to keep up. We ate brunch at the same bakery as the day before. They have nice hot chocolates. There was a Tokyu Hands at the department store above the station. It’s full of fascinating stuff for any purpose you might imagine. In Thailand we wandered around shops and markets thinking “Do we really want to buy something here? We’ll probably regret it.” In Japan we wander through shops thinking “I really want

Going nuclear at Nagasaki

Fukuoka’s airport had a smoky tinge to it, like that of Chiang Mai, which I found surprising. The airport was surprisingly busy, with lots of big Japanese domestic aircraft and international arrivals from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore. Fukuoka’s domestic and international terminals are inconveniently separated from each other and require a bus to shuttle between them. Unfortunately the subway station is located beneath the domestic terminal. After passing a big sign advertising “Goo” we stepped off the bus, descended into the subway and caught the short ride to Hakata station (the cities of Fukuoka and Hakata being contiguous but for a river between them. Then a short, but familiar, walk to the nearest Toyoko Inn. The check in time wasn’t until late in the afternoon, but I made use of their toilet to wash up a little and we left our luggage with them. Alex was already crazy about the lift and the automatic doors. Three zombies walked back to the train station, swap

Bye-Bye Tuk-Tuk

Apologies for the lack of updates. We've been alternately without internet access and too exhausted to types since checking out of our hotel in Bangkok... On our last day in Bangkok we went shopping. We were going to start with a swim, but the water in the impressively decorated pool was only 18 degrees C. The air felt cool too, so much so that B brought a light jumper along. First we took a Skytrain down to the big shopping complexes of Siam Square. The double decked Skytrain lines tower over the surrounding traffic jams. It's mostly branded goods out of our budget, but there are some interesting furnishings stores. Alex was fascinated by the dancing fountains between the Siam Paragon and Siam Centre malls. We crossed over to MBK for lunch at the Thai (6th floor, not the International Food Court on the 5th). They operate via a coupon system where you first purchase coupons to an agreed value, then hand them out to the stalls to pay for the meals. Alex pigged on the f

Chatuchak and Chinatown

So far the Siam City is proving to be the worst of the hotels that we have stayed at in Thailand. Full of tour groups, ornate opulence rather than modern style and crappy expensive internet. Advantages: it's close to the Phaya Thai Skytrain and Airport line stations. It does have a decent buffet breakfast and Alex likes the many fountains, the lifts and the pool so it's not all bad. Anyway, we slept in this morning and enjoyed that. Then we caught the Skytrain to its northern terminus at Mo Chit, which is within easy walking distance of the famous Chatuchak (Jatujak) markets. Easy walking distance except for the big playground which lies between the station and the markets. It was great to let Alex play for a while, though some of the equipment was broken and even dangerously so. Others were in great nick. The Chatuchak markets were not as scary as I had imagined them to be. Yes they are big, but not overwhelmingly so. All sorts of stuff is sold there, not just pirate

Chiang Mai to Bangkok by a very slow train

It wasn't the longest railway journey that I've been on, but it felt like it was. It wasn't the worst train ride either ( that was in China), but it was getting close to some of those horrible overnight train rides between Sydney, Brisbane and Rockhampton when I was a student. A two and a half hour delay in the middle of the day is tolerable, but when its stopping you from eating dinner and going to bed it feels like an eternity. When I booked the "Express" Sprinter service between Chiang Mai and Bangkok's Hualumphong station I thought "Great! We can see a large chunk of the Thai countryside and save a lot of money while having a lazy day in a train." I wished we'd paid for the flights. The journey started well enough. We said goodbye to the staff at the Manathai Village, dragging Alex away from his beloved fountains, and were driven by Khong to Chiang Mai's train station. There's a steam train on display out the front, a tall wate

Market-ing in Chiang Mai

After all of the previous day's excitement we needed something more relaxing. So today we did very little. Woke up late, ate breakfast, let Alex play with the hotel staff, who seem to love him. He's been very good at charming the locals with an easy "Hi!" and his excited descriptions of things like "fountains!" (his lift replacement, for he has encountered none here), "motorbike!" and "wee-wee toilet!". The Manathai feels like a very sedate resort, which suits us just fine. After we dragged Alex away from the fountains and waterfalls we crossed the road towards the local market area, making the mistake of trying to use the stroller over the bumpy and narrow footpaths. Alex managed to sleep through it all. The markets sold all sorts of things, from Spider-man outfits to pickles. But nothing we wanted. The atmosphere is interesting, though. We emerged from the narrow streets at the river and did a loop across a couple of bridges. The e

Elephants, oxen, tigers and Donald Duck

Alex cried out in agony,as if he were burning. Nothing we gave him could ease his pain. No, he hadn't been thrown unrestrained through the car window on a busy Thai road. Nor was this a consequence of falling down a ledge on to concrete. He hadn't been trampled by an elephant, or slipped off the back of one, plunging to the ground below. He wasn't run over by the wheels of an ox drawn cart or drowning in a river filled with elephant poo. No tiger had mauled him, no tuk-tuk had run over him and he was not trapped under the rubble of a building felled by a magnitude seven earthquake. Alex had bitten a raw green chilli. Fortunately for him, we knew the antidote. This is a powerful drug, so addictive that I used to devour six litres of it in a week. We gave him ice cream. It's funny. We came to Thailand to escape the consequences of the earthquake and the risks of the radiation leak. Those risks are small, quantified and should not apply to the southern areas. Yet