Category: Far East

Tokyo 2015


Inspired by my friend Andy’s talk on exploring Japan by bullet train, Nikki and I set out to do the same.

Our first stop would be Tokyo, where I’d been previously.


The Dev team at Moneypenny (on the right, is the excellent Reggie who’s done a lot of work on this site) had a live camera feed on their monitor.

When I saw it I instantly recognised it as the district of Shinjuku.

Known locally as the Shibuya, which means “The Scramble”. A 5 way road crossing and not for the faint hearted, which I’d seen on my previous trip to Tokyo.

We arranged that while in Tokyo, I’d go back there and text them, so they could see me on the tv !.


We decided to fly with KLM. I’m consistently impressed with them as an airline.

Unfortunately, the first leg of our trip to Amsterdam was delayed due to a problem with the plane. The cabin wouldn’t pressurise and would have imploded if we hadn’t stayed on the ground !.

I found it ridiculous that other passengers were arguing with the crew.

As far as I’m concerned, if the captain thinks there’s the vaguest chance of a problem he quite rightly takes the plane back to the hangar (anything else, would be life threateningly negligent).


Unfortunately, it would mean we’d miss our connection.

We were given 10 euros for refreshments. One thing I didn’t realise was as soon as a plane is cancelled, the computer system finds the next quickest root and automatically moves your flights.

Literally dozens of people were queuing for ages, when all we had to do was find a machine, put in our details and we were given new boarding cards to Tokyo.

Its also worth mentioning that the system email and texts you with new details of your flight, so if it happens to you, be sure to switch your phone on.

It meant we had to kill about 8 hours in Amsterdam and it would add an extra leg to our trip as we’d arrive in Incheon, Korea and then fly to Tokyo.


So instead of arriving around 10am in the morning, we actually arrive in the late evening.

Utterly shattered, had a drink and something to eat and then got some sleep.


In the morning I get up early and decide to go for an acclimatising walk.

Were staying in Asakusa and our hotel is quite nice.


Not just that, but its a residential hotel, so with its own freezer, microwave and washing machine its more like a flat than a hotel room.


I wander around Asakusa.

Its 6am in the morning and I love it at that time, when the world is waking up.


One of the things I remember from my previous trip, plastic food.

To get around the language barrier, food is made of plastic and put out on display so you can order by pointing.


A few hundred yards from our hotel and I’m at the Seno-Ji temple, an international symbol of Tokyo.


Further inside the temple.


Across the Sumida river, a place I remember from last time.

The gold building with white top, is the headquarters of the Asahi beer company.

To its right is the Golden flame, which many locals call the Golden turd (and you can see why).

Just to the left of the gold building is the Tokyo Sky tree. The tallest building in Tokyo now, it wasn’t even built the last time I was here.


But enough about previous trips, what can I find that’s new.

On the right of this picture, the symbol basically means no urination. Its quite well known for suited salarymen to go out drinking for the evening and literally urinate wherever they like.


Nikki and everyone are awake now, so our itinerary begins.

First stop is the Tsukiji fish market. I thought it was interesting to see the workings of the largest fish market in the world.

That said, two hours was I thought too long to spend in there, considering we now only had 1 day in Tokyo.


Included with our ticket was a sushi breakfast at Sushizanmai Bekkan popular with locals.


Nikki, Lyn & Vic all tried Sushi.

It’s not really my thing, and since it’s lunchtime somewhere in the world, I had a glass or 2 Asahi lager.


We wander back into the centre through the busy streets and sky scrapers.


Another world in Japan.

The actor who plays Nelson Van Alden in boardwalk empire, is here transformed into a fashion model with his face all over the billboards.


Stopping near the Royal Palace we get some coffee.

Nikki, Lyn and Vic want to see the Royal Palace and since the entrance is on the other side of the building, she heads off.

I’ve already been, so we arrange to meet up later and I pursue a project of my own.


According to my guidebook, curry has taken off massively in Tokyo.

But in some cases in quite an obscure way. Above is a sign showing different kinds of curry including pilchard curry and scrambled egg curry 🙂


Inside the Tokyo International Forum.

Its internal architecture some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.


Trotting around on foot is pleasant, but I’ve got a deadline and time is running out.

I jump in a taxi and next thing I’m outside the Honda building (and its only £8, so they aren’t as expensive as everyone says).


Outside small children with their regulation luminous backpacks.

I’ve got 30 mins to spare, so head off up the street to a nice tavern.

11 years earlier I was in Tokyo, determined to see the Azimo robot built by Honda.

I never got too, promised myself that one day I’d come back and do it, and now its actually going to happen.


And I am in the Honda technology theatre as Azimo, the most advanced Biped robot in the world comes on stage.


A series of historical video’s show how the system learned to walk.


And finally, a moment I’ve dreamed off, I get to stand on the stage with Azimo (I had to sign a discliamer, but it was worth it).


With all the excitement over, I wander back to meet Nikki.

In a contemplative mood, I sit here and relax.

And then I’m hit with fatigue and jetlag like I’ve never known it.

I literally struggle to stand up, manage to get back to the hotel and then collapse asleep.


The following morning, were off to the railway station to begin our adventure.

Which unfortunately means I never got to the Shibuya which was disappointing.


Just to give an idea of how big the bullet trains actually are.


Everything about the train experience is perfect. On time, big seats, smoth ride. Our system could learn a lot.

Even down to where the train stops.  Next stop Kyoto.

Kiso Valley & Nakasendo trail.


We’ve seen a lot of the big city so far on our trip, now its time to see a bit of the countryside.


As we get on the train, I see another hilarious sign.

More eccentric earlier that day. We stood waiting for our train, as another passed through the station really quickly. I’ll always remember him saying stand back! stand back! in progressively higher pitch, until he was almost screaming.


Using a combination of trains and buses, we arrive at Hakone, in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

No flashy hotel this time, but a comfortable guest house with friendly staff.



But were not here to sit in living rooms, we head straight out in search of adventure…

And what do you know, it’s a main road.


Not exactly what I’d expected, but we wandered around a bit and found this nice spot to have some lunch.


Exploring further, we find a botanical garden.

On the way, we see this truly horrible looking car.

A sort of “wardrobe car” if you will. Worse, they were everywhere we went in Japan!


Back to our bedroom to get changed for the evening.

The bed was made up in a funny sort of way but very comfortable.

Another thing worth mentioning. We were in the high mountains. The window was open and it was freezing!


They had a hot tub at the guest house.

It was possible to book it, they seemed surprised that we didn’t want to do shared bathing.

But that just meant everyone else got to enjoy it for longer.


Earlier in the day, we’d found somewhere nice for dinner.


The table had a barbecue built in, and we were able to cook our own meat.


Nikki and I stop to have this fun photo at the boat station on lake Ashi.

The valley “circuit” can be done using various forms of integrated transport.

First stop a “Pirate Ship” across lake Ashi.

As you can see the weather was appalling. We were meant to have views of Mount Fuji. We didn’t which was a real shame.


Arriving on the other side of the lake at Hakone Machi, we find that most of the coffee houses haven’t opened !.

We do the walking part of the journey along the old Tokaido highway, which used to connect Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto.

It has 400 year old Cedar tree’s on each side.


The weather improves temporarily and we visit the Hakone checkpoint on the Tokaido highway.

The Emperor made each of the warlords leave children and wives in Edo (old Tokyo) as hostages.

The checkpoint was there to stop them sneaking out, or “farmers” smuggling weapons in.

A small museum nearby has old artefacts including the first passports and reconstructions showing women and children’s hair being examined.

A fantastic sign there said translated English “The exit is narrow. Please say ‘After you’ to each other”.


A bus ride is our 3rd means of transport, then we get onto a funicular.

The crazy thing in Japan is that a funicular is called a “cable car”.


A cable car, which we travelled on next to complete our circuit, is actually called a “ropeway”.

Back to our starting point at lake Ashi for some refreshments and then the bus back to our guest house.


In the evening we wander out in Hakone again and find this fab pizza restaurant, with a wood burning stove and an extensive wine list.


The next morning, we break up our gear pack our daysacks with stuff for a short trip, and have our bags sent on to Kyoto.

Were going to be walking a section of the Nakasendo trail.

Our walk will begin in a place called Magome, where we will be staying over for the night.

The village has gone to great lengths to maintain its authenticity. As you can see form the photo above, all cables are hidden, and cars only allowed to be driven at night.


Even to the point that in its day, Japanese would have been the only language spoken.

There are no printed signs in English, each guest house has a symbol.

We were told to wander up the street and look out for a Racoon (which we found).

In the main room, an open fire and hot tea.

Superb food and accommodation, although communal showers weren’t popular in our group.


The next day, we eat a hearty breakfast and head off.


The route quickly opens up in the countryside and bamboo forests open up on each side.


A sign warning of bears (we didn’t see any, which was good).

A bell to ring at the start of each leg of the trail to “ward off” bears.


We head higher into the mountains, and bamboo is replaced with pine and cedar.


The kind of thing I love about Japan.

In the middle of a long distance footpath, a small shelter where you can stop for lunch or drinks.

No facilities as such, but amazingly has Wi-Fi !.


But we continue on and found a family run tea house where we stop for refreshments.

A working farm, they even had an old rope making machine that I thought was cool.


As we sit down inside to drink our tea, the old man there is singing.

Shortly afterwards a number of Japanese men come in (they look like executives on a weekend walking break).

They join him in song (I’ve no idea what it was) but all the excitement in the middle of the day is one of my happiest memories of the trip.


We continue our journey. The route isn’t long at about 13k, but it’s the experience and the things you get to see that mark a good walk from a bad one.


Speaking of which, this nice waterfall that we saw.


The trail passes through another village called Tsumago.

So far from civilization, they’ve adopted some strange habits (a bit like the people in deliverance).

Can this really be what passes for fashion!

A nearby sign seems to indicate that extra terrestrial families are welcome in the village.


Most of the homes, businesses and restaurants are in buildings like this one, with sliding panel doors.


We stop to eat some traditional food (it’s so nice, that I have 2nds and 3rds!)

And obviously some Asahi beer to wash it down, then we continue.


An hour or so later, our adventure sadly comes to a close.

We arrive at Nagiso, which has this superb wooden bridge.


We wander across the Momosuke bridge where a nice park gives us somewhere to relax.


Back to the railway station and we’re meant to get a taxi to our hotel.

But, it’s still early so we jump on the train and explore the village of Kiso Hirasawa.


Early evening and we arrive our new hotel.

Having spent the day on the trail, a bit of luxury is welcome (I’ve been asked to point out that the buffet was nice, but they didnt have a “propper” bar).



We arrive at Kyoto.

The first thing I noticed was the station, which was incredible.


Simple thing like a railway station is transformed into a living sculpture with amazing atmosphere and presence.


Through the windows we can see the Kyoto tower.


Just to give an idea of the size of the station.

You can tell how much we liked it, we were still hanging around in the station 90 mins after we’d arrived.

Arriving at our hotel, were delighted to find that our bags have arrived from Hakone.


Kyoto is well know for its Temples and Shrines.

We don’t have time to see all of them, but we’ve selected a few.

The courtyard at Tofukuji.


And nearby, this bridge.


Fushimi Inari known for its hundreds of red gates.


Wandering around through the shopping street we head back to our hotel.


In Maruyama park, this statue of Sakomoto Ryoma with his close associate Nakaoka Shintaro.

Two Samurai activists from Kochi who were both assassinated in Kyoto in during efforts to overthrown the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867.


There are 41 remaining Geisha’s in Kyoto (not to be confused with people dressed with traditional clothes and prostitutes).

We were lucky enough to see one of them, but it seemed extremely poor form to photograph her.

So instead, here’s a stock photo I found on the internet.


The To Ji temple.


But were on holiday, so we find this “British pub”.

My one memory of it, was a woman sat with some friends, got up to have a smoke.

So she moved away from her friends to spare them and came and sat next to us. Thanks.


The following day, we’ve actually hired a guide to make the most of our time.

We head straight for Nijo castle.


The place was enormous and contained many different gardens and buildings.


Inside the main building, and you have to take your shoes off.


And once inside, I remember why.

The Nightingale floors are designed to creek and make noise, so if the castle is entered at night by Ninja’s the people inside would know.

Some of the carving in here was incredible, including something with one peace of wood being carved with hole’s so it made 2 different images, 1 on each side.


Some of the gardens and rockery.


The moat and outer walls.


Loads of goldfish congregate by the walkway (it obviously because they are used to getting “free” food from passing tourists).


One of my favourite pictures from our trip.

Japan, ancient and modern captures in one picture.


Our guide recommends a stop off at Kitanu Tenmangu shrine.

She makes a simple prayer and asks if we’d like to do the same.

Praying for the Smiths to reform seems a shallow use of such religious power, so I decline.


Kinkaku Ji temple one of the most popular tourist sites in the whole of Japan (and beautifully landscaped).


Kinkaku Ji is grandiose one moment, then simple and penitent the next.


Beautiful surroundings.


The lake without a ripple on it.


Our guide gives us a gift then takes her leave.

We wander over to the botanical garden.


I feel like Kyoto isn’t so much a city where you go to see things as go to experience things.

I’m certainly feeling it, as at this point in the trip, I’m the most relaxed I’ve been in some months.


We finish off the day with an explanation of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Each of the objects has special significance and is placed appropriately.

It’s explained that the ceremony was founded by the Samurai.

Something along the lines of, the pace of life is so quick, let’s invent something that deliberately can’t be rushed.



On a day trip from Kyoto, we decide to visit Himeji castle (if its good enough for James Bond, its good enough for me).


Travelling once again by the ultra reliable train, we arrive at the station to this.

An ultra modern city.

A mile away in the distance, is the castle.


The castle is built in a complex of gardens and other buildings.


And what kind of castle doesnt have a moat ?.


Having paid our entrance fee and bought a “throwing star” from the souvenir shop we head up hill to see the castle.


A forecourt at the foot of the castle provides this view back into the city.

You can see that the castle was supremely sited strategically.


I loved this angle, as it shows how imposing the castle is.

The walls were specially angled to make it extra difficult to climb them.

Himeji is said to be the finest authentic example of a traditional Japanese castle.


Inside, it traditional pine.

Although from the outside it appears to have 5 levels, it actually has 6.


Usual wide walkways and anti rooms off to the side that I’d seen on previous castles.


The stairways.


A lot of the time, there were big queues in the castle, as there was a standard walkway you had to follow.

I hung back a lot of the time, so I could get these shots without people in them.


From a balcony overlooking the main hall.

Lower down, the castle had stables and an armoury.


I was impressed at how well everything was taken care off.

An army of gardeners like the ones above tended to the gardens and fixtures.


Other buildings like this one on the grounds but outside the castle had originally been used to house servants and cooks.


A fantastic park next door to Himeji.

Annoyingly, you had to leave and re-enter when they were both next to each other.


After all the austerity and military feel of the castle, it was nice to wander around in nature.


A lovely garden rockery with goldfish swimming.


My final memory of the place, a lovely couple getting married here.

And from here, its back to Kyoto.



No trip to Japan would be complete without visiting Hiroshima.

Which, for all the wrong reasons is internationally famous.

I’ve always said there are some places you visit for pleasure and others (like the killing fields) you get little pleasure from, but your learn a lot and are broader as a person.


We check into our hotel and visit the Hiroshima peace memorial museum.

It’s undergoing extensive modernisation and rebuilding.


The entrance uses rubble leftover from the bombing, to re-create the effect immediately after the blast.


A demonstration shows the explosion.

The ball of fire would have been like a small sun, destroyed 5 square miles of the city with temperatures of 8000 degrees.


A replica of Little Boy, I was surprised at the small size of the device.

It was said that within 3 years of the Hiroshima bomb, bombs were available with 3300 times the payload.


Steps from the Sumitomo bank.

You can just make out the dark stain on the stops, all that remains of the person who’d been sitting there when the bomb went off.


I’ve not written too much about the technical nature of the bomb, as that can be easily found online.

For me, it was more about the experience.

Of the two occasions where I had to wipe my eyes were the story of a little boy who had gone missing.

His mother found him after 3 days of searching. She could only identify him by his steel lunch-box.


The other was this series of video where people told there story.

One involved a woman who’s son and daughter had both been killed (she had been in the basement) the buttons on her sons shirt had melted onto him.

Her husband survived the initial blast but died 10 days later.

The most upsetting was the simple statement she said next “It was a shame, we were such a happy family”.


Along with your ticket to the museum, your given a copy of the peace declaration.

The major of Hiroshima leads of consortium of 500 + leaders around the world who refuse to have nuclear weapons in their city.

Specifically, the declaration says that nuclear weapons are simply not compatible with humanity’s continued inhabitation of earth.


Outside the museum I went to the peace park outside contemplating war and peace.

I’m neither cynic nor idealist and it was hard to make any sense of the things I’d seen in the museum.

Only 150 metres from the blast, the A Bomb dome still stands as a symbol of the events of 8:16 am, August 6th 1945.


The cenotaph nearby has the names of all the people who died (above 111,000) in several volumes.

It’s shape is designed to protect the soul’s of the dead.


The inscription nearby says simply “Rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil”.


Looking back towards the museum, the none eternal flame, that shall burn only to be ignited when all nuclear weapons have been destroyed.


The Peace Bell.


A clock financed and built by local businessmen.

It chimes each morning at 8:16am.


The Children’s Peace monument.

Sadako Sasaki who contracted Leukaemia as a result of the bomb, was convinced if she could fold 1000 paper cranes she would get better.

She only managed to make 644 before her death, the other children at School made the rest and they were buried with her.

Today, thousands of paper Cranes are sent by school children from all over the world and are put on display by the monument.


The memorial mound.

It contains the ashes of 70,000 people who’s bodies were unclaimed either because they were unidentifiable or because the entire family had died and there was none to claim them.


A memorial to Koreans killed in the bombing.


With a heavy hart I left the peace park.

I wandered over to this reconstructed castle, most people seemed quite upbeat.


The first time I laughed that day, was this ridiculous sign, which meant ride your bicycle carefully, but its motive could be misconstrued.


We wondered around by the shops and restaurants and I found something that quite amazed me.

Away from the park, Hiroshima is a thriving international city.

The local people didn’t seem sombre, they had rebuilt their city and rebuilt their lives.

Whilst they would not easily forget, they had chosen not to carry it with them (well, thats how it felt to me).


In the evening we try Okonomiyaki pancakes with chicken and noodles.

I’m not a great lover of Japanese food, but these were delicious.


After a few drinks around the town, I wander back to the A Bomb dome which is lit up at night.

In a contemplative mood, I go back to my hotel and drift off to sleep.


In the morning I’m awake for breakfast.

The view out of the window is the peace park.

It’s a new day. Whilst I wont forget the things I’ve seen here I wont be weighed down by them either.

Just like the residents of this amazing city, I know how valuable the gift of life really is.



After a sobering day in Hiroshima, we head out for the day as many Japanese do to experience the Island of Miyajima.


We travel by tram for nearly an hour.

This was the same tram network that was fully working within 3 days of the Hiroshima bomb.


Arriving at the port, we buy our boat tickets.


Halfway across the bay, we get a close look at the Isukushima shrine and the famous Tori gate.

One of the must see sights of Japan that everyone talks about. To be honest, I wasn’t really blown away.


It’s a Saturday, and as our boat arrives there are hundreds of people joining us.


I wander along with the throng.

There are literally hundreds of places to eat and souvenirs to buy.


Farther along and the crowds thin out to reveal this amazing view of the bay.

We stop at one of the cafes for coffee and a bite to eat.

There is an option to do half a days Sea kayaking, but since we only had a day, we opted not to.


With coffee in hand, we consult our map and plan the rest of the day.

A mountain at the top of the Island is somewhere we really want to see.


We head off.

There is a cable car that goes near to the top, but the wait is at least 90 mins (and anyway, I really wanted to walk it).


It’s hard work, so an hour into our journey we stop and relax at this nice spot that we’d found.


The path was in pretty good order throughout the journey.


This solar powered machine, counts the number of people that pass (so they can calculate how often to repair the path).


Close to the top, the canopy opens and we get this amazing view of the ocean.


We reach the top.

This amazing building has 3 floors with shade and cover from rain.


I wander inside, climb the stairs and this is the view from the top of the building


Good humoured people congregating at the top of the mountain.

Many of them had camping stoves and were cooking noodles and making tea.


But no tea for me.

Nikki and I had seen a guy out walking in the Lakes the previous New Year.

Instead of producing a flask at the top of Scafell, he had a can of beer.

I’d been inspired. I found a quiet spot and opened my can of Asahi.


Instead of returning the way we’ve come, there’s an alternate route back down.

Much quieter than the walking we’d done most of the day.


We stop by these rocks and get a view of the forest.


Were joined by one of the Royal Deer.

They are completely tame and very friendly.


After 90 minutes walking, we stop by this nice waterfall for a rest.


Later we reach ground level and are rewarded with this quiet view of the bay.


And what else to do after such a rewarding day.

A few beers before we head back for the boat.



We arrive at the last destination on our Japanese trip, Osaka.

Our hotel was really rather swanky, and you can see me packing my pull along bought just for the trip (I’d sustained a shoulder injury so was unable to take my rucksack) .


Our first stop is Osaka history museum.


Over several floors it told the history of Osaka from its earliest times.

A very clever display that showed a video, and when it finished, the screen withdrew to the ceiling, and the view through the window showed the site on the ground bellow that the video had been about.


In another part, its showed how the streets of Osaka would have looked in the 1930’s.


The Umeda Sky building is one of the most recognised landmarks in Osaka.

A unique design had to “flat parts” on each side constructed, and then the “roof” raised up by pulleys.


Inside they had this replica showing how it was constructed.

An interesting video showed its construction and a speeded up part showing the roof being moved into position.

Interestingly, the music to land of hope and glory was playing in the background, which made for a surreal experience.


The top part of the building has a round hole in the middle, with this walkways leading to it with escalators.


And on the viewing platform, you can see the entire city (it’s just a shame that the sun isn’t shining).


A nearby restaurant provides us with sustenance and beer for the rest of our adventure.


I saw this on the toilet wall, quite literally explaining how to use a lavatory.


We decide to tour Kyu Yodo river by boat (at least it will get us out of the rain).


It was really low in the water, and at one point, to get under a low bridge, the roof contracts by about 18 inches.


Back to our swanky hotel.

Outside, its Friday night and everything is hotting up.


We wander around the town and it really was incredible (I guiltily have to admit, that I preferred it to Tokyo).


Nearby, the longest shopping street I’d ever seen, and it was indoor.

I saw various interesting shops, including a sort of army surplus shop. Upstairs, they had Nazi SS uniforms !.


And finally we find this nice spot to have a drink called bar missile.

One thing I loved about Osaka was how everyone was down to earth.


The following day, Nikki and I head out early.

We wander past the Temposan Ferris wheel.


Until we reach our ultimate destination, the Kaiyukan aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world.

I’d seen a promotional video earlier in the trip with amazing things from all over Japan.

A section showing an incredible aquarium, turned out to be in Osaka, and I decided I was definitely going to see it.


You go up in a lift to the top.

The idea is that as you follow the route down, you go deeper into the “ocean” and see fish and sea creatures at their relative depths.

At the top level, were otters and things like that, in this amazingly designed rockery environment.


The ubiquitous shark tunnel.

The aquarium has 27 tanks used in 16 main aquariums.


The highlight was the enormous tank in the centre, the biggest I’d ever seen.

They have divers working to clean and maintain the tank 24hrs a day.


The aquariums main attraction are its whale sharks.

The illustration above shows the whale shark next to its nearest neighbour, the great white.


A whale shark swims by.

One problem I had was lighting. It was practically impossible to take a good photos, the handful you can see that worked are what’s left of nearly 100 that I took there.


You might wonder what a tank like that holds 11,000 tons of water would be made off ?

A display showing a 30cm square piece of acrylic glass, used through the aquarium.


Another of its many attractions are its Manta Rays.


At the very bottom of the display, these beautiful Jelly Fish.


Completely enthralled by the aquarium, it now hits me that were going home the next day.

We get tickets to the nearby Temposan Ferris wheel and as you can see from this picture, I’m in a contemplative mood.


The view from the wheel showing the harbour at night.


And the following day, we bid farewell to Japan and head for home.

After so much travel on trains, this will be our last one in the country.


At Osaka airport and something feels strange.

Then it hits me where I’ve heard of it before.

One of my favourite episodes of Megastructures was about this airport, built completely from reclaimed land.

I’ve been to many of the places featured in Megastructures, but this is the first time I stumbled onto 1 by accident.


We fly home and arrive at Manchester airport.

After 2 weeks of constant Japanese train travel without a single train being 1 minute late…

Were back in the UK. The train to crew is delayed by 50 mins. When we get to crew we wait another hour, then the train to Chester is cancelled and we are transport home on a coach similar to the ones used for school trips in my youth 🙂

At least were home safe and sound.


 Shinjuku Shinjuku, the main shopping area in Tokyo.Tokyo is like several cities all connected together by the underground. I wasn’t really that interested in shopping, but it was amazing to see a kind of shopping Las Vegas.
Akihabara. A kind of Turkish market of electrical goods.You can buy new technology here, that hasn’t been seen anywhere else in the world. Akihabara
Cyberface Inside a Tokyo Cyber Cafe. I make my living in technology, and know a lot of people who are interested/skilled in technology.These people were in another league !. There were people in this room, instant messaging people sat a few feet from them.I went in and had a few beers, but it was hard to relax in a boiler room like this.
In the hotel grounds was a really beautiful Japanese Garden.I spent 2 hours here in meditation. It was one off the highlights of the trip. Japnise Garden
Budhist Temple During a tour of the city, we were taken to the largest buddest temple in Tokyo.The 2 main religions in Tokyo are Buddhism and Shintoism.
The gold building on the left is the headquarters of the Asahi beer company.

The main building is meant to be gold, with the top to floors being white (to look like a glass of lager).

On the right is the golden flame, which some Architects have dubbed the golden turd. The golden flame, was originally meant to be 3 flames rising vertically.

The residents off the building in the background complained it would ruin the view.

Beer building
50 foot TV A fifty foot wide television. Commonplace in Tokyo, but still amazing to me.
Entrance to the Royal garden, the residence of the Japanese Royal Family. Door to the Royal Gardens
Inside the Royal Gardens A bridge passing over a lake in the Royal Garden. It was beautifully peaceful in here.
The goldfish in the garden were 18 inches long. Massive Goldfish
Clever Archutecture There were many clever pieces of Architecture in Tokyo, but this one caught my eye.I don’t know if you can tell, but this was actually built as one building and not extended as it appears.What a classic mix of culture, in one building.
Only 10 minutes walk from my hotel, was the house of the 47 Ronin.They feature heavily in the plot of the film Ronin with Robert Deniro. House of the 47 Ronin
Shrine to the 47 Ronin It made me think, in these times of terrorism, that although we don’t like what they do, society will always need warriors.
We went on a boat trip along the river whilst on the day tour.Its a bit hard to see, but some homeless people live on the banks of the river, in improvised accommodation, they have made from plastic sheets and pieces of wood.It was hard to believe that such a modern and developed city would have people without homes. Homeless people by the river
Japanise Dinner During the day tour, we stop for a traditional Japanese meal.
Dr Olga takes a picture of me at the entrance to the largest Shinto Shrine in Tokyo.I was told that Shinto is basically, the worship of heroes family and nature.

I can really identify with this, as I always visit the Alan Turing statue when I am in Manchester, and it has a special meaning for me.

Me at the Shinto Shrine
wedding1 A wedding was taking place in the Shrine.Although the Japanese are very private people, they were happy to be photographed during the ceremony.
A small geisha was present at the wedding. A little Gisha
Walking around Tokyo A wooden walkway in Shinjuku.I wandered around here for hours, as I love walking.
The view from the Tokyo tower.It is actually a small version of the Eiffel tower, and is cleverly lit, so that it can change colour. View from the Tokyo tower

Singapore and drinks in Raffles hotel.

boats I walked along the river bank and saw these junkets.

I find Singapore to be very clean and well run. It was certainly the safest place I visited while travelling.

A statue of Raffles, which says he came upon a small fishing village, and changed the course of its destiny forever. statue
me_rain Me standing outside a government building. The guidebook had 3 walking tours, which Frank and I did.

I wore my go anywhere Rohan shirt, it was warm and soaking all day.

I was born in Oldham in Manchester, so when I saw this sign, I took a picture of it. oldham
lousyfish I saw this cafe. They certainly were to the point. I don’t know if you can read it, but the sign says “no lousy fish” and “no good don’t pay”
The Swissotel. 70 stories high. Awesome. 70floorhotel
bar Frank and I in Raffles hotel, where there are peanuts on the floor. Whilst there, the Norwegian king and queen came into the bar with an entourage of 40 people. We liked it that much, that we had 4 pints.
The original billiard room in Raffles hotel. Its said that a tiger was shot underneath the billiard table. In reality, the tiger was underneath the floorboards. billiardroom
hotel1 The entrance to Raffles hotel. They actually had a guy in traditional dress greeting guests.
The forecourt inside Raffles hotel. hotel2
umberella A sculpture of people with umbrellas. If you look closely, you can see that Frank is in the picture amongst them.

Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas towers.

pt2 A few people I know, had talked about a program on the National Geographic Channel called MegaStructures.I decided to record a couple of episodes and watch them when I wasn’t doing anything. The episode I watched first was about the building of the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur.

I wont spoil the contents of the program, but suffice to say I was astounded and inspired and I decided I would travel to Kuala Lumpur and stand in front of the Petronas towers.

Since I was already doing a trip to Borneo, it made sense to stop off for a day and a half on the way back.

I fly back from Borneo, land at KL airport and then store my large rucksack at the airport (I only needed a day sack, as I was staying in a pretty plush hotel, and during the day would just need something to carry water and a guidebook around in.Its 40km from the Airport to the city, so I jumped on this spotlessly clean and efficient train.

I was really looking forward to it. I was sorry to leave the Jungle and the Ocean behind me, but sometimes the city can be just as exciting.

firstlook I get a taxi to my hotel the Crown Princess Kuala Lumpur (booked through Expedia).As I head for my room, I get my first glimpse of the Petronas towers.

The Petronas towers are said to symbolise Kuala Lumpur’s self belief and focus, along with its slogan “KL can do it”.

I am a bit tired from my time in the Jungle, and having just got of a plane, I decide the best thing to do, is the 3b’s. Beer, bath and bed (I relax in the bath with a bottle of beer, then get some sleep).While in the bath, I have another quick read of my guidebook.

There is no clear protocol on mobile phones and its perfectly normal to hear a phone ringing in the cinema.

I had heard before, that a Muslim man can divorce his wife by saying “I divorce you” 3 times. I was astounded to read that Sharia law has extended this to text message.

Malaysian law also permits use of the Rattan cane, which civil rights groups are fighting.

Kuala Lumpur has a 100% Literacy rate and expects to be a fully developed City like London or New York by 2020.

curry I decide to spend the evening relaxing. The hotel featured an Indian restaurant called the Taj. Sounded a bit cheesy to me, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt.In reality, it had won the Malaysian tourist board award for best Indian restaurant, 4 times running.

The food was so good, that I ate a main course, than asked for the same 1 a 2nd time !.

Along with cold beer and this amazing view, it made for an absolutely fantastic evening.

On the ground floor was a Sports bar, with a few Japanese businessmen where I had a quick drink.

I surprised myself by spending the rest of the evening in the Piano bar, listening to a singer they had there. Off to bed, loads to do in the morning.

I wake at 7:30am. My bag is already packed for the day and my guidebook has scotch tabs so I can find maps and relevant pages quickly (preparation is key, when your trying to see a place and you don’t have a lot of time).I head for the Petronas towers and see a McDonalds (okay, a lot of people don’t like Macdonalds, but its ideal as a travel breakfast, it fills you up, is cheap and you can eat it in 6 minutes).

Kuala Lumpur had absolutely loads of cool electrical and computer goods. I saw this sign for Acer. You just wouldn’t see 30 foot high laptops in the UK, would you.

garden3 The Petronas towers are, as you would imagine, right in the middle of the commercial district, known as the “Golden Triangle”.The KLCC park (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) is amazingly well landscaped, and I found this small sitting area with a fountain where I stopped to rest.

There were people nearby practising Thai Chi, I decided not to photograph them without there agreement.

I arrive at the towers and wander around the entrance.I was struck by the elegance of its design when examined up close.

Running up to the entrance, on the right is a road and on the left a pavement. They have obvious boundaries for pedestrian and driver alike but when viewed like this, appear to merge into one.

pt1 The sign and entrance to no 1 Petronas Tower.Behind you can see some of the façades form corners and some form curves.

This is what gives the tower its unique shape.

Standing up close and staring at the base, you basically see a lot of glass and steel.

Staring up at one of the Petronas towers, tells a different story.Its traditional Islamic Geometric design is made up of two interlocking squares onset with small circles which form an eight pointed star.

Eight is homophonous with the word for prosperity in Chinese) and this is also reflected in the number of floors (88).

Built by Cesar Pelli, it took 3 years to build and is 452 meters high (it held the record for the worlds tallest building from April 1996 until October 2003 when the Taipei 101 was created which is 56 metres taller).

The main problem while building it, was the soft soil of its foundations. They got around this by digging deep into the ground, and pumping millions of tons of concrete, and then running steel rods into them.

There were also rumours that the Government ran out of money halfway through the project, but this is unconfirmed (its final completion cost was $1.2 billion).

One controversial decision, was to award the contract for construction of each tower to 2 different company’s, offering a bonus for the one that completed first.

Whilst this doubtlessly increased the fury with which each tower was built, its often argued that if they had both been able to work together and solve common problems, the whole thing would have been completed even sooner. We’ll never know.

klcc1 I wander further around Kuala Lumpur City Centre.A man made Garden, it features lakes fields tropical plants and even a zoo and aquarium.
The towers were so enormous, it took ages to find a place where I could be photographed in front of them.Its only from a distance that you can see the physical beauty of this monument as well as the architectural and engineering feat that it is.

I met 2 young girls, who didn’t speak a word of English (although were very friendly and helpful).

After 7 shots, they finally take this one.

kltower Having seen the Petronas towers, I decided to explore the rest of Kuala Lumpur. It was very warm and humid throughout the day and I had to keep drinking water constantly.

Menara Kuala Lumpur (popularly known as the KL Tower).

This telecommunications tower rises above the Bukit Nanas.

I didn’t have enough time to go up in the tower, but I read that it has one of the fastest lifts in the world.

Many people think it is taller than the Petronas Towers.

This is a natural illusion that occurs because the KL Tower was built on a hill.

Whilst wandering around the tower I spent some time in the Bukit Nanas forest recreational Park.

I thought it was cool the way there was a rainforest and jungle you could walk around, right in the middle of a city centre.

I followed the 3 short educational walks there, which show all kinds of plants and animals.

I was really looking forward to it. I was sorry to leave the Jungle and the Ocean behind me, but sometimes the city can be just as exciting.

colbuilding Right next door to the Bukit Nana were 2 very old and distinguished Schools, the Convent Bukit Nanas and St John’s institution.

I continued walking and found this row of old Colonial houses.

I head for Merdeka (Independence) Square.

On the left is the Royal Selangor club founded for colonials to drink stengah (whisky soda in the long bar). Times have changed and today it is frequented mostly by lawyers although women are still forbidden from entering the long bar.

The Field in the centre of the picture is the Padang (it means field in Malaysian).

In 1892 when administrators recruited based on skill at Cricket, Ernest Birch was stationed in Kuala Lumpur.

He dried out the field outside the Selangor club and started organising matches. Cricket on the Padang has been an institution ever since.

flagpole Also in Merdeka square, is this flagpole.

At 95 metres, it is the 2nd tallest flagpole in the world (the tallest flagpole is one I saw in Aqaba, Jordan.

Still in Dataran Merdeka on the other side of Jalan Raja is the Sultan Abdul Samad building.

Prior to the building of the Petronas towers, this was the “must see” sight of Kuala Lumpur.

Built in 1897 as the supreme court (a role it still performs today) and built over 3 years, an entire factory had to be built, to supply to bricks to construct it.

2rivers The Klang/Gombak river convergence. It was here that Chinese coolies originally began prospecting for tin and arguably where the City of Kuala Lumpur Began.

It forms one “point” of the Golden Triangle.

In the background, is the Jamek Mosque.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a very good picture of the Mosque.

Built in 1909 by Arthur Benison Hubback (also responsible for the Old KL Railways station, featured later).

It was the City’s first brick mosque and the first in the Federal Territory to sport an onion-shaped dome.

clock The old Clock tower at old market square.

Built to commemorate the coronation of King GEorge VI in 1937, it features an art deco “sunburst” at its base.

I head into Chinatown. The Chinese community makes up %40 of the residents of Kuala Lumpur.

The famous Petaling Street.

Inside is one of the city’s oldest traditional “wet” produce markets.

As with all Chinese shops, the sales staff were very dignified and polite and didn’t mither or hassle me as is common in other parts of the world.

petaling2 I headed towards the Petaling Street Bazaar and bought a couple of presents and stuff like that (and the ubiquitous miniature of the Petronas towers).
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on Jalan Tun HS Lee.

This street has temples from many different faiths represented on it.

My favourite was this, the Sri Maha Mariamman, the most famous Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.

The Gopuram (gateway tower) rises 23 metres above the ground and has hundreds of carvings of Hindu Deities on it.

yal The story of Kuala Lumpur is never complete without the mention of Yap Ah Loy, a Hakka immigrant who arrived in Malaysia aged only 17.

Nominated community leader of the Coolies (Kapitan Cina) he rebuilt the City at least 3 times.

He was mayor, police chief, property developer, judge, tax collector, opium den operator, casino owner and brothel keeper (he also ran a hospital and prison) all rolled into one.

A Chinese account of him said “He was not very big or tall but when he spoke his voice was sonorous. His temper was like fire and he had the strength of an elephant”.

He was said to have been able to lift 60kg with his hands stretched forwards.

This small street, is all that remains of his empire (its the shortest road in town, only 80m long).

The old railway station. Designed in the Mughal style, its as photogenic today as in 1911 when it was completed.

Inside there are loads of old trains and stuff like that to look at, but sadly it just looks rundown.

The only trains that stop here now are luxurious trains travelling to Singapore and Bangkok.

Inside the Railway hotel which would have once housed kings and prime ministers is now a backpacker hostel.

maj Rundown and derelict, the once proud Majestic hotel across the road from the station, was the largest hotel in the City and comparable to Raffles in Singapore.

Whilst I had to admire the amazing new buildings and parks in Kuala Lumpur, I couldn’t help feeling the its heritage was being “let go”.

Bangunan KTM Berhad (the headquarters of the Malaysian Railway) across the road from the station.

It features various architectural motifs such as Mughal minarets, large Gothic windows and ancient Greek column.

Unlike the station the inside has been completely refurbished. It survived a bombing in WW2 and a fire in 1969.

sm Merdeka Stadium where Malaysian Independence was declared on the 30th August 1957 (it was especially built for the occasion).

The image of the country’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, punching the air and shouting “Merdeka” seven times is one that is familiar to every Malaysian

It was also the place where Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner fought for 27 rounds during their 1975 boxing match.