Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kyoto (26.05.09)

I spent a little bit more time in Kyoto that I wished. There are tens of temples around the city, I went and visited some of them, but after a while they all seemed the same. The most notable were Golden Temple and Chion-In Temple. An area that I like a lot and is unique is the Bamboo Forest, in the west part of the city. In the east part there is Fushimi Inari, a good hike under thousand of red tori and a good viewpoint. In the city, I guess the attraction is the Gion area; I didn't see any geisha there, just one Maiko (apprentice geisha). In the last day I visited the Imperial palace and learned more about the history. One thing that I did every single day is strolling down the streets for hours and smelling the trees.
I am very glad I got to see Japan. On the other hand, the high cost of living made me feel less free than I wished - I traveled a bit less than I initially planned. Also, I didn't feel so much alive here - I guess that's the problem with "civilized" countries.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New blog

I have started a new blog. It's about personal finance. This time, in Romanian language.

Banii si viata

Tokyo (17.05.09)

Forget Singapore. Forget Hong Kong. Forget Shanghai. If I have to chose only one big city that it's worth visiting, that's Tokyo. I don't know how do they do it. the city is very big, it is the most dense populated. I think if you count the suburbs, there are 35 million people living in the Great Tokyo. Yet, the city is very clean. the traffic is not that bad. The transportation system is probably the best. There are so many trains and tracks. There are quite a few subway lines. I went by skytrain and I think I was about 30 meters above ground. The architecture is very simple but yet stylish. This city seems to me a city from the future. I think what is so different from other cities is the respect the people have for each other. Every day I went to an area and walk for hours. Shinjuku is the tall building area; Shibuya, teenagers and clothes; Ginza, the most expensive commercial area; Asakusa, the biggest temple attraction - I saw a festival here; Tsujiki, the famous fish market; Roppongi, night clubs; Ueno, park an and museums; Akihabara, electronics stores. Chiyoda, Imperial Palace garden.
The only one think I don't like about Tokyo is that it is way too expensive.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I've been around the world - sort of (14.05.09)

Bucharest -> Toronto (1997) -> Los Angeles (2002) -> Honolulu-> Guam -> Manila -> Tokyo (2003)

Bucharest -> Instanbul -> Doha -> Bangkok -> Hong Kong -> Shanghai -> Tokyo (2009)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Osaka (11.05.09)

I wanted to see Japan but because is very expensive I gave up; however, being so close to it and not see it made me re-think and re-evaluate. I the end, I took a cruse ship from Shanghai to Osaka, where I arrived after 2 days. The ship was the biggest I ever been, and I was lucky to have one night clear sky, full moon and the view from my bed of the moonligth shining on the water. I spent a day in Osaka, and I liked it so much. There were some places were I felt like I was from another planet. Oh, on the subway train the seats covered are like sofas. People are very polite and respectful. I have learn few words; sometimes they thinks I speak Japanese, and they talk to me 5 minutes and I have no idea what they are saying, not even an word. I went and saw a castle in a park, a temple, and walked around the streets for hours. Japan is like no other country, everthing seems so neat and in order. I notice they play so much a game called panchiko, there are so many places for this and so many people inside; also very loud noise and so much smoke. At night the commercial streets are full of neon lights.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Shanghai (08.05.09)

Shanghai is an hour train ride from Hangzhou. It's a very big city and crowded, modern, and in some way amazing. I wen to see all the main attractions, and 2 days was enough. I went first the the old town, where are traditional chinese buildings - now all shops. I went and visited a old garden. Then I went to the so called french quarter, where there are of course french-built houses. The main attraction on the city is the area around the river. The east side is known as the bund. There are many buildings from 30', mainly banks or tradehouses, with european architecture. Around the city there are also many european looking buildings, from 30'. The other side of the river is full of modern buildings. One icon of the city is the Oriental Pearl TV tower. A new is the Shanghai Finance Center tower, the tallest building here (and 3rd in the world at 450 m), easy recognized by the shape with a square hole at the top. A well known area for shopping is the Nanjing Street East. In the end I stayed 5 days since my travel plan changed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hangzhou (03.05.09)

I have arrived in Hangzhou by a night train from Yichang. After I found accommodation relative close to the West Lake Park, I rented a bicycle and went to visit the park. I didn't expect not to be allowed with the bicycle in the park, but I could understand why: there were so many people in the park, would be very annoying for pedestrians. However, I did sneak up on the Sudi causeway, which is a very long street crossing the lake. From place to place I would get off the bicycle and walk around. I was so impressed with the beauty of the park, I was counting my days and trying to see if is possible to spend one more day. The smell of the tree and flowers was so strong it took me a while to stop sneezing. I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful parks I ever seen. There are many different gardens, so many alleys I could probably walk an entire day and still not see anything. There is a big pagoda (Leifeng) I wish I had time to visit. The park is very clean and well maintained. I don't know about the city - I only saw it for short time from the bus - but the park itself is well worth the trip here.

Expenses (Yuan)
bus 2
room 75
dinner 13
food 36
bicycle rental 10

Yangtze River cruise (02.05.09)

The boat left the Congquing dock at 9pm. The view of the city was nice, unfortunately it was raining. Early in the morning was a little bit better - the rain has stopped but it was still foggy. The boat stopped at Fengdu - the City of Ghosts, and then went on. In the evening stopped at Zhang Fei Temple. For the entire day the weather wasn't good. It was interesting to see towns and factories along the river.
The next day was the best part of the trip. First the boat went through Quatang Gorge. I guess on a good day the view would be great, but because was foggy couldn't see too far and clear. The cliffs around were so green. Around noon the boat stopped and we transfered on a smaller boat, for the Little 3 Gorges. I liked this 6 hour trip even more than the main cruise. The gorges are narrower and cliffs seems taller. This trip included a small cruise (40 minutes) to mini gorges, where we took much small boat and went around a very narrow river. On the way back we saw some monkeys on the cliffs
On the last day we went through Wu Gorge - it was the most impressive gorge on the Yangtze River, and the cliffs around were spectacular. There were many caves and waterfalls along. The boat didn't reach the famous dam, I just saw it from the bus to Yichang.

Expenses (yuan)
noodles 16
breakfast 15
beer 9
fruits 5
water 4
food 10
train ticket 360
icecream 10
dinner 15

Chongquing (29.04.09)

From Xian I took a night train to Chongquing. I have arrived there in the morning, and I booked a 3 days cruise on the Yangtze river. Since the cruise was starting at 9pm, I had many hours to spend in this city. I have walked around the central area for a couple of hours. I have witness an unpleasant event near the Rolex clock tower I might (or might not) talk about later. I also had time to catch an movie and to do some shopping. I didn't expect this city to be so big and modern, with so many big malls all around. Later I found out that there are about 5 million people living there.

Expenses (Yuan)
breakfast 5
cruise ticket 680
movie 30
clothes 95
drinks 5
lunch 25

Xian (28.04.09)

I have spent a couple of days in this town. I guess is not much to say about it, pretty much is like any big cities in China. What's different about it is that the city walls are intact and still standing. They are about 10 meters tall and 2-3 wide. The attractions of the city are: the bell tower, a big pagoda and a mosque that has some chinese architecture.