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With Sach and Lee already making their way through Asia, looks like I better start writing...course once I start who knows when it'll stop!
Thank heavens for the categories, for now I'll stick to sight seeing.
Chapter 1 - Sight Seeing
Aside for your normal temples and shrines, there are a couple of must sees in Japan.
Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon - Young Tokyo fashion is something entirely in itself (think loose flash dance socks to the knee), but it's nothing compared to what you'll see on the corner of Omotesando at the entrance to Yoyogi park on a Sunday afternoon. Take the Yamanote line to the Meiji-jingu/Harajuku Station. if you're in a crunch for time exit at either end of the station (the closer end is Meiji-jingu-mae) and hang a right, but if you have the time give yourself a treat and walk down my favorite street in all of Japan, Takeshita-dori, where you're packed shoulder to shoulder by the bustle of young fashionable Japanese looking for a good buy, hang a right at the first real street, then another right on Omotesando. (Suddenly you're hit by real Western Culture: GAP, J-Crew, Starbucks, oh and Condom-mania) However, keep going up the street and BOOM, your in the middle of a cross between a cult, a costume party and the 60's, 70's, 80's all combined. It's unforgettable and unlike any fashion party or gathering you'll ever see again. (Don't be shy with the camera, we were polite at first and took pictures subtley from a distance, till we realized their preference was to pose as people snapped happily away)
Tsukiji Market is another must-see and an experience all in its own. Tour books often have this written up incorrectly or not enough. They say get their early, but after it's officially open to the public. The real action happens earlier between 5am and 6am when the HUGE masses of tuna (I believe they average 200 lbs) are auctioned off to restauranteurs and wholesalers. (Did I mention that this one open market supplies the WHOLE of Japan and the Westcoast - well I thought I read that somewhere, and it's certainly busy enough to make me believe it) More species and types of fish for sale than you've ever seen in your life. So if ANYONE has just a smidge of appreciation for seafood or sushi take the time to wake up early, you don't see too many foreigners, but as long as you're able to weave through the frantic masses of crowds and little motorzied delivery trucks, you're fine. Don't forget to stop for sushi and sake at one of the numerous shops on your way out. Follow the locals or the men in knee high boots, they know where to go. It is the freshest possible sushi your palate will ever have the pleasure of experiencing, and pretty affordable as well.
Shibuya Crosswalk I've been to Tokyo numerous times and the throngs of people, never cease to amaze me, but never more so than at this one intersection in Shibuya. I wish I could tell you more of exactly where it is. You'll know when you're there, when you're trying to cross the street at the same time as HUNDREDS of other people and you get so turned around you can't remember which side of the street you were trying to get to. I'm not 100% positive, but I believe it's the Hachiko exit of the station (Hachiko is a famous dog and statue rendezvous point)..I do know that the best vantage point is from the second floor of Starbucks that's either adjoining or a part of the Seibu Department Store. This is also a great area to hang out at night, the lights, the crowds the feel is amazing. I've never felt more IN Tokyo then in that exact spot (or corner).
Ouch...hmm..that was only three sites and I've babbled your ears off (or worn your eyes out)...better stop for now. I did try to warn you and I haven't even gotten to temples yet!!!
Jya matta ne! Stace
By Zakky Hakim
A crystal-clear knee-deep stream running under a bamboo bridge. A single breath of fresh air brings a feeling of deep relaxation, providing immediate transportation away from the cares of daily life.
Waving green leaves, splashing whitewater, darting little fish, hovering birds and elegant, dancing butterflies combine to stimulate the viewer's senses.
A vision of paradise lost? No.
Welcome to the land of the Baduy.
This is the view at the "gate" of Cibeo, one of the three Inner Baduy villages, surrounded by about 37 Outer Baduy villages located in a hilly, tropical jungle on the western slope of Mount Kendeng, 200 kilometers west of sophisticated Jakarta.
It is the area where the sacred people of Baduy live, adhering to their centuries old tradition of shunning modern products and isolating themselves from outside influences.
Very few people have had the privilege of visiting Inner Baduy, which is forbidden to outsiders. Reaching an Inner Baduy village is considered a spiritual journey, which requires pure thoughts, a brave heart and an unbreakable spirit.
I joined a group of 40 people on a trip to the Baduy area in mid-December, after a friend, who was one of the guides for the trip, invited me.
I was surprised to find that the group members had not met before; they had contacted each other through electronic mailing lists. They were a group of young professionals from established companies like British American Tobacco, Ogilvy, Maverick, Hyundai, Garuda Indonesia, Bank Bali and some others, a well-known fashion designer joined the trip too. I found it rather ironic to see the anti-technology Baduy community being visited by a group that had met through the Internet.
Basically, we all wanted to see the isolated way of life of the Baduy people up close and personal. A desire that came with a tangible price. Sure enough, our group was soon called on to prove itself worthy.
The travelers had their first test three kilometers from Kaduketuk, the first Outer Baduy village, as the bus we rode in skidded and went off the road. Fortunately, no one was hurt. We soon continued our journey on foot wondering what we had done wrong.
To our surprise, some Inner Baduy villagers came down from their homes deep in the hilly forest and escorted us along the road. One of them, Sapri, a stocky man in his 20s, said, "Hi, how are you? Everybody OK? Anything we can help with?" They were genuinely friendly and helpful, wearing white headbands and barefoot, strong hikers, with their profiles somehow reminding us of the Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.
In any event, the test was not over. The jaro (village chief) in Kaduketuk said that our group was not permitted to enter the Inner Baduy area for some reason. The guides said it was the first time they had been refused entrance.
We then decided to continue the trip to Cipaler, the last village before the inner area, and planned to ask for permission again there.
Then we faced the next test. Heavy rain poured down. The journey took three hours through along hilly, slippery tracks, across rain-swollen rivers and through dense jungle.
Still, the views were amazing. Before Cipaler there was Cicakal, a village on a hill with stone steps and a view down on a green valley. Stones and wood dominated Cicakal, reminding us of the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, South America. The road became steeper from there.
But we made it.
Our group spent the night in Cipaler, the last Outer Baduy village before reaching Inner Baduy land.
Negotiations continued that night, and an Inner Baduy delegation allowed us to progress to the inner area on condition that some members of the group with foreign-looking features were not allowed to enter.
The next morning we went uphill to Cibeo.
Cibeo, one of the three holy villages, is located in a beautiful green valley. To reach it we had to walk about one and a half hours from Cipaler. And there was one obstacle: We had to hike 300 meters up a hill with an approximately 60 degree slope.
However, when we finally reached the village, we soon forgot our hardships.
A crystal clear river surrounded the village, which was fenced with flowering red hibiscus trees. The water was so clear, we were tempted to jump in for a swim. And we did.
The houses were predominantly beige colored, and built of bamboo with thatch roofs. Green grass and moss covered the ground. Red, yellow, black and white butterflies flew all around. The Baduy wear only black and white. The view was very soothing.
The people were nice. They smiled before we did, greeted and asked us to stop by at their houses.
Through the day I explored the village. It was beautiful, warm and orderly. I began to feel guilty that our visit might ruin or pollute their culture.
When night fell, it was drizzling and pitch dark -- no moonlight, no stars. Light came only from candles and some beautiful fireflies around us.
Our group sat on a terrace around Sapri, a native of Cibeo, who played a kecapi, a 13 string zither-like instrument. The music soon cast a spell on everyone. It was the sound of music in the middle of nowhere. This was the moment when I finally knew the journey was really worth it.
Such views and peaceful lives will, hopefully, be preserved as the Baduy people insist on their self-imposed isolation, handed down from generation to generation over the centuries.
"The mountains may not be destroyed, the valleys may not be damaged ... What is long may not be cut short, what is short may not be lengthened ... The ancestral injunctions may not be changed," Sapri said about their code.
According to their pikukuh (essential rules) there are taboos against, among other things, digging the soil to lay foundations for houses, hoeing for agricultural purposes, entering the forbidden forest, breeding and keeping four-legged animals, using petroleum-based fuel, digging wells, disposing of garbage in a haphazard manner, catching fish by poisoning, bathing with soap and brushing the teeth with toothpaste.
The rules must be followed by all members of the Baduy community as well as visitors who happen to be in the Baduy area.
The next morning, as we left the land of the Baduy, we made sure that we did not leave any garbage or indications of our presence. As a token of appreciation we gave the hosts some gifts such as dried salted fish, salt and sugar. They were only willing to receive them after making sure that we gave them from our hearts.
Just as we were sure nothing was ruined, we heard them saying to each other, "Kasiaaan deh lu!" ("Poor you!" in trendy Jakarta slang)."
I was stationed at Camp Humphrey's in Korea for about 8 months till I broke my leg one night while stumbling home. I tell ya though aside from the protesters and the fact I didn't speak korean it was some of the best times I've had in a while. we got to deploy all over korea and meet so many people. oh and the food! Some of the best I've ever had. I made my girlfriend go with me to go eat some korean dishes when i got back to the states and she loved it.
Soju..... is the devil drink, put on this earth to mess up GI's in korea... but it's soooo good.
Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!
See if you think you can or can't here!
Let’s dress up --> Putting on beautifully and heavily embroidered Myanmar shoes and bags promises to be an enriching cultural experience. Most of Royal Rose’s products are very much Myanmar and very much original. Although it has been a sole producer of designer Myanmar bags and shoes for years, the designs are never out of date as new designs are frequently released to deep up with current trends. 28/Kl, Inya Yeik Thar St., Kabar Aye Pagoda Rd.
Vibrant Silver Jewllery -->Silver jewellery decorated with semiprecious stones is becoming more and more popular among Yangonited. This eye-catching colorful jewelers is becoming the epitome in attractiveness and elegance. Victory Gems at Bogyoke Aung San Market specializes in 925 silver jewelers with semi precious stones. Their use of the latest technology also helps keep the designs up to date. Prices are reasonable and because of its variety of colors, the jewelers can be made to match any color of outfit. 163, East sing of Bogyoke Aung San Market.
Lotus Shawls --> Whenever you wear lotus shawls, remember that you are lucky in possession of a rare accessory. The fact is that it is never easy to become one lotus shawl. Obtaining threats itself takes 15days and weaving takes another two weeks as handling the very thin fabric is apparently a difficult task. Lotus shawls are a true treasure of Myanmar and come from Shan state around famous Inle Lake and Kaya State, where they are available only six good months of a year. However, it is always worth of waiting, Its cool look and earthy natural colors suit both men and women keen to be stylish. Zawgyi House near Bogyoke Aung San Market sells different colors of these expensive shawls. 372, Bogyoke Aung San Road.
Treasured images --> The internationally renowned Myanmar photographer, Zaw Min Yu’s photo portrayal of the country’s most sacred site, Bagan tells its history differently. Zaw Min Yu’s experience and expertise in photography is shown distinctively in this book, A Journey Into Bagan. His presentation of the ancient city from morning to night dusk’til dawn, as well as images reflecting the people’s strong beli9ef in religion, gives readers the chance to experience Bagan through and artist’s eye. The veteran photographer captured the true essence of the city and recorded it beautifully, and the photos also reveal a sense of the history of Bagan. Innwa Book Store, Sule Pagoda Road.
Modern Cotton --> In the past, cotton clothes were made more in the traditional style. But now shops like Shayi modernize their designs and create vibrant Myanmar cotton clothes which are in tune with modern youth, Shayi also weaves its own exclusive patterns to set it apart from others in the market.
The modern touch changes the look of the cotton clothes and they compare well against imported counterparts. 24/3, Nawaday Street, Dagon Township.
What could be more fun?
I geared up for the event by seeking out a pair of powerful pump-action water guns and buying large stocks of food and drink. (I had also been told that nearly all markets and restaurants closed for the festival, making the process of preparing seem a bit like hoarding supplies for a fast-approaching hurricane.)
This is what I heard about Thingyan – the three-day water festival celebrated in the sweltering heat of mid-April to ring in the Myanmar New Year – in the weeks before it started:
It moved boisterous behavior focused (as the name “water festival” suggests) on giving and getting the gift of wetness, using everything from water buckets to hoses and squirt guns as means of delivery. Indeed, I had been told, it was nearly impossible to take more than three steps from your front door without being on the receiving end of a good soaking. The only people exempt were monks and pregnant women.
I was also told that the action centered on hundreds of pandals –high wooden stages – that are temporarily erected throughout town for the festival. They are sponsored by various groups or businesses, representatives of which stand on the stages dancing to thunderous music and doling out endless lines of vehicles that are piled high with passengers who wait in those lines for the express purpose of having endless doses of water doled out.
Meanwhile, many of my Myanmar friends announced plans to spend the holiday break in monasteries, reminding me that Thingyan was essentially a religious festival, a chance to wash away the misdeeds of the previous 12 months and start the New Year afresh. Many other s who would not be meditating said they would say home to be with family, cook food, and catch up on reading …..Oh yeah, and stay dry.
But not me. I was in full battle mode. I had my guns, I had my rations and I had my earplugs (for the water, not the music).
So, on to the diary:
DAY ONE: Stepped out the house, got wet. I had been invited by a friend to spend the day on his neighborhood pandal. While those around me held limp and leaky water hoses, as a guest I was given the privilege of manning one of two powerful water cannons. As promised, an endless queue of passenger-laden trucks, cars and jeeps pulled up, and what could I do but give them what they had come for?
To each I bestowed a blast or two of water upside the head before aiming at the next lucky customer. “Misdeeds, be gone!” I shouted. Some cowered in silence as I irrigated their hairdos, some screamed, their water sources with ice, reducing the temperature to about two degrees Celsius. Whenever I got hit by one of these freezing streams, I did some screaming of my own.
At lunchtime, when the pandals close down and everything grows quiet for a couple hours, we retreated to the host’s house for lunch. In mid-afternoon we headed back out to recommence the process of soaking all comers until about six o’clock, when the festivities stopped for the day.
DAY TWO: Stepped out the house, got wet. This time I kept walking straight down Inya Road, water gun in each hand like a Hollywood action hero. Of course these armaments proved entirely inadequate in the face of the scores of pandals that lined Inya road, many of which were huge multi-tiered affairs featuring not one, not two, but 10 or 15 powerful water canons anchoring a defensive perimeter of about eight or nine million garden hoses. All sucking water out of the nearby lake by the mega liter and dumping it straight onto my head. The streets were knee deep and flowing. I squinted against the barrage of murky liquid hitting my face from the stages and the thousands of vehicles that were at a virtual standstill around me. Still I slogged forward, towards the intersection with University Avenue road, which I had been told was ground zero for the festival. I was an explorer, forging my way despite all obstacles onto the Heart of Wetness. What joyful horrors would I find there? Giant hoses gushing waterfalls? Ten story pandals? Whole roasted chickens on skewers? The only way to find out was to press on through the spray that was raining down from above. Tomorrow I would be going out on a friend’s truck and I would get revenge. Or at least get wet again.
Tourism is coming to a remote village community in Laeshi, Lahel and while planners see it as a perfect enterprise, you’ll be listening to Young Naga soon why they will have the final say .....
Turn off along the unmetalled "roads" that lead into the higher hills, however, and your vehicle must engage four-wheel drive if it has one, and even then negotiating axle-deep slush and treacherous landslips that erase the way ahead is not a task for the weekend adventurer.
Lee & Sachi,
Again your Dad's neighbor
I have been to Canada, Mexico, Trinadad, Barbados, England, Scotland,Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, China, Japan and lived in 9 different states.
Canada---I am an avid fisherman so went there to camp and fish...loved Western Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories..Never could figure out the politics in the French Speaking provinces, still hoping the US will anex the rest and we can have 6 more states and a few less immigration stops..
Mexico--- Visited Chetinitsa and the pyramids,(spelling sucks here, has some x's in it, checked google and spelling was so bad, could not find it!!, about 50 miles from Cancun) you need to go there sometime if you have not been to witness the annual full moon ritual...a really neat and exciting place.......
Seemed like the rest of the country is poverty, then go to another place worse poverty...
Barbados/ Trinidad---Poverty in these countries was much worse than Mexico..In Tabago you can see the tar pits with dinasaurs and one of the greatest beaches I have ever been to on the North side of Trinadad. The Black Magic Voodoo music(for real) starts at about 1AM and lasted till way after we went to sleep.
England ---way to much to see...Loved London, people are really friendly...
Scotland -- Loved everything about the country--the people, the beautiful views and golf( got to play the old course a couple of times, and me shifting the tranny and my partner driving), The area around St. Andrews is breathtaking and lots of 1000 year old church(ruins) to see.
Germany -- Quite a few really old stuff to see, but mostly new ( from 1945) to now.. Did like the Pils...on every corner of every street.
Netherlands --Guess the people of New Orleans should have used them as a guide on how to keep the ocean out??? Has worked there for a long time...Tulips, Windmills, nice place to visit
China--Was going there before it was fashinable - 1982, 5 years after the end of the cultural revolution....Was like going back in time 50 years in a flight from Tokyo. Visited quite a few cities, Beijing,Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangau, Jining(way inland), Still was one of the most intriguing places I have ever been...Between 1982 and the last time I visited in 1994, they moved ahead 48 years in the larger towns...
Japan---Loved every minute of it..Especially loved Kyoto. It was not bombed in WW2 and there are many many 500 - 1000 year old temples to visit.
Tokyo/Yokama- what can you say! a town of 23 million people! Walking around down town at 3 am and you feel safer than walking in a Walmart Parking lot in Statesville, NC!
Almost every one 25 years old speaks a little English--made me feel inferior that we have made the rest of the world do what we should be doing in teaching....!!
Not sure if I wasted your time or maybe shared something that you might think is interesting.
aka The Skinnydipper(name of boat)
This year we have expended our optional tour programs to include more adventurous destinations. Many of these locations are just beginning to open for the visitor to
Travel conditions and accommodations may be less than ideal so travelers should bring along a spirit of exploration when visiting these new places.
Seasonal weather conditions (January to March) minimum group size and restricted travel requirements and services may apply. Please contact our office for the latest information and pricing for the itineraries.
We were fellow travelers of Lee and Sachi for a wonderful cruise of Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. It doesn't sound like Lee and Sachi plan to go to Tasmania, but here is a food idea for anyone going there. Kate's Berry Farm (just south of Swansea on the east coast) has wonderful treats and a setting with a beautiful view overlooking Great Oyster Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula. I am attaching a photo of a fruit and almond tart and scones. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal nice! We stopped there twice because it was totally delicious.
John & Michele Weddle