Category Archives: Travel

Fukuoka

I had a better hotel in Kumamoto, but the livehouse was just around the perimeter of the park, a park I bet I could see from my room if my viewing angle was right. This was the second leg of the Kyushu tour of an idol group I follow. ‘Follow‘ sounds such a casual description, though. I’m here in Fukuoka just for this, so I better call myself ‘a big fan‘.

The early afternoon sun, the early December chill, swing music from the cafe across me, some convenience store snacks. I had all these with me on that park, on a bench, where an old man was picking fallen autumn leaves a second ago. He’s retired since to the cafe. He’s now talking to -I’m assuming here- his wife. Scenes of possible Murakami storylines come flooding in. The block was a mix of medium-rise apartment buildings, and shorter buildings with stores on the first floor. Ten steps away from the cafe was a heavy metal clothing shop.

I gave myself an extra day here. I had ideas. Oyster shucking and grilling at huts somewhere remote. Or see the beach you can reach by subway. A buoy of regret was bouncing in my mind, too, but it wasn’t anything I paid full attention to during my trip: I should’ve skipped this extra day, so I could catch more idol shows in my next destination, Tokyo.

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Kumamoto

The airport was small. To commute downtown, I had to use a vending machine that dispenses tickets for the limousine bus. There wasn’t much to see on my way to the hotel, but the imaginary, cold pins stayed erect on my skin. It was my birthday, the first of December, and I’ve descended on Japanese soil for the first time. Well, I was in Tokyo first, had a serene half-hour waiting time with my co-passengers -proper, business-attired folk- for the Kumamoto-bound flight. There was a fleet of students off to somewhere else. I was on my second water bottle, and handling new currency added to my heightened senses

The cashier at the convenience store in front of my hotel looked like a foreigner, and I had a reluctant thought that maybe I should strike a conversation in English. No, I didn’t have to, so I didn’t. I had my snack at the hotel lobby, since it wasn’t check-in time yet. Around an hour later, I had my arms around Kumamon, the black bear mascot of the area, who has an “office” at a mall nearby. I bought postcards, went back, and slept.

Past eleven in the evening, I was in line with salarymen at a ramen shop, and had an emotional moment when I was handed a glass of icy water, along with my food. See, I’ve been based in Shanghai for some time, where, say, after hours of apartment hunting, back in their office, the real estate agent will hand you hot water in a plastic cup for refreshment. Every second consuming that bowl of noodles was immensely delightful, and I only had a photo to remember it.

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PassCode in Taipei

When Yennung handed me over my gig ticket last Sunday, the big relief that came wasn’t the overwhelming sort, maybe because the physical fatigue I’ve went through to be there (spent the night at the airport for an early morning Shanghai to HK to Taipei flight the day before) was still very present. More than a week ago, Yennung was an internet stranger who heeded my call when I showed interest in going to a concert in Taipei by posting on a Facebook fanclub. I wasn’t asking for anything specifically, but about 2 days after we chatted, I was looking at a photo of an electronically printed piece of paper that, figuratively, had my name on it.

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Ending 2016

December’s birthday trip was spent at Anhui Province, a few hours from Shanghai. Boarded a fast train, and the last 1/3 of the ride was done backwards, like we lost our way. I spent a day at Xidi Ancient Town, where I was lead to based on the premise that it was a nice place to take photographs, and that it was the second most touristy ancient town in the area, and therein strikes a good-enough balance for me. Worth going to? Good side-trip, good for an afternoon, but the place is dead after sunset, and I didn’t sense any promise of shooting at night.

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Biking In and Around Shanghai

The break to the nine-month blogging hiatus is going to be about what has become a regular, semi-daily routine for me: biking.

My first bike here was an Oyama folding bike, which I bought on my first year. The justification in getting one boiled down to why-not, because-I-can, and this-is-China-bikes-are-everywhere. I chose a folding bike mainly because of my apartment situation (fourth floor, no elevator). Yes, I can park the thing somewhere else relatively safe, but it will surely stick out all black and shiny, among its rusty, dilapidated cohorts. Several years and apartments later, I decided to not have anything to do with it -and biking- after an accident. Yes, it didn’t really go far, and the most excitement I had with it was going around, scouting photo opportunities during Chinese New Year festivities, and riding the Huangpu River ferry from Pudong to a stop around The Bund.

I swore off bikes for a time, until when I had to use one to ride a bike trail with a group around Yangshuo (read about it here) late June, last year. Riding almost non-stop for 6 hours had me crawling for my bed -since I could not stand on two feet- at the hostel right after, but the realization that I had enough stamina to go through this means one thing for the solo-traveller self: I may not have the knees or footing to trek mountains, but maybe, just maybe, I’m a competent-enough biker.

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