03 December 2007

2007 Japan- Korea - travel emails so far- all collected up to 2 Dec 07


Hi, in Nagasaki today, walking around, and of course to the site of the
second and largest atomic bomb ever dropped in war.
It is a bizarre feeling walking around a subburb of modern Japan, the
usual houses, drink machines, cars, roads and yet there are everywhere
monuments to the atomic bomb detonated here.

The peace park the monument at ground zero...
everything is very low key, there is nothing strident or angry or
screaming.... simply stated, simply shown what happened.

Suddenly the idea of striving for peace,
for getting rid of the bomb,
makes a lot more sense,
the reality hits,
I think I tend to forget the reality of war,
the real death and pain,
the destruction

a good reality check...
it makes me realize once again that war comes out of human
out of fear, and anger and power and ego....
i think that is what creates it.
and after seeing the actual site today: i know that no human
disagreement is worth such weapons, is worth such actions...
There are always other ways... better ways...

I hope I remember that always....



you know what they say about 1st impressions....
well here it goes anyway....

1) "first step"
on the ferry terminal in Japan, in Shimonoseki town (Japanese Port)...
the crowd going to Busan (Korean port) is markedly louder, some
arguments are being settled about queue jumping I presume. but things
move on, it's all normal.

2) "being nice to myself"
buying myself a ticket for the ferry : I intended to sleep on the floor
of a LARGE open space hall, a soft tatami floor, but open nonetheless. -
the girl at the counter is not so friendly, drained and worn out with
silly foreigners asking questions I guess.

so I go way and fill out my form. I come back to another counter and
decide to take a look another look ticket options: a cabin double berth
is only 50% more, ok I'll do it, damn the expense (total of AUD$145).

the passenger crowd is noisy - lots of eating, lot of kids, lots of
shouting and running around. getting a cabin was the best decision I
made ! I get the whole cabin to myself as the boat is not booked out.

Guess I'm showing my age - once a upon I time I'd have slummed it on the
tatami floor.....

3) "freak out"
I wake at 6am its Busan town at 6am - the ship is docked, - oh my god
I rush like a maniac to get dressed and out the door. -BUT everyone is
still on the ship, in fact no one can leave till 8:30 - the ship serves
breakfast till then.

4) "royal treatment"
immigration is lovely. not sure if its my good looks, my suit and nice
pants and shoes, (yes I do travel like that these days, another sign of
age perhaps ?) or because i'm the only western 'whitey English speaker'
on board, but I get shephearded through immigration with great
politeness and speed. Lovely, I won't ask why, I just accept it...

5) "the dude"
tourist info, nice lady, gives me maps, - some tall, massively built
dude in would you believe it gangster type super dark shades hovers
I change money, the dude still hovers.
I scour the area for more info, discover there are ferries from Osaka to
Busan...hm... interesting piece of information...file it away for
As I leave the dark glasses dude comes up to me (I thought he was
watching me) "I'm a taxi driver"....
right !
No thanks mate... I'll walk,
and besides there are litterally 30 cabs with normal looking drivers

6) "accommodation. "
gotta hand it to Lonely planet, they do a good job, although they are
starting to get a bit too uppitty class recently.
In this case I followed their instructions to the letter: catch subway
line 1,
go to "someUnpronoucableKoreanSubwayStation"
get off at exit 3,
cross the lights,
head for bridge,
from bridge take stairs down to parking lot, (huh???stairs down bridge
look for high rise building 106 (written in HUGE letters on its wall)
go to floor 18, flat 2
there is the "Blue backpackers"
wow,,,... it worked, I made it... amazing.

Blue backpackers has free internet (a major plus for Heiko) free laundry
(also a Huge PLUS), free breakfast, and is cheap (for Korea $35) for a
single room (note single room, not dorm, again: age or need for comfort
showing here ?)

Blue Backpackers is run by a very pregnant Korean lady who quit her
office job, rented a whole flat in the same block she lives in and made
it into a two dorms and a private room for Heiko. - well just a private

Singapore used to have such accommodation in the bad old days of the
real Bugis street that Leonard Cohen sings about - now its all santized
and politically correctitized away... (both the accommodation and the
Bugis scene )

7) "the inmates of the blue backpackers"
Heiko, - enough said,.......
Valery, a Mexican Zen buddhist nun - recently arrived from a Japanese
monastery - who is waiting & just got money to travel onwards...
Christian, a French modern day travelling minstrel who busks his way
round the world, mainly SE Asia, HK, China, Korea, - he's off to work
now as I write this. Plays the Violin. Likes to talk, real character.
A young American guy, doing what ????- you guessed it: English teaching
that's it, - still 4 bunk beds left...

8) "first steps out of the nest"
I don't speak much Korean (2 words) so as Christian was just leaving I
joined him on a trip to a mountain temple that he wanted to stay an and
work and meditate in. The temple does not do this anymore, but the trip
was nice, up in the hills of Busan

on the way back we stopped off at the National Uni of Busan - (why ?
just because I have a thing about Universities I guess, or nostalgia ?
away from RMIT too long ? ), the student atmosphere, the cheap eats, the
huge number of mobile phone stalls ... are the hallmarks of student life
in Korea...
We took advantage of the cheap eats.

I found out that Koreans uses an alphabet, Christian can read it after
just 7 weeks. wow.
gotta have a look too.

9) "stuff"
apparently Korea is so small I could zip to Seoul in just 3.5 hours from
here. So it does not matter much where I am, I should be able to make it
to Seoul and the airport in 2 days at most. (Barring Murphy's laws).
The temperament of the Korean people and culture is (to no great
surprise) very different from that of Japan... requires some rejigging.

10) "Money"
it's not cheap. not at all. close to Japan, if not the same. but can be
done on a budget nonetheless....

all for now.... over n out.


.... if you are up to reading an esoteric theory on the effects of
traveling read on, else quit now :-) you have been warned....
it's esoteric, meaning likely to bore you unless you are on the same
wavelength... :-)

"The Observation:"

Traveling in Bali many years ago, I walked around the place a lot,
getting to know the city, figuring out how the transport and
accommodation worked.
As I was happily walking along for some strange reason I got the
shakes, sweaty, weak, something was wrong....

It took me a while to figure it out...

Strange as it may sound I had forgotten to eat !
When I thought about it a bit more I realized that I didn`t know what
hunger felt like anymore....
the different geography, the different country somehow affected my
body, and it took me some conscious effort to re-learn what hunger felt
like... - of course it was not a big deal, I was not going to die of
this or have a real problem, but I did have to again learn to read my
body, such as learning to recognize hunger for example.
Learning to evaluate dangers,
Learning about social norms: it took me quite some time to accept that I
DID care about what the local people thought of me, and again some time
to actually do something about it by dressing better, getting out of the
"my dress code is my essence" thing.

In relating to people, I had to learn that it was necessary to
actually hold my body differently, to think and relate differently in
small subtle ways that were nonetheless important.
An example is: I had to wait longer before speaking. In my own
culture I am used to replying fast and a quick repartee is quite OK, it
is how we communicate. Not so in some other cultures....

Carlos Castaneda (of Mexican Nagual Fame: Don Juan Matus) speaks of
entering a "mood" such as for example the "mood of a warrior" - this
term really sums it up... someone to really connect with another culture
I had to figure out the mood of the culture and enter it.
A 'mood' cannot be easly taught.
You can give a lot of rules and tips but in the end it's a feeling, a
mood. You have some control over it but not totally, sometimes you just
aren't 'in the mood'.

and getting really esoteric: language learning, is a lot of hard work
,but the key I've observed seems to be: if the student can enter the
mood of the language.
I remember learning Thai words, and feeling selfconscious about the
funny sounds I had to make for some words.
Only after a many months did I finally sum up the courage to "let 'er
rip" and my pronounciation improved heaps.

--- ok that's it for the esoteric bits, anyone found similar things ?

. ---ooo000(O)000ooo---
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Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles