With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Thwarter of Thieves

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 20, 2017

Tuesday August 1st – Monday August 7th, 2017

This poor guy has been severely robbed.

We got to Paris with a few hang-ups. One, my debit card was taken by a Paris ATM and I had to have a new one mailed to me. This was not too bad. We just used Mark’s bank card until then. Unfortunately, his bank charges him all sorts of fees for not being in the US. My bank, Ally Bank, not only doesn’t charge any fees, but they refund most of the ATM charges I incur.

Second, Mark went to a pharmacy to get medicine to stop his “Delhi Belly”. At first it seemed to do nothing, but after a few days he was as good as new. With everything fixed we were free to enjoy Paris.

Everything about Paris is AMAZING. You have to walk slowly everywhere you go, because even the smallest things are screaming for your attention. Look at the fountain in the photo above. There is so much going on just right there. The color, the gold trim, the expressions on the statues’ faces; they are all begging to be looked at. And this is just a fountain left outdoors for any and everyone to see. Imagine the stuff they keep indoors and charge an entrance fee for!

I was expecting to be completely bored by the Louvre because I don’t have a very high level of appreciation for art. Instead I spent a whole afternoon there. In fact, Mark and I were one of the people the staff had to stop and say, “Okay guys, it’s time to go. Come on… You two, get out.” We went to the Louvre for art and artifacts, but Mark and I kept stopping to stare at doors, ceilings, windows, walls, even the floor.

Look at this ceiling!

Just about every square inch of this city is designed for showing off. We would go out sightseeing everyday and by the evening my neck would hurt from looking up so much. At cemeteries graves and tombs are elaborately decorated. Churches are designed extravagantly. Even some subway stations are spectacular to look at. Paris is in a class of its own. There are no other places like it as far as I know.

This is just the gift shop. The really good stuff is upstairs.

But their is a sinister side of Paris. There are pick-pockets and scam artists everywhere. We saw people jumping the turn-styles at subway stations every time we rode the train. People were always approaching us asking for our signatures on some bogus petition. We knew they would try to steal our stuff, so we never let them stand too near us. But then one day I caught some guy red-handed, trying to rob me.

I was going to catch a train when I felt something odd. At first I thought it might have been my phone, but I did not get a SIM card in Paris, so that phone should not be vibrating with any alerts. I turned around as I always do before I open my purse in Paris, to make sure no one is too close. But someone was. There was a man standing right behind me. This was odd because the place was almost empty of people. He had plenty of space to move; he didn’t need to be right next to me.

Then I noticed the zipper of my purse was slightly opened. “What’s going on!?” I asked the man. He looked guilty. Mark stopped and asked me what happened. “This man tried to pick-pocket me.” I told Mark. Mark demanded that the man empty his pockets to see what he took. The man, who seemed to be in his early 20’s, showed that he had nothing in his pockets. I looked through my bag, but nothing was taken. I left most of my stuff in my locker at the hostel. Seeing the 2 things I had were still there I knew he hadn’t taken anything.

But I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I knew that pick pockets usually work in groups. While we were standing there, the others might come and rob us. So, the only thing I could think to do is to make a spectacle. So I started to shout, “THIS FOOL TRIED TO ROB ME. I CANNOT BELIEVE HE TRIED TO PICK POCKET ME. SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE!?” (I knew the police couldn’t help.)

The guy stood there arguing his innocence until I started shouting. Once my yelling began, people started to look in my direction and come towards us, he felt inspired to run and hightailed it out of there.

After that, I looked at everyone in Paris suspiciously as would be pick-pockets. I know most people think that the pick-pockets are mostly Romany or non-European immigrants, but this guy looked and sounded Parisian. He spoke English with a French accent as he insisted that he had taken nothing. He didn’t look poor, out of place, or in anyway like someone who had to resort to petty theft. He looked like a college student or some French version of a hipster.

I’ve also seen the same thing happen to other tourists. One guy from Spain caught a pick-pocket reaching in his wife’s purse. The Spanish guy grabbed the pick-pocket and slapped him around a bit, yelling at the thief in Spanish. This is the most punishment that pick-pocket will ever see, since the cops don’t do much.

I guard my purse even from Churchill’s statue; I trust no one.

Here are my tips for avoiding pick-pockets:

  1. Carry as few things as possible.
    • If you get robbed, it’s easy to assess what has been taken if you have just a few things.
    • You will also have less things to steal.
    • Leave the really important things in a safe or locker at your hotel or hostel, especially if it’s not really needed.
  2. Don’t use a backpack.
    • Backpacks are kept on your back and you cannot see behind you.
  3. Use only a sling bag, like mine, and always carry it across your body, like I do.
    • It’s very hard to snatch a purse with someone in it.
    • If someone does try to grab your purse, don’t pull on it.
      • Instead sit down. Now the thief will have to drag you and the purse.
      • Or if you fear for your safety, just let go of the purse. Your life is worth more than your stuff.
  4. Keep your purse in front of you.
    • What’s out of your sight, is easy pickings.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  5. Don’t put anything in your back pocket.
    • In fact, don’t put anything in any non-zippered pockets.
  6. When it’s very crowded around you, hold on to your bag.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  7. Don’t be afraid to get loud.
    • People might shy away if they see a robbery in progress, but everyone loves a spectacle.
    • Think of the craziest thing to say and yell that.
    • Thieves hate an audience.
  8. Be aware of what’s around you.
    • You can be pick-pocketed anywhere, even at the Louvre.

Paris is so much more enjoyable when you haven’t been robbed.


The European Union
(France)

How to get there:

You can enter the E.U. and France by land, air, or sea. I’m not sure what needs to be done to get a European visa before hand. Americans are issued stamps at the port of entry which allow up to a 90-day stay.

Phone:

  • Emergency number: 112 for fire, police, and ambulance (for France and most other EU countries)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos: The E.U.:

France:

Don’t get robbed in Paris:

Books:

Notes:

  • In most E.U. countries almost everyone speaks some English and many people speak English very well.

Navigo Decouverte

Basic Information

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 5€ fee for card itself (this can be reused for other travel cards)
  • 22.80€ (1 week) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
    • or 75.20€ (1 month) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
  • about 5€ for photos if you don’t already have one.
    • There is usually a photo machine nearby.
  • about 1€ for a pen, if you don’t already own one.

Hours: (subway hours)

  • Mon – Fri: 05:30 – 00:30.
  • Sat – Sun: 05:30 – 02:15.
  • Nights before holidays: 05:30 – 02:15.

Notes:

  • The Navigo Cards work on the metro, buses, and some trams in Paris.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets. The subway is where you are most likely to be robbed!
  • Paris has the most pick-pockets I have ever seen.

Louvre Museum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • €17
    • I recommend buying tickets online.
    • You don’t save money, but you will save time.
  • Audio Guide is on a Nintendo 3DS
    • € 5
  • Downloaded App
    • Free App (optional in-app purchases from €0,99 to €4,99)
  • I recommend using thier 3DS for the audio guide. Save your battery.
    • But definitely get the audio guide. The Louvre is a nice museum without the audio guide. With the audio guide it will be the highlight of your trip!

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Tuedays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Get the audio guide.
    • The audio guide brings the paintings, statues, and artifacts to life.
  • Get there early.
  • Look online and decided what your must-sees are.
  • Stop at lunch or at some point then have a coffee at one of the cafes.
    • Take a break, rest, and go back in.
  • Don’t lose your ticket.
    • You will need it to move from one area to another.
  • Bring a bottle of water with you.

Arc de Triomphe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 23:00

Video

Notes:

You can climb stairs to the top, but it costs €12.


Lots of things to look out for

Notes:


Catacombs of Paris

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 17 €
  • 5 € audio guide
  • 32€ buying online
    • You get to skip the incredibly long line.
    • Audio guide included

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:30
  • Last admission: 19:30
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • I would recommend buying the tickets online.
    • With online tickets you get to skip the line.
    • The line is very long and the line is also held up for people who bought their tickets online to go first.

Panthéon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 9

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:30

Video

Notes:


Sacré Coeur

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free/ Donations
  • Guide book 5

Hours:

  • 6:00 – 22:30

Notes:

Map:

Advertisements

Posted in France, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Delhi

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 15, 2017

July 29–31, 2017

By the time we got to Delhi, I was still a little sick and Mark was getting worse. Generally, Mark is less of a baby than I am, so even while sick Mark can go out and do things, though he would prefer to sit or lay down and nap. We had 3 days in Delhi, the day we arrive, one whole day, and the day we left. So we decide not to do anything on the first and last day; we would just rest on those days. But the day in the middle we just had to see something or do something in Delhi.

Look at me; I’m the tuk-tuk driver now!

The middle day, we hired a tuk-tuk driver. We weren’t planning to, he just talked himself down to a reasonable price. And, since Mark was sick we thought it would be better to have one guy drive us around all day rather than having to negotiate on each leg of the day’s journey.

(BTW: What Mark had could now be called Delhi Belly, because of his geographical location.)

I’m sure this man thought that he was selling himself short when he dropped his price down so we wouldn’t walk away. But after we asked to be taken back a little after noon and still paid the full day’s fare like we had agreed, he didn’t feel so bad.

 We only went to 3 or 4 places. Most of which, we got out of the tuk-tuk for 3 minutes, took a quick photo, and then got back in. I actually like riding around in the tuk-tuk especially once we left downtown Delhi. It felt good to be outdoors and moving around without having to exert any energy.

Of course our tuk-tuk driver tried to take us to a textile and craft shop, but we refused to go inside. He was in the middle of telling us why we should just go in and look around when Mark made a retching noise and stuck his head out the tuk-tuk. Not wanting any vomit in his vehicle, the driver took us home without any further delays. But, before he left us, he made us promise we would call him so he could take us to the airport the next day. We didn’t.

At the airport trying to make up for all the sight-seeing we missed in Delhi

The next day we went to the airport to get a flight to Paris. We were really looking forward to Paris’ over-the-counter medicine.


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.

Akshardham

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

e-mail:

  • info@akshardham.com

Cost:

  • Entrance is free, but a donation is asked.
    • Some exhibits cost money to enter
    • All the exhibits combined cost a little over 200 rupees.
  • Parking is not free.
    • If you have hired a driver to wait for you, you may have to pay for his parking.
  • The cloak room is free, but there is a deposit.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 18:00
  • Opening Times for different areas vary

Video

Notes:

  • There are many areas to this complex.
  • All the restaurants inside are vegetarian.
  • There is a long list of things you cannot bring:
    • phones
    • cameras
    • usb drives
    • music device
    • electronics
    • weapons
    • umbrellas
    • luggage
    • toys
    • pets
    • food or drinks
    • tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
  • There is a dress code.
    • Make sure to cover shoulders, navel, forearms, and knees.
    • A short sleeve shirt and Capri pants will do.

Lotus Temple

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 1st October to 31st March: 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (Last Entry 5.00 pm. For winter)
  • 1st April to 30th September : 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (Last Entry 6.30 pm. For summer)
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • You cannot take photos inside the temple, but unlike Akshardham, no one will take your camera or cell phone from you.
    • It’s done on the honor system.

Map:

Posted in India | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Agra: Diamonds of the Souls of Our Feet

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 10, 2017

July 25–28, 2017

The view from the hotel

Be Fancy

When we got to Jaipur we booked a stay at the Comfort Inn. It’s an American hotel chain. The Comfort Inn is a nice business hotel, nothing fancy. It’s clean, nice, and dependable.

But the one in India was a 4 star hotel. It was a fancy hotel, yet still a Comfort Inn with a standard Comfort Inn price. …And yet, fancy.

So when it was time to pick a hotel in Agra we asked, “What can I get for about 60USD per night. The answer was… opulence.

These guys played while we ate breakfast every morning

We booked a 5-star hotel and it was nice. But I never felt very relaxed there. One reason was that there was always someone lurking around every corner to make Mark and me more comfortable. For example, at dinner if I were to run low on mint chutney on my plate, before I had the opportunity to pour some more myself, someone would pop out of nowhere to pour it for me.

If I were to drop a spoon or something, before I could pick it up, 3 people would rush over; one with a new spoon, one to pick up the dropped spoon, and another to apologize for the slippery spoons. There was even a guy who pushed the elevator buttons for guests. At first I thought this was nice, but after a day or two I felt like a toddler.

We didn’t realize just how fancy the hotel would be until we pulled up at the gate. The taxi we came in was a dilapidated old junker that coughed as it went down the street. It’s driver was the least shadiest guy hanging out at the train station that night. I made Mark pick a cab quickly because I felt like I was on the verge of tossing my cookies.

When the car pulled up to the hotel and a bell-hop took our back-pack, the shame started to sink in. Then I remembered that we used to live in a very posh apartment in Bangkok and would come home muddy and dirty from camping trips almost every weekend. We would walk through the lobby and staff would run to open doors for us and hand us our mail. If we could afford to live in such an apartment, paying our rent on time, they didn’t care what we looked like when we returned.

So, I acted like I did when I lived in Bangkok. “Yes, this was just normal stuff for people like us who travel adventurously and regularly stay in fancy hotels,” I thought to myself. I have no idea if we fooled anyone. If we did look out of place, everyone was too polite to say anything.

The view from the back of the hotel.

Another reason for my discomfort was food poisoning. I drank a lassi somewhere in Jaipur before getting on the train and was quite sick by the time I got to Agra. I almost didn’t see the Taj Mahal. We had 4 days in Agra and I spent the first 2 in bed… and the bathroom.

The truly sad part, was that at our hotel every breakfast was a buffet of Indian dishes from all over India. I sat and watched Mark enjoy all the food he could stuff into his face. I ate mainly plain eggs, a banana, or milk. On the last day, I was feeling much better and sampled more types of foods. But, by then Mark had gotten sick.

I was so sick, this was the best smile I could fake.

I didn’t feel well enough to go to the Taj Mahal, but I was not going to miss it! I went and just walked very slowly. I was so weak, I kept having to sit down. I also kept an eye out for bathrooms, hoping that I would not have to use any, or worse, end up throwing up on the grounds of the Taj Mahal.

We hired a driver from the hotel. He dropped us off and would come back for us in 2 hours. All I had to do was “contain” myself for 2 hours. I did manage just that. We saw the whole thing, though I did want to stay much longer. My body couldn’t take it and I was glad to be back in bed afterwards.

Tea and Taj later that day


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Taj Mahal

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 1,000 rupees
    • Includes:
    • Bottle of water
    • Shoe covers
    • a bag to hold the water and shoe covers
    • a ride to the main gate

Hours:

  • sunrise – sunset
  • Closed Fridays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Built between 1632–53.
  • There is no official audio guide for the Taj Mahal.
  • Be careful when hiring a guide.
    • If you don’t want a guide, keep telling the people who harass you that while you walk away.
    • They will follow you.
  • Don’t forget to sit on the Diana bench, if you can.

Map:

Posted in Agra, India | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Jaipur: Buy From Me, No Me, No Buy From Me…

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 5, 2017

July 22 – 24, 2017

Jaipur, the Pink City, had some of the most beautiful photo-opps. Just scrolling through my Jaipur album online takes me back to a place with magical views. But, traveling through Jaipur was very tiring. Everyone is working you hard to buy their stuff.

Our flight into India landed at midnight, so we made sure our hotel came with an airport pick up. On the ride over our driver kept asking us about our plans for our time in Jaipur. Before we had even pulled out of the airport parking lot, he was hounding us to hire him as our driver for the duration of our stay.

We did hire a driver for one day. He too kept asking us about our plans in Jaipur. We couldn’t lie to him and tell him that this was our last day, he worked at our hotel. Instead we tried to change the subject and evaded his questions. But he was a determined guy.

We had a list of places we wanted to see, but he had his own plan. He talked about a restaurant he wanted to take us. We politely told him we already had a restaurant in mind. When we stopped at the Amber Fort, we had lunch at 1135AD which is in the fort. When we got back into his car he was ready to take us to his restaurant.

“We already ate,” we told him.

“When?” he scowled.

“While we were at the fort. Remember, we told you we wanted to have lunch at 1135AD,” Mark replied.

“So you don’t want to have delicious dalh?”

“No.”

We wanted to see a museum and asked the driver to take us there. But he didn’t. He took us to a craft and textile shop instead. We didn’t know what was going on, but once we realized he had taken us to a place where we were expected to buy expensive paintings or statues, we walked out of the building.

“Don’t you want to look around?” he asked.

“No, we want to go to the museum!”

He tried to talk us into staying, but we would not stay. I started yelling that I wanted to go to the museum. He told us that it was too late to go to the museum. We had wasted too much time driving to the stupid shop. (Later, I found out that it was not too late to go to the museum.) We asked to be taken back to the hotel.

“You would rather go home than look in this shop?” The driver seemed surprised.

We were so pissed off at this driver, we never hired him or anyone else who worked for our hotel again.

These women tried to charge me for this photo and only one of them seems happy.

At the Amber Fort we saw these sweeping ladies with their beautiful bright saris. Their job is to sweep the fort and palace. They approached me and asked if I wanted to take their photo. “Sure, why not?” I told them. I pointed my camera at them, but they encouraged me to hand my camera to someone else and get in the photo too.

I handed my camera to Mark, and sat next to them. The one who asked me to take the photo looked really pleased. Her friends, on the other hand, could not hide their disdain. Mark snapped a few photos and then I thanked them. As I got up, all the women, as with one voice, said, “MONEY”.

They had asked me to take their photo. True, I was happy enough to oblige, but I did not know this would require payment. Mark offered them a few rupees, but they wanted more. “Dollar,” one of them demanded. Mark and I walked away.

I saw them do this with many other tourists. Each tourist thought that they had met a friendly lady wanting to be in a photo. No one I saw gave these ladies any money. It’s unfortunate, because had these women put up a sign saying “photo 5 rupee” or something, many people would have gladly paid. No one likes being scammed.

Another day, Mark and I were walking down a street in Jaipur. We were looking for a place to have lunch. As we walked, all the shop keepers called to us to come buy their food, drinks, clothes, shoes, etc. One shop keeper in particular caught our attention. He stood in the doorway of his shop. I didn’t fully understand why he was calling to us.

“Don’t you sell tires?” I asked.

“Oh yes. The best tires! Come in and see.”

“I don’t have a car.” I thought it was necessary for me to point this out.

“I can give you a good deal,” he said and he motioned for Mark and me to enter.

“No thanks.”

I raise my lassi to Jaipur. “To Jaipur!”


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Hawa Mahal
(Palace of the Wind)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 26.923938, 75.826750
  • Entrance 26.923366, 75.826070

Address:

  • Hawa Mahal Rd, Badi Choupad, J.D.A. Market, Pink City, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002

Phone:

  • 0141 261 8862

Websites:

Cost:

  • Foreigners: Rs. 50

    2 Composite tickets

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • Included in the 5-monument Composite Ticket.
    • Tickets are valid for 2 days, starting on the day it is purchased.
    • You can buy the ticket at any of the monuments.
    • It’s called the 5-monument composite ticket, but you use it for 5 monuments and 3 other things.
  • You can take photos without having to pay a fee.
  • There is a composite tickets that’s lets you get into several sites.
    • Another benefit of this tickets is that you only have to queue once.
    • The down side is that the officials who inspect your composite tickets take about 5 minutes to scrutinize the paper before carefully punching a hole in the appropriated spot.

Jal Mahal

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket (though, I don’t know why)

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is a palace that is sinking in a lake.
  • You cannot go to it; you can only look at it from the shore.
  • It will take about 3 minutes to see it; 10, if you take a lot of photos.

Jaipur Lassi

Basic Information:

  • Jaipur is know for it’s wonderful super thick lassi with a milk skin on the top.
  • It’s served in a ceramic cup.

Website

  • Maybe this is the original shop called Lassiwalla.

Cost:

  • 1-2 Rupee

Hours:

  • If you want a lassi, there will be someone willing to sell you one.

Video

Notes:

  • There are a thousand and one shops called Lassiwala. There was one Lassiwala that became very famous, but then every shop changed their names to Lassiwala, so who knows which one is THE Lassiwala?
  • It doesn’t really matter, they’re all great.

The Amer Fort
The Amber Palace/ Fort

Basic Information

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 17:30

Video

Notes:

  • Built in 1592.
  • Very near to the Jaigarh Fort.
    • On a good, non-rainy day, you can walk from one fort to the other (no matter what your driver tells you).
    • It is a bit of a hike, being up hill and all.
  • There are a crowd of touts aggressively selling junk you don’t want outside the gate.
  • There are colorfully dressed sweeping ladies who will gladly let you take their photos, then hound you for money.
    • Whatever you give them, they will demand more.
    • Give them money if you want. They probably really need it.
    • But, you can also just walk away since they are not up front that they expect money for photos. No one will force you to pay them.

1135 AD

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 12:00 – 22:30

Notes:

  • The place can be a little hard to find.
  • It is in the Amer Fort, off to the side and in away from sight.
  • It looks fancy-ish. There are many photos of rich and famous people, like Prince Charles, in the restaurant, but the places looks a little shabby these days.
  • It’s still a nice experience.

Jaigarh Fort

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 85 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • Here you can see the biggest cannon on wheels at the time it was made.
    • It was supposedly, used only once as a demonstration. It killed several horses, wounded an elephant, and caused many pregnant women to go into early labor.
    • It caused so much destruction that it was never used again.
      • It’s like they didn’t fully understand the point of a cannon…
  • Built in 1726.
  • You can walk between Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort.
    • It is a 2 hour walk.

Nahargarh Fort

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:15

Video

Notes:


Isarlat

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:30

Video

Notes:

  • Built in 1749.
  • Close to City Palace.
  • Just a tower.
  • We really only saw this because it was part of the composite ticket. It’s not that interesting.
  • It does give you a nice view of the city, but I’m not sure it’s worth the climb up and the walking around in pigeon poo.

City Palace

Basic Information

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • 500 rupee
  • 300 rupee for an audio guide

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • The palace was built between 1729 and 1732.

Jantar Mantar

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 200 rupees
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:30

Video

Notes:

  • Construction was completed between 1724 and 1735.
  • Wear a hat, it’s super hot here.
  • Bring water and maybe an umbrella too.

Map:

Posted in India, Jaipur | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Accidental Trip to Singapore

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 30, 2017

Wednesday, July 19th – 21st, 2017

You are banished to Singapore because your visa to India has not been processed yet!

On this trip we decided to stick to countries that either don’t require us (US citizens) to get visas, or if we do need visas, it’s a quick and easy process. Mark wanted to see India next. He looked online and saw that there were 3 visa options. One, you could visit the nearest Indian Embassy and get a visa which would be pasted in your passport before you leave your country. Two, you could go online and get an e-visa, like what we did for Vietnam. And three, we could just show up and get our visa there in India at passport control.

Mark chose the last option. It came with the least amount of work. To me, it seemed like the best course of action. Or at least it did until we checked in at the airport in Hong Kong.

The airlines wanted to see our Indian visas. We didn’t have one yet. “Well, then we can’t let you go,” the agent told us. There was a moment of panic when we thought that we would miss our flight. Then Mark came up with a solution.

We were very early for this flight out of Hong Kong. We also had a ridiculously long layover in Singapore (like 5 hours) before we got on our actual flight to Jaipur. He could submit an e-visa right now and pay extra for a 2-hour speedy processing. We would have our visas before we got on our flight to India.

That would do. Airline agents don’t really care if you have your proper travel documents or not. They only care that they aren’t the ones who get in trouble when you don’t. If things worked out for us, great. If not, we were some poor bastard in Singapore’s problem.

Using the Hong Kong airport’s free wifi, Mark downloaded, filled out, and sent back 2 forms for 2-hour Indian e-visas. Everything was done just in time to get on our plane.

When we got to Singapore, we were stopped. We couldn’t go to the gate for the flight until our documents were straightened out. We went to the business center of the Singapore airport expecting to just check our email and print out our visas. But, the visas weren’t ready.

Our visa photos didn’t have a plain white background. The walls of the airport’s business center were white so, we took some photos there. We emailed them back and waited 2 hours. There was still plenty of time to get this done.

Two hours later and “Huzzah,” the visas were done. The visas came with a note to check to make sure everything was correct. We looked through the PDFs. First was Mark’s visa. His name was spelled correctly. The birthday was correct. Everything seemed in order. Then we looked at the next visa…

It was another copy of Mark’s visa.

“Where’s mine?” I asked.

We called the e-visa company not wanting to wait for an email. “We’re sorry,” the receptionist said, “our offices are closed for the day. Please contact us again tomorrow at 9:00AM local time.”

So we couldn’t go to India that day. Unlike India, as Americans we didn’t need a visa to enter Singapore. Air Asia was really cool and allowed us to change our flight from that day to the next Friday. I don’t even think they charged us anything more than a ticket processing fee which was less than 20USD for both tickets.

Conclusion…

When we finally got to Jaipur, 3 days later, we got off the plane and went to the passport control. There were 3 lines for non-Indians. One, was for people who went to their nearest Indian embassy and had a visa already pasted in their passports. The second was for tourists, like us, who had e-visas. And the third was for people who didn’t have a visa and needed to get one there.  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

We spent 2 days in Singapore, which was just fine with me. I LOVE Singapore.

The last time we were in Singapore we saw just about everything we wanted to see. So this time around we focused on quirky things. I went to the website Atlas Obscura to find all the odd things to do in town. My favorite was the Haw Par Village because of the Hell theme. The other things were minor or related to statues and plaques.


Singapore
(Republic of Singapore)

How to get there:

You can enter Singapore by bus, train, plane or boat. Though, as of 2017 the train from Malaysia is a bit of a hassle requiring multiple transfers at the border.

Most can get 90-day visas to enter Singapore. Check with the ICA website for visa information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 999
    • Ambulance and Fire 995

Website:

Downloads:

Data:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Singapore!
  • Do not carry the luggage of someone who might have drugs into Singapore.
  • In most countries, it’s best to change money at a bank. For some reason, banks do not change money in Singapore. You must use a money changers.
  • Use a single-trip ticket to use the LRT.
    • Do not get the Adult Stored Value Card since the 5$ deposit is not refundable.
    • When you get the credit on the card returned (ie. You have $6.75 left on the card and now you are leaving Signapore.) you cannot keep the card.

Haw Par Village

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Daily, 9am – 7pm
  • (last admission: 6pm)

Notes:

  • You wanna know what hell will be like?
  • Brought to you by the people who make Tiger Balm.
  • Apparently parents take their kids here to show them what happens to bad little boys and girls, but that just seems mean to me.

Map:

Posted in Singapore | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Hong Kong Travel Tips

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 25, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Just about everything else can be bought in Hong Kong, though ibuprofen can be hard to find. Many pharmacies do not sell it, but if you need it, ask.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • It’s best to use a backpack. Elevators can be hard to find sometimes.
  2. Clothes:
    • Hong Kong is all about shopping!
    • There is no sales tax here.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying at a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • Of course you can buy these here.
    • You can even find your favorite brands… like Dove, Pantene, so on…
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find it here; no problem.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • You can find it here; no problem.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy pain killers, but ibuprofen might be a bit of a treasure hunt.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • An umbrella:
      • When it’s not raining, it’s too sunny. When it’s neither raining or too sunny, air conditioning units drip on your head.

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • Get an Octopus Card:
    • You can get one at the airport or at any subway station.
    • A refund handling fee will be charged if you return the On-loan Octopus less than 90 days from the date of issue.

Food:

  • Eat as much stuff you can only find in Hong Kong you can find.
  • When you get tired of that, eat everything else.
  • When in Macau, eat the egg tarts.

Shopping:

  • If you need electronics here’s the place to get it.
  • There is no sale tax.

Money:

  • Don’t change money when going to Macau.
    • You can use Hong Kong dollars there, no problem.

Scams:

  • The are no prevalent scams to speak of. Just stay away from weird people on the street.

Hong Kong
(中華人民共和國香港特別行政區)
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Hong Kong by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane.

***A entry to Hong Kong is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Hong Kong uses the British style plug.
  • Get an  Octopus Card for public transportation.
    • Get one at the airport
    • Refundable HK$50 deposit
    • You can use it to pay for train, buses, and many other things.
  • If you’re in the market to buy electronics, Hong Kong is the place for you!
    • There is no sales tax, so everything is Duty Free.

Macau
(中華人民共和國澳門特別行政區)
(Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Macau by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane or by boat from Hong Kong.

  • Boats from Hong Kong
    •  TurboJet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR)
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (TAIPA)
    •  Cotai Jet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <=> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR/TAIPA)

***Entry to Macau is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t bother to change your Hong Kong dollars to Macanese pataca.
    • Every where in Macau, from the buses to the shops, take HKD.
  • The best thing to do is the plan out everything you want to see and in what order. Then when you get to Macau go to the tourist information desk and ask them what bus to use.
    • They will tell you the bus number, where to find it, and how much it will cost.
    • Remember to bring a pen and write the information down.

 

Posted in China, Hong Kong | Leave a Comment »

Macau

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 20, 2017

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Macau: Hong Kong’s New Face

The day we visited Macau was a nice day. Hong Kong is a very crowded city with everyone bustling about. Macau is a little crowded too, but mostly with tourists. The worst part of the day was that it rained off and on, other than that, the day went smoothly. After the rough time we had on our first day in Hong Kong, a little rain didn’t stop us from having a good time.

We took a ferry over and got directions from a tourism guide stationed at the terminal. We managed to get on all of the right buses with no adventures what so ever.

We tried an egg tart. It was delicious. I think the tart will be what I will remember the most about Macau for years to come.

After that we went looking for historic houses. We had a lovely time walking through Portuguese gardens when it started to rain harder. Luckily for us, there was a covered walkway not too far from where we were. And that walkway led right to the Venetian.

We did not gamble. We aren’t gamblers, but we loved the Venetian none the less. It is a fabulous place. Everything there is so shiny and over the top.

I’ve been to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It’s quite similar, but the one in Macau is a lot bigger. We spent hours walking around. We wanted to buy something, but there wasn’t anything we really needed.

Later we took the ferry back to Hong Kong. It was a great day.


Macau
(中華人民共和國澳門特別行政區)
(Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Macau by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane or by boat from Hong Kong.

  • Boats from Hong Kong
    •  TurboJet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR)
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (TAIPA)
    •  Cotai Jet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <=> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR/TAIPA)

***Entry to Macau is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t bother to change your Hong Kong dollars to Macanese pataca.
    • Every where in Macau, from the buses to the shops, take HKD.
  • The best thing to do is the plan out everything you want to see and in what order. Then when you get to Macau go to the tourist information desk and ask them what bus to use.
    • They will tell you the bus number, where to find it, and how much it will cost.
    • Remember to bring a pen and write the information down.
  • Try an egg tart. No, try 2!

Senado Square

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • Walk around and take photos.
    • Get a photo of the fountain or the pattern on the ground.

Ruins of St. Paul’s

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is a 17th-century Portuguese church.

Monte Fort

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 7:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • The fort was built between 1617 and 1626
  • The Museum of Macau is in the fort.
  • In 2005, Monte Fort became China’s 31st World Heritage Site.

The Venetian Macao

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • You can enter for free
  • The cost of gambling or a hotel stay are another thing.

Hours:

  • Who needs sleep?

Notes:

  • Even if you don’t gamble there is lots of shopping, eating, and sight-seeing to be done here.
  • From the Venetian, and any of the casinos, you can take a free shuttle to ferry (and visa-versa) even if you didn’t gamble or stay in the hotel.

Map:

Posted in China, Macau | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Horrible No Good Stay

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 15, 2017

Wednesday, July 12th – 19th, 2017

I’ve been to  Hong Kong many times. But, I’ve only ever seen the inside of the airport.  It’s a very nice airport.  For the first time I got to leave the airport and enter Hong Kong. I was very excited.

We would spend a week in Hong Kong. Mark wanted to try out accommodations in two different areas. The first place, was one he found on Airbnb. It was some sort of futuristic capsule hotel thing. It was going to be amazing. We would see Hong Kong for the first time ever and stay in a kitschy space hotel.

Best seat on the bus

We landed in Hong Kong and was first greeted by a staff member of the board of tourism. She handed us a free map. We gave her the address of our accommodations and she told us what bus to catch, what stop to get off, and she recommended getting an Octopus Card. We got the card and easily found our bus. We were the first in line. We got to our stop without any problem. Everything went smoothly.

The address was easy to understand. It was something like 140 ABC Street, ABC building, 24 section. We found ABC street, then 130 ABC street. At 140 ABC street there was supposed to be an ABC building, but there wasn’t.

We asked to people around where the ABC building was. They didn’t know. But they only knew the building they worked in. They said they weren’t too sure about the other buildings. One person even walked with us and concluded that the ABC building should be near here; he pointed to a building which was not the ABC building. We thought that maybe there was a typo.

We went to a Starbucks to use their wifi and call our host. It was a headache talking to him. He spoke no English or Cantonese. All his communications were in Mandarin. We used the google translate app to talk to him. We could understand him well enough, but he seemed not to know what we were trying to ask.

We kept the dialog simple. Instead of asking, “What’s the address,” we wrote, “address?” We would run it through a translator and send it to him. He had no idea what we wanted. “Why would people who paid to stay at my accommodation ask about an ‘address’?” The man seemed to be a bit thick.

After 45 minutes of texting back and forth, Mark got a new address. It was about 5 metro stops down the line and nowhere in the neighborhood we thought we would be in when we got the reservations.

We book the place online expecting it to be in one area. In the conformation email we were given a different address and found out that it was actually on the outskirts of where we wanted to be. That was still okay. Now, we were told that we would be staying in a different area all together.

We went to the new address and found nothing. There was no sign for any capsule hotel or anything that would resemble a capsule place. Once again we asked around, but no one had heard of it.

We found a store that had free wifi and contacted the host again. It took another 30 minutes of texting to get more information out of him. By this time I was convinced that he was too stupid to run a hotel or Airbnb accommodations. Later I would realize that it was a bit more sinister than that.

He was going to meet us at XYZ station exit 1. We sent him messages like, “Man = blue shirt, baseball hat, gray pants. Woman = green shirt, black pants. You = ?” We wanted to be able to find him in the crowd and for him to find us. But he didn’t understand. In the end we just when to the designated spot and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

Then we went back to another store with free wifi. Mark texted him again, asking where he was. He claimed he was at XYZ station exit 1. We ran back there. Out of frustration Mark started to yell, “Airbnb guy!” No one answered.

We went back to the store with free wifi. Again he claimed to be at the meeting spot. He said he was there for the past 30 minutes.

I began to wonder why it was so hard for him to understand us, but we could easily understand what he said. No one who is able to put a room on Airbnb is that dumb. Something strange is going on here. “I think this is a scam.”

I told Mark that we should start looking for another place to stay for the night. Mark groaned. His head began to ache in anticipation of the roller coaster ride it would be to get our money back from this fraudster.

During our adventure we passed a Holiday Inn. It was a bit above our budget, but for one night it would do. We headed to the Holiday Inn and got there just in time to see them close up shop. They locked the doors, pulled down the blinds, then they locked themselves behind iron bars. “Holy hell! Is all that necessary?” I thought, from the other side of the street. It looked like they were expecting the Purge to begin in a few minutes. I could hear bottles clanking in the distance.

We looked down the street. As if choreographed, all the shops and businesses in turn pulled similar metal bars down. The whole town was closed for the night. “Yikes,” I thought. “Are we going to have to spend the night at Starbucks?”

I turned to look at Mark. Before I could even ask him what he thought we should do, some shady looking creep approached us. “I have hotel. You need hotel? Yes… I have!” We wanted to tell this slimy guy to get lost, but he was right. We did need a hotel. So, we followed him.

He took us into a dirty building with lots of little shops and dingy looking restaurants. It felt like everyone inside was staring at us and whispering to each other, “Those two are about to be exploited.” The guy we were following was still working the crowd. There were 3 or 4 other tourists he tried to make follow him to his hotel, but they clearly had better option than we did.

The creep took us to a room with no windows and a bathroom that was oddly wet. Mark and I popped our heads in to look inside, but didn’t like what we saw. But, the creep insisted that we enter the room before we made up our minds. “It’s okay,” Mark politely declined, “we don’t need to both go inside.” The creep would not let it go, “Just go inside, please.” So we went in.

There was one single bed and about 1 square foot of space in the room that was neither bed nor bathroom. He quoted a price that Mark thought was way to high for such a dump. I didn’t hear what he said. I was busy thinking about how much I would rather spend the night at Starbucks and how much I needed to get out of the room, but Mark was blocking the way. To go around him, I would have to climb on the bed. I didn’t want to touch the bed. “…And, why was the bathroom wet!? They could not have just cleaned, it’s past midnight,” I thought.

Sensing our hatred for the windowless room with the one twin bed and the mysteriously wet bathroom, the creep remembered another room. The second room, the one in the photo above, was double the size. It had 2 windows and a moldy, but dry bathroom. This room was still terrible, overpriced, and we did not want to stay in it, but it was slightly better than spending the night at Starbucks (which we weren’t completely sure would stay open all night).

We took the room. But we tried not to touch anything. We slept with all our clothes on. We unpacked nothing. And, we left as soon as the sun came up practically running away from the place.

We paid in cash, giving the money to the creep before he left. The creep showed us the light switch, there was only one, and how to use the faucet. Then he said, “People usually give tip now.” Then he stuck his grubby hand out at us moving it from Mark to me then back as if he didn’t know whether he or I or both would give him money.

I stood there shocked at the creep’s audacity. This was not the type of hotel where tipping happened. Plus, it’s not like he carried our bags or anything. Mark looked at him and told him, “Well, usually people give tips in the morning, depending on how nice the room is.” The creep looked at the room and whined, “I’m not here in the morning, can I have my tip now?”

Mark gently escorted the creep out the room and started to shut the door as he said, “That’s not how things are done. Tomorrow… maybe… it depends…”

There’s no one around to tip…

The next day we found a hostel and met some really nice people who we explored Hong Kong with. They were the bit of sunshine in the rainy cloud that was our time in Hong Kong. But we still had to deal with the Airbnb host we could not find.

The guy went ahead and charged Mark for 3 nights stay, even though he was not smart enough to give us directions. Mark asked him to refund the money, but the host claimed that we cancelled at the last minute. With Airbnb we can cancel and get a full refund, only if it is more than 3 days before the time of our stay. Since, we supposedly cancelled on the night we were to arrive, he just charged us for the whole 3 nights’ stay.

But we didn’t cancel at all. If we did, he would have been able to keep our money. Mark wrote a letter to the higher-ups at Airbnb and explained our situation. After a few weeks, Airbnb refunded all our money back. But by then we were out of Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong this was hanging over our heads. It wasn’t about the money. It was this feeling of being taken advantaged of. This was our first day in Hong Kong and it was a very bad experience.

But, luckily we met some really great guys from Holland. We would go out to eat with them a lot. We did some sight seeing with them too, but mostly we ate. We had a great time with them and it helped us forget the horrible first day in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong
(中華人民共和國香港特別行政區)
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Hong Kong by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane.

***Entry to Hong Kong is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Hong Kong uses the British style plug.
  • Get an  Octopus Card for public transportation.
    • Get one at the airport
    • Refundable HK$50 deposit
    • You can use it to pay for train, buses, and many other things.
  • If you’re in the market to buy electronics, Hong Kong is the place for you!
    • There is no sales tax, so everything is Duty Free.

Australia Dairy Company

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • 26 – 30 Yuan for a set meal

Hours:

  • 7:30 – 23:00

Notes:

  • I highly recommend the scrambled eggs.
    • They are the best thing on the menu and the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted.
  • Go early and prepare to stand in line.
    • The bigger the group you go with the longer you will wait.
    • You might be placed at a table with people you’ve never met before.
    • The restaurant will be crowded with waiters wizzing by you.
      • Don’t make sudden moves.
      • Don’t bring big bags with you.
    • The wait staff might come off as being a bit rude.
      • They can be a little rude if they like; the food is legit!

Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Downhill direction: Mid-Levels – Central 6am to 10am daily
  • Uphill direction: Central – Mid-Levels 10am to midnight daily

Notes:

  • This is the longest covered outdoor escalator in the world.
  • There are many stops along the way.
  • Be careful when going from the top of one escalator to the bottom of another (or visa versa). Sometimes, you will needed to cross the street, so watch out for traffic.

Noon Day Gun

Basic information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • everyday at noon

Notes:

  • There are other “Noon Day” guns throughout the world, though many have been discontinued.
    • The one in Edinburgh, is fired at 13:00 and is called the 1 O’clock gun.
  • Be careful when trying to cross the street near the gun. There is an underground walkway that goes from the nearby mall to the gun.

Hong Kong Museum of History

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Closed Tuesdays
  • 7:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There are no audio guides, but there are many short films throughout the museum.
    • They are played in 3 languages, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
  • Bring a light jacket or a long sleeved t-shirt; it can get chilly.

Tim Ho Wan

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There is usually a line of people waiting to get in.
  • You might be placed at a table with strangers.

Tian Tan Buddha

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free to see the outside
  • There is a small charge to enter the Buddha

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:30

Notes:

Map:

Posted in China, Hong Kong | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Travel Tips for Japan

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 10, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.
  • Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • You can find it in the store sometimes.

Just about everything else can be bought in Japan.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • Don’t take big luggage on the train.
      • One suitcase or one carry-on only.
      • Backpacks are okay if you put it on your lap or on the rack above the seats.
    • Mail your bigger bags from the airport (in Japan) to your hotel.
  2. Clothes:
    • Uniqlo is the best choice for affordable clothes that can fit larger sizes.
      • Go one size up. If you are a medium back home, in Japan you are a large. Large –> X-Large.
    • They have stores like the Gap here, but it’s more expensive than back home.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying at a hostel.
    • You will need your towel at most onsens (hot springs).
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • You will need these at hostels and at some onsens.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or at grocery stores.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find it, if you look hard enough.
    • The bigger the city you’re in, the easier it will be to find.
    • Just to be safe, bring extra from home.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • Japan loves sunscreen!
    • You will find lots of brands.
      • They have gels, lotions, sprays, sprits, and the other day I saw one advertised as being extra milky…
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
    • Do not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, or Codeine into Japan.
  8. Other things you should bring
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone

Try Calpis!

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.
  • It takes a few days to get a hang of the Tokyo subway system, a few weeks to understand the buses, and about a year to master both of them at the same time.
    • Public transportation is a lot easier in the other Japanese cities.
  • Generally, there is no free parking in Japan.
    • Sometimes shops will have free parking for customers, but only for customers. So, technically, that’s complimentary not free.

Food:

  • You can save money on food by buying bento boxes at convenience or grocery stores.
    • You will be given chop sticks.
    • Some grocery stores will have microwaves to heat up your food and even chairs and tables where you can eat.
    • All convenience stores will heat up the bento you buy if you ask.
  • Some kaiten Sushi restaurants are very affordable. Like:

Shopping:

Money:

  • It has gotten a lot easier to get money from a non-Japanese bank in Japan.
  • Use the Japanese Post or the 7-Eleven ATM.
  • Before you leave for Japan, call up your bank and ask if your bank card will work in ATMs in Japan and if so, which ones.
  • Credit cards mostly do not work here.
    • Sometimes they do, so try it if you really need it.
    • I saw a Discover card logo listed as a paying option at a pharmacy once…

Scams:

  • The are really no scams being run on tourists in Japan.

Tattoos:

  • You will be asked, at most onsens, to cover up any tattoos you might have.
    • I think you can just put a bandage over it.

Visa:

  • To enter Japan, you will need to have a ticket leaving Japan, unless you have a visa already or an ARC.

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.

Posted in Japan | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Robots & Drink Baths

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 5, 2017

Saturday, July 8th and Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

People have this idea that Japan is a quirky place where strange things happen all the time. This notion pops up mostly on meme posting sites, but sometimes you can see it on the news as a “crazy thing they’re doing in Japan now”. Case in point, the Bagel Head trend. It was called a fad that was sweeping Japan. It was not, but since everyone is conditioned to believe that the Japanese love odd trends and most readers/ viewers had never been to Japan, this falsehood was easily taken up and retold.

Bageling one’s head was no more a trend in Japan than it was in New York or London.

That said, you can find crazy stuff in Japan. But, it’s mostly kept in and around Tokyo where tourists can find it. The thought is, “If this is what tourists expect and are willing to pay for, we’ll do it!” I introduce to you the Robot Cafe:

It’s a shame what happened to Daft Punk.

It is advertised as a robot burlesque show. It has a lot of stuff. There are many things going on during the performance, however at no point did I see any actual robots or burlesque. There is a scantily clad baddie who dies in an absurdly sexy position, but there is no dancing involved. When there is dancing, it’s more peppy than sexy, so not burlesque.

a non-robot performing a non-dance

So, what is the show about?

I saw it. I definitely did. But… I’m still not sure what happened.

This is how I imagine the board meeting to decid what the show would be about went…

Boss: “Okay, we going to do this thing. Any ideas on what it should be about? Remember, no idea is a bad idea!”

Person 1: “I watched Fern Gully last night, why don’t we just plagiarize that?”

Boss: “Yea, that sounds nice.”

Person 2: “Why don’t we have a 50’s Americana style dance off with cheerleaders… like half-way through the show?”

Boss: “Good, good. Keep it coming!”

Person 3: “I like parades. Why don’t we have a parade? … with really unnecessarily loud music to kick things off?”

Boss: “Genius!”

Person 1: “Since you liked my Fern Gully idea, why not have some teen… I mean post pubescent genetically altered martial art amphibians?

Person 2: “Oh, and let’s rip off Tron while we’re at it!?”

Person 4: “I like fire breathing mechanical chickens!”

Person 2: “Maybe we should call it a phoenix?

Person 4: “No, it should be a chicken.”

Looking for the plot of the show as a robot dies in the background.

Boss: “I’ll do all of that! Unfortunately the mechanical chicken will cost so much that we will not have money left in the budget to get any robots. But I think the people will enjoy the chicken much more.”

Mark enjoyed the show. I was just confused. There were zero robots. I think there was one guy in a robot costume, but he was on stage for less than 5 minutes.

At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun you can soak in hot water and enjoy a beautiful view of the nearby mountains. But, this is not why most people go. They go to get coffee poured on their heads, to sit in wine, sake, coffee, green tea, and whatever the special liquid of the day is. This is the kind of kitch I like.

This one doesn’t have as many international tourists. It’s a bit hard to get to and the information online is mostly in Japanese. It can also be a bit expensive at 4,000 yen when most osens cost 500 yen. But, with a little persistence we found an online coupon that got us in for 3,000 yen with a complimentary lunch set. (It’s still expensive, but whatchya gonna do?)

I enjoyed it! My swim suit smelled like wine for weeks afterwards, but it was worth it.


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Robot Restaurant

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.694312, 139.702865

Address:

  • 〒160-0021 Tokyo, 新宿区Kabukicho, 1−7−1 新宿ロボットビル

Phone:

  • +81 3-3200-5500

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 15:00 – 23:00
  • 1 hour show
  • Show up at least 30 minute before the show.
  • There are 4 shows a day.

Videos:

Notes:

  • I didn’t really like it, but many people did.
    • The area where we sat was too cramped.
    • The show made very little sense.
    • Honestly, I thought the tickets were overpriced even with the online discount.
    • Had it been a $20 show, it would have been worth it.
  • The food is not that great.
    • Mark and I didn’t order the food. In fact, only one group of people did.
    • It looked like the bento you get from 7/11, which would be fine if it didn’t cost $10.
  • Bring ear plugs.
    • The music is quite loud.
    • Kids are given ear protection, like those worn by people who work on the tarmac at airports. Adults are given nothing.
  • Not too far from the Godzilla head.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
(箱根小涌園ユネッサン)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.239393, 139.045280

Address:

  • 1297 Ninotaira Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa

Phone:

  • 0460-82-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  •  YUNESSUN 2,900 JYP
  • MORI NO YU 1,900 JYP
  • YUNESSUN & MORI NO YU Combo  4,100 JYP
  • Addition costs:
    • Towel Rental:
      • Bath towel 100 yen,
      • Face towel 50 yen
    • Swimsuit rental: Men’s 650 yen, Women’s 1080 yen, Children’s 650 yen
      • Sizes range from men: M~6L
      • Women S~4L
      • Children 70cm~160cm
    • Lunch:
      • Inside the Yunessun area (Fontana): ~600+JYN – 900JYN
      • There are more restaurants outside the Yunessun area, but still in the building: Prices are higher than Fontana

Hours:

  • YUNESSUN: (Swim suit sections)
    • 09:00-19:00(March-October)
    • 09:00-18:00 (November-February )
  • MORI NO YU: (Naked Section)
    • 09:00-21:00

Notes:

  • Shampoo and Conditioner are complimentary and placed in the showers.
  • You should bring your towel or rent one there.

Map:

Posted in Hakone 町, Japan, Kanagawa 県, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: