Archive for Travel

Climbing Mount Fuji

We had cancelled our trip to Mt. Fuji last time due to the typhoon. But I was lucky to have another chance to climb Fuji very soon. A non-profit organization, called the Society for the Next Generation, organized the program. The organization promotes international youth exchange. We were total 27 people from different countries. Many people were from my residence, Tokyo International Exchange Center, Odaiba.
 
We all gathered at Shinjuku on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 9 in the morning. We took the highway bus to the Gotemba station from where we went to a camp called the House for Youth Exchange. We had some orientation and checked our things needed for climbing. Some volunteers joined us from there. We had a great buffet lunch there. I was surprised even a vegeterian like me had so many things to eat!
 
We headed to Subashiri-guchi, the fifth station for climbing. There are many routes for climbing Fuji. We took the Subashiri route. That day we just climbed to the next station, about 2.5 hrs climb. It was cool and easy because there were green trees all around. There is a shrine of a female goddess on the way, where we can pray for a successful climb. We also met a band with japanese drums, coming down, playing the Fuji yama song 🙂 We arrived at the sixth station in the evening and stayed at the mountain lodge there. Its just a wooden hut, but surprisingly fits in so many people. We had dinner and slept there in sleeping bags.
 
Our plan was to start climbing again at night, from 2 AM, intending to reach the top early to see the sunrise. However, the weather suddenly turned bad with strong winds and light rain. So we had some more sleep and started out at about 3:30 AM. It was still dark, windy and raining gently. It was very cold there. We had to put on our sweaters, jackets and gloves, though it was peak summer in Tokyo! They had lent us search lights that we put on our head. With everyone having search lights the way was lit up very well. We had a professional guide with us. Mountain climbing is definitely not easy and we were given proper instructions. They provided us with small packs of oxygen – powder that we can swallow with water. The air gets thinner with altitude and we may have difficulty in breathing. However, I did not have any problem with that – may be because I am from Nepal 😉 Anyway I was curious to taste a pouch of oxygen – tasteless dust. I have kept the remaining packs as souvenirs.
 
Some friends already started feeling unwell and we had to leave them at the lodge! Anyway, we started climbing, at ridiculously slow pace. We were instructed not to overtake our prof. guide at any cost. We were further divided into groups, with volunteers in each, so that we never get lost. It is very easy to get lost in the dark and mixed up with so many other people climbing.
 
When we reached the 7th station it was already time to sunrise. The clouds were all below us by now. It felt like looking down from an aeroplane. The sun came up from the clouds after sometime. We climbed very slowly resting at many places to get adjusted with the thin air. But still many people felt unwell due to altitude or became tired and had to return back from different stations. It becomes steeper and more difficult the higher we go. The way is all rocky continuous slope. Mt. Fuji has a very clear continuous slope.
 
There were few pay toilets on the way, 100 or 200 yen. We had enough water with us and some energy foods and drinks. No garbage bins, so we have to carry back our garbage. Everyone does that and Fuji is perfectly clean.
 
Finally, after 6 hrs of climb, we were at the top of mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan, at an altitude of 3776 m … yeah !!
Only 15 people out of total 27 made it to the top. The top part is the toughest, with huge rocks and big steps. The weather was perfectly fine by now. It was very sunny and not too cold. But it was very very windy. It was amazing to see the huge crater at the top. The rock around the crater looks somewhat like a crouching tiger, so it is also called the tiger rock. It takes about 1 hour to go around the crater. Unfortunately, no time for that 😦
 
It was soon time to go down. Descending was not so good experience. It was all small rocks and dust down the slope. We had to walk down sticking our foot into the tiny rocks, falling down at times and kicking clouds of dust all around. A layer of rocks easily gets into the shoes making it more painful. Anyway we had to carry down our weight straining our knees and legs. The descend only took about 4 hours.
 
At last, we were back to the camp in the evening, with the victorious pride 🙂
We did not look so beautiful though – all covered with dust, red eyes and sun burnt.
 
Climbing mount Fuji was one of the greatest experience in Japan. I guess the old Japanese saying is quite right – "If you never climb Mt Fuji you are a fool, and if you climb it more than once you are a fool again" 😉 
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Nagano Ski trip

The Tokyo International Exchange Center organized a ski trip to Nagano, a place north-west to Tokyo famous for ski resorts. There were only a limited number of seats. I was lucky to be picked up later from the waiting list. Saturday morning we left for Nagano in two filled buses. It takes around 6 hrs to get there. As we reached there we could see a lot of snow covered hills. The tyres of the bus were wrapped by chains to drive up the icy roads. When we reached at the Shiga kogen ski resort an ambulance ran down sounding its siren – enough to remind us that skiing may be dangerous :-P. My Thai friend had broke his arm last year by skiing.
 
That day we dint ski – just tried on the ski wear and boots. In the evening, we had a Yakiniku party – we have a heated pan, we roast meat, fish, vegetables, etc on it and eat. Well there was a separate vegeterian table too – with a lot of fish and seafood and vegetables. As usual theres beer and drinks – kampei. In the night we had karaoke.
 
Next morning we woke up early and went down to put on our ski wears. The ski boots are painfully hard – we feel like a robot walking with the boots. We went to the ski field carrying the pair of long heavy ski on our shoulder. There was Japanese teacher for beginners like me. Luckily we had a Japanese lady in our beginner team who could translate what she taught us. She first taught us how to fall down safely if we cannot stop. We start sliding down the slope before we can think of anything, and stopping is not easy. Our training was basically how to slow down and try to stop. Quite difficult to control, we fell down many times, crashed into each other. Anyway it was quite fun laughing at each other falling down.
 
After some useless practice we went up the hill to try skiing on the beginner area. I think the lift going up the hill was more dangereous than skiing itself. It was just like a chair, with no bars, going up the hill with the rope – we were advised not to move in the lift. Anyway we reached up the hill, and slided down, fell down crashed down. We repeated many times and slowly overcame the fear and started gaining control. And it was amazing to see very small Japanese children ski so well in dangerously steep slopes ! They were perfect. Finally, we gained confidence – we could control speed and stop. That was all we learnt this time 😛
 
It was a great day, and a great night too. We had a Japanese nabe dinner – a table full of lots of things, we boil them all in the same pot and eat. After that there was social gathering. The Japanese people mixed us in groups and entertained with many interesting games. Especially, the theme guessing game by copying drawings from each other was very funny and interesting. I will enjoy to try it again.
 
The hotel had public bath room and onsen. We have to go in naked. I had tried onsen before also, so this time I was less reluctant 😛
 
The next morning we were quite tired with pain in arms, legs and butt. So many people could not go for skiing. We collected enough tickets from these people and tried skiing again many rounds. But anyway we had to check out and return back in the afternoon.
 
It was great experience. I would like to go again in future 😉
 
 
 

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Kamakura

We went to Kamakura on January 1, 2007 to welcome the new year. Kamakura is a popular tourist attraction in Japan. It has a large number of temples and shrines.
 
One of the most popular attractions of kamakura is the Great Budhha or Daibutsu
 
 
 

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Snow at Nikko

This Friday morning I went to Nikko, a popular sight seeing city to the north of Tokyo. It takes about 2 hours by express train. I went with a Japanese lady from my dormitory and 11 Cambodian students! It was nice to talk to the Japanese and Cambodians.   

Nikko is famous for its marvelous shrines. The temples here are very complex and artistic unlike other temples in Japan which are quite simple in architecture. The Nikko national park is also famous for its natural scenic beauty, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. It is a hilly place and very cold. It is a wonderful place to visit.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html 

It started to snow when we were going up the hill to see the lake and waterfalls. When we got at the top, it was snowing heavily and very windy. We could not go anywhere in this snow storm and decided to return back on the same bus. Anyway the snowfall was beautiful. But on our way back the road was blocked due to the snow and we were stuck in our bus for 3 hours! Finally, we got off the bus and had to walk down about 10 minutes in the snow and wind. Another bus came and picked us up. We returned back safely to our place by train  🙂

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Yokohama

Yokohama is also a beautiful place in Japan not very far from Tokyo. I went to Minato Mirai. It is on the sea side. But there are no beaches. All are taken up by straight concrete reclaimed lands.

We saw big ships. The Hikawa Maru was a hospital ship which survived the second world war. It used to sail to Seattle, US. We can see the Yokohama Bay bridge. There is also a beautiful China town nearby.

But the most remarkable is the Landmark Tower having the highest observatory of Japan at its 69th floor. The elevator to the observatory has been recorded in the Guiness World Record. It is the fastest lift, about 45 Km/hr. We reach the top in just few seconds!

We can enjoy the beautiful view of Yokohama all around.

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Tokyo Disneyland

Last Friday was a national holiday here – bunka day (cultural day). I went to the Tokyo Disneyland with some Nepalis. It is definitely a fine enjoyable place. The ticket is very expensive though.

We went in the morning and stayed till 9 in the evening. But we chose the wrong day. The place was flooded with people as it was a holiday. There were very long queues for everything. Anyway we enjoyed many things there – the car ride, haunted mansion, amazing 3D movie show, Mickey Opera, the rotating cups and many more. Many things for children. But the most spectacular are the parades. People sit on the floor on both sides waiting to watch the parade from more than an hour before. They cheer up as the full size live Disney characters pass by – Mickey, Donald, Snow white and seven dwarfs, Cindrella.. lots of them (kids would know better). There are two parades – one in day and the other one at night. The night parade is more beautiful because everything is lighted up gorgeously. Everything is built up so fine and beautiful.

It is also remarkable how civilized the Japanese people are in spite of so huge masses – so patient, conscious and considerate. The Japanese kids are so cute and nice. They do not trouble their parents. They do not cry. Well trained. Almost all the Japanese had brought their kids.

Finally there are spectacular display of firework too.

Disneyland is definitely a wonderland for kids. All the characters they read in stories and watch in cartoons come to life.

http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/index_e.html

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A visit to Beijing

It was a great experience for me to be in Beijing for a week. Actually, I went to attend the Asian Semantic Web Conference (ASWC) 2006, venue Tsinghua university. I presented my paper in a workshop.
 
I had few days to go around Beijing, a really big place. Anyway I managed to go to few important places.
 
I went to the Tian’anmen square – a very big area. At the center is a marble monument to the people’s heroes in the revolution. Hundred of students died in the square.
 
On the South is the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. The preserved embalmed body or Mao Zedong lies in the hall. Unfortunately, it was closed on the day I visited 😦
 
On the West side of the square is the Great Hall of People where chairman Mao made his declaration. On the east is the National Museum of China. In front of the museum stands a huge board showing the countdown for Beijing 2008 Olympics – it said 704 days left!
 
On the north, across the road, is the famous Tian’anmen gate. Above the entrance there is a huge picture of Mao Zedong. Another big gate is inside and it leads to the big gate of the Forbidden city. I had to buy ticket to enter the Forbidden city (Palace museum). Marvelous place with many chinese palaces, halls, gates, temples and other monuments and beautiful gardens. It is a huge area exhibiting many many things. It is easy to get lost inside, and the provided map is also in Chinese 😛
 
Another achievement was climbing the Great Wall of China. I went with a Chinese tour group leaded by a Chinese guide, explaining everything in Chinese. I went to the Badaling part of the Great Wall. It takes about 3 hours from downtown Beijing. The great is really great. It is so long that you can see as far as your sight goes. Its amazing how such a long enormous structure was built over high hills during those days. Few parts of the great are very steep and difficult to climb. Moreover the steps are quite big. I can proudly say I have climbed the Great wall 🙂
 
On our way back the tour group also took us to the famous Ming Tombs, tombs of the Ming dynasty. We also went to a really big cave inside a hill. There were a lot of chinese statues inside – gods, warriors, long bearded old mens and more. It was bit annoying that the tour group also took us to many shops and industries (like gem industry, fruits, sweets shops, traditional chinese medicine center, etc) for commercial promotion.
 
I also visited the Summer Palace covering really a very big area. Many many marvelous buildings, gates, temples, etc of Chinese architecture. There are hills and palaces on top. There is a very big lake and an island in the center connected by a long long bridge. It really takes a lot of energy to walk around all the places inside. I could not manage to walk everywhere.
 
I went up the CCTV tower and viewed Beijing from the open observatory at the top. However, I could not see far clearly due to the foggy weather. But I can say Beijing is full of high rise buildings as far as you can see. The roads are also very broad. We can see Beijing is a very developed city.
 
I did not miss the Wang Fu Jing Street – a long enjoyable walking street. There are big shopping complexes to many small shopping stalls. It is well lighted in the evening and entertainment programs are staged.
 
Being in Beijing was a great experience and will be very memorable in my life.

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