Saturday, June 30, 2012

Remnant Species

Remnant Species by Ben7k
Remnant Species, a photo by Ben7k on Flickr.

I was at the local shops waiting for the Indian take away for dinner. Wandering up to the corner I found this phone booth. There has been a phone booth on this corner for as long as I can remember. Originally, back when this corner was more important there were two back to back with the big old green phones. There was also a post box that got moved years ago to a more user friendly location in the middle of the shopping strip leaving this lonely phone box all alone on the corner.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

World's Shortest Commercial Flight

Believe it or not, but the honour goes to the roughly 2 minute flight from the island of Westray to the neighbouring island of Papa Westray all the way up in the Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland. There is no time for a meal or a movie, let alone a quick visit to the lav. Being such a short flight means the whole thing has been captured on video and put on Youtube.

The flight is operated by Loganair a regional airline in Scotland that provides essential air services to the remote islands. According to the timetable (PDF download from Loganair website) the flight takes place roughly six days a week.

The aircraft used as shown in the video is a Britten Norman Islander, which is a small twin engine aircraft with seating for 8 or 9 people depending on how many pilots there are. It seems they only use one pilot for this run.

This is what a Britten-Norman Islander BN-2 looks like from the outside.

(Photo by Wikimedia user JJ Harrison under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

I found a video taken on a much nicer day and from a better angle to show the scenery and illustrate how short the flight really is.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Back in Australia

I really did love Japan, I'd love to go back. Saying that I think I would take Japanese lessons before going, as that would make communication with the locals so much easier.

Tokyo was, as I wrote in my earlier posts a bit overwhelming at first. I soon got into swing of it though. I don't think I would want to live there, but it was nice to see how all those people live. I was amazed that amongst all those grey buildings there were large green spaces. In fact at one place, the Meiji temple at Harajuku it was hard to believe that you were in the middle of one of the largest population centres of the world.

I loved the electronics stores that were around Ikebukuro, never seen stores with a staff to customers ratio that was probably close to 1:1, and it was packed with customers! A department store I found called Tokyu Hands was great. It's slogan was "The Creative Lifestyle Store". You name it, if you make it or do it with your hands you can find it there. I found Tokyu Hands in the other cities I visited as well, but the one at Shibuya in Tokyo was the best.

Osaka was an interesting place, with some great food and shopping streets. I also visited Kyoto and Nara for day trips. Kyoto I found draining as I tried to fit so much into one day. I was really over temples by the end. Nara was quite the opposite, it was very relaxing walking around the beautiful park. I saw the big Bhudda too. The only downside to Nara was that I was bitten by a deer while feeding them.

Hiroshima was a surprise. The A-Bomb dome, and memorials and Museums, were as I'd expected. The Museum in parts was definitely confronting. As for the city itself, you'd never know that the place was wiped off the planet nearly 70 years ago, it is every bit as vibrant as Tokyo or Osaka. It even had trams, which in a way made me feel at home.

The nearby island of Miyajima was a great day trip as well.

I plan on doing a few features on a selection of the places I visited, rather then a blow by blow account of my days. I think it's less boring that way, and easier to do now I'm at home.

I arrived home over a week ago now, last Wednesday at 10pm, almost two days later than I'd intended. The extra stop over in Hong Kong was great, albeit rushed. I think I managed to do everything I wanted to do. I was a bit shocked when I walked into my hotel room and thinking there must be a mistake, I can't possibly have all this space to myself.

Even though it's only been 5 months since I was in Hong Kong, I still did the touristy things I did last time. Those being, the Star Ferry (2x's!), Peak Tram, and Nathan Road. I also visited the the ICC building in West Kowloon, which is something like the 4th or 5th tallest building in the world. I decided not to go to the top as it was way too hazy, but spent some time walking around the shopping centre at the base (as you do in Hong Kong). Even though it's crowded, hot, dirty, and sometimes smelly, I really like Hong Kong for some reason. I mean, it is really just another city, but it has something else about it.

I can't really fault Qantas on how they have handled the refund process. For an action that was so blatantly pre meditated, I wouldn't expect any less. As I had made payment by BPay I to make special arrangements, but it all went smoothly. I can definitely use the free return flight to anywhere in Aus/NZ.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Japan - The Plan

Day 1 - Arrive in Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo/ANA 787 flight to Hiroshima and return
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 7 - Train to Osaka
Day 8 - Osaka/kyoto area
Day 11 - Train to Hiroshima
Day 13 - Train to Fukuoka/Hakata
Day14 - Fly to Tokyo, Fly back to Australia

Ammended plans due to the joyce factor

Day 14 - Fly to Hong Kong
Day 15 - Hong Kong
Day 16 - Fly back to Australia

I couldn't resist adding a day in Hong Kong. Also meant I didn't have to go via Adelaide (the only flights I could book straight through from Tokyo involved a stopover in Adelaide), and could take a daytime flight home. Suits me fine.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Japan - The First Day AKA Culture Shock

What a nerveracking weekend it was. Just two days before I was due to leave Alan Joyce pulled the carpet out from under my feet. At 1am on Sunday morning I was on the Cathay Pacific website making alternative arrangements.

I made it, although via Hong Kong rather than Sydney, can't say I'm upset though. I thought Cathay Pacific provided great service, although I kept missing the water runs, because of being in the window seat on the Melbourne - Hong Kong leg. The Hong Kong to Tokyo leg was a "red eye", leaving Hong Kong at 1:15am and arriving in Tokyo shortly after 6am. As it was a four hour flight I only got about an hour of sleep. It wasn't too bad though as the flight was nearly empty so I could at least stretch out.

The rising sun welcoming me to the land of the rising sun.
Could't think of a better way to arrive in Japan.

What can I say about arrival in Tokyo. Complete culture shock comes to mind. After clearing customs I bought a train ticket and got the train to Tokyo proper. By now it was the middle of the morning peak hour and as the train filled up very quick. I thought I was on the Narita Express, but it was actually a local train taking commuters to work. Eventually we made it to Tokyo station where I needed to change to the Yamanote line. I just followed the signs and all was fine. Another 20 minutes later I was at Ikebukuro, the neighjbourhood I am staying in.

I arrived at the hotel about 2 hours after leaving Narita. Talk about a hard slog. Being so early, it was still only 9AM, I was told to come back at 3pm. I left my bag at the hotel and set off to find something to do.

I decided to take the train to Shinjuku and go to the free observation deck at the Tokyo government office. I found my way and spent about an hour up the top. On the way back to the station I got lost as I couldn't find the way in to the platforms (it is in a different spot to the exit).

Just how big is this city?
It goes as far as the eye can see in every direction.
The view from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Government Building.

Fujisan through the haze (and reflections). I seem to reacall
it is rare to actually
see Mount Fuji all the way from Tokyo.

One thing I knew I was going to like even before I left are the trains.
This is a Yamanote line train arriving at Shinjuku.

By now it was all of 11:30 am and all I wanted to do was sleep. If only I could go back to my hotel and check in. Maybe something to eat might help. No that's not going to happen. Looking at the restaurants I had no idea what I was looking at, and in my hazy state of mind I wasn't in the mood for trying. So I resigned myself to going back to the hotel and waiting.

So I waited in the lobby for about 3 hours, too tired to do anthing and too timid to try anything too adventurous. Eventually I decided to go for a wander and stopped at a convenience store to get some water. What are they yelling at me? I don't know, I made my purchase, nodded a lot and got out of there.

Finally I checked in and went up to my room. So small (I knew that when I booked), but just right for me. Oh god, a Japanese toilet!

My small but entirely functional room. Perfect for the salary
man or office lady on their travels.

That's a single bed, desk, chair and TV. Out shot to the bottom
are a small fridge and kettle. To my left is the small bathroom,
and behind me is a small space for luggage and the door.
All in all an efficient use of space.

After resting for a few hours I decided to out and face the world head on. Come on Ben you need to get over it, just go and buy some food. I should mention the last thing I had eaten was about 2 am that morning on the plane. No no good, lots of looking , but I couldn'tdo it. Oh well I'd have to starve.

"Irashimasu!" I went back to my friends in the family mart and bought some western style comfort foods, a bottle fo Coca Cola and a bag of potato chips. Eventually I decided to give room service a chance. The hotel's restaurant is and italian restaurant, so that's what I had. I ordered a Pizza, Capricciosa. Not really like any Pizza I've ever had.

That is day one in Japan. I think I spent it in denial more than anything. I blame tiredness. As I write this it is the end of my third day in Tokyo, and I must say I am really liking it. I've seen some wierd sights in the last few days. Sometimes I have to stop myself from laughing out loud, but often I'm just walking around with a massive smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sydney Transport

First we have the much disliked monorail.

I was standing in Pitt street and just made a quick grab. I dislike riding this thing very much. Reminds me of the rides at Wobbies World... I remember one day I was eating in one of the fast food places in Pitt street near where I took the video and watching a curtain of water go down the street. It was raining, but the wall of water was of course the monorail going past overhead pushing all the water off the track. I wish I'd taken a video of that. From memory it was actually raining quite heavily and the street was more or less a river of water.

Now the polar opposite, the Manly Ferry. This is by far my favourite.

I'd rate this crossing as moderate, I've had calmer, and only hope for worse one day. Perhaps not quite as bad as the in the videos that Highriser found on Youtube. As fun as the ride is I am always glad to get off though. A land lubber by nature I guess.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Everest Web Cam

Thought this was interesting. Mount Everest now has it's own web cam.

So if you're stuck in base camp and can't be bothered poking your head out of the tent in the morning, here is your answer. Just whip out your device and check the Mount Everest web cam, then make your run at the summit.