October 29, 2003

Yo-Yo Taipei

I have been in Taiwan for almost a week already. I'm staying at the Taipei Hostel. Which is a bit run-down, but has a great central location and free internet if you have your own computer (they are threatening to impose a reasonable charge)! Yay. Before I go into too much detail about Taiwan, I feel that I should post a bit more about Japan.

I had a really nice time in Kyoto, visited lots of temples and gardens (will post pictures soon). Unfortunately I didn't get quite as gob-smaked by the sights in Kyoto as I did by the ones in Kamakura, but still really enjoyed walking all over the city. I especially liked discovering unexpected sights while walking. I met some really great people at the hostel and participated in LOADS of tea ceremonies. I tried staying in a Japanese style hotel, but it wasn't very Japanese (the only thing that the great tourist office in Kyoto got way wrong.) I also stayed for a huge parade/festival, loads of folks dressed-up in traditional clothes. The costumes were amazing, I'll post pictures.

My first impression of the people in Japan is that they are not very friendly (esp. compared to China.) However, once I actually met some locals (much harder in Japan than in China) they are really lovely and very genuine! One of the guests at the hostel made the comment that Japanese people don't seem to be connected with things "outside" themselves, but have a tremendous amount of time/energy for the internal. This seems to hold for friendships as well as for personal space (many buildings look quite ugly on the outside, but inside they are gorgeous!!!)

The flight to Taiwan was easy, as was the bus from the airport to the hostel. I have done a little roaming around here. Mostly walking, which is very easy here, although the distances are a bit much. The underground here is fantastic, so that helps quite a bit at the end of a long day walking. My first impression of Taiwan is that it is a dirtier China... After being here a few days, I have also noticed that it is MUCH easier to communicate with folks here.

I have visited a couple of night markets, and electronics markets (I love browsing.) Also been to see the Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial, which looks like it would be amazing, except that it's completely covered in scafolding. The gardens around it are realy nice. As is the National Palace Museum, which has the largest collection of Chinese art in the world. As museums go, it wasn't quite as nice as the Shanghai Museum, but they did have some really amazing things on display (I especially liked some of the more recent china.)

Yesterday, I tried to get a ticket to see a Yo-Yo Ma concert, but they were "sold out". They broadcast the whole concert just outside the National Theater for free, so I had a great time watching/listening/socializing. And the whole band (Yo-Yo and a bunch of South American muscicians) came out after the concert and did a big charity speil with Mercedes... They performed some live music too, which was quite nice! I put "sold out" in quotes, because I could see plenty of empty seats on the video feed... Maybe they were sold, but folks didn't show, or maybe the ticket agent thought I looked a little rought for something as posh as this concert... Who knows, I would have loved to hear more of them live (rather than through the PA system outside.) Sitting on the ground with tons of Taipei-ites was a pretty great experience anyway, so I'm not complaining.

Posted by binduwavell at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

Goodbye Japan, Hello Taiwan

I have had a very full two weeks in Japan and am now heading to Taiwan. Just wanted to post this brief note so folks know where I'm at. Will post more about Japan from Taipe.


Posted by binduwavell at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2003


A very quick update as my internet time is severely restricted tonight... I have been incredibly busy the last few days. Traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto on the bullet train. The journey was only remarkable in that it was very clean, very fast, and very expensive, and I had a glimpse of Mt. Fuji as we screamed by (it was gone before I made it back to my seet for my camera.)

I spent my first 4 nights in a very regimented youth hostel. Which was actually really nice. I spent last night (and will do the same tonight) in a japanese guest house, which was recommended by the local tourist office. Unfortunately it's missing several of the Japanese things I was expecting, so it's mostly like being in a western hotel... Tomorrow, I'm heading back to the YH.

Accomodation asside, I have walked all over western and eastern Kyoto. I have seen temples, gardens, cemetaries, ceremonies, shrines, shops, restaurants, lots of flowers and lots of trees some of which are just starting to turn to lovely autumn colors.

I have also participated in tea ceremony 4 or 5 times (I hope no one out there is surprised ;) Last night I visited a really great tea ceremony class that is hosted by a Canadian expat named Randy Channell (see his website if you like.) It was so great to get clear descriptions of some of the ceremony. Tonight I joined in a class at the Kyoto International Community House where I was able to prepair Sencha tea (the teacher sitting next to me telling me which: hand, finger, utensil, cup to: pick-up, put-down, turn over, hold, re-hold, pour, roll, etc. It was really great and quite overwhelming! Apparently there are 24 slightly different ceremonies based on the season (major changes 2 times a year, and minor changes every 2 weeks or so.) I see how this has to be a lifetime study!!! Then there are differences for Matcha (powder tea), Sencha (green leaf tea), Gyokuro (sweet green leaf tea), Chinese, Black, etc... And differences for different utensils, containers, etc... Wow!

A couple of days ago I spent the day with a couple other guys from the youth hostel. We went to a "Doll Burning" ceremony. Lots of dolls were displayed... luckily we didn't see any of them being burned (most had some plastic parts.) Many were very beautiful. As far as we could tell the main purpose of the ceremony was to allow the spirits/energies in the dolls to be released after good service/work. Anyhow, there were quite a few Nuns, a Geisha, Two Maiko (sp? - aprentice geisha) and a musician who played a lovely one stringed instrument. It was really magical, and quite an honor to be allowed into the inner sanctum of the nunnary for some of the ceremony!

Times almost up so will leave it there.

Posted by binduwavell at 05:56 AM | Comments (4)

October 10, 2003

Amazing Zen!

Thank you Nanda! After a really crappy morning I followed my dear friend, Nanda's advice, and took the train out to Kamakura. Actually I went to Kiti-Kamakura which is just north of town and walked through several really lovely Zen monestaries into town. Since India I have been craving sacred places that feel sacred to me... I struck out in Thailand, Laos and China. Japan, however, came through twice in one day! I don't think I could do either place justice. Very roughly then, they were both very green "parks" with lovely temples and lots of hidden grave/shrines. The most wonderfull Buddha statue I have ever seen, the scent of burning leaves and fresh oriental lillies, lots of moss and just enough flowers to be delightfull without being gaudy (sp?). Lovely old japanese architecture, amazing inscense, bamboo in the most unlikely and lovely places, very tall old trees creaking away at eachother, dusk... Lovely!!!!

Not sure where to go from there so I'm gonna head back to yesterday. I spent the mornin back in the electronics district, got bored quickly and headed north to a lovely Japanese garden. Had lunch in a neigborhood noodle shop. Finally found the garden, had a great walk (millions of pics to post). Then headed off walking for a chinese garden, but bumped into a Tea/Cake shop and got stuck for 2 hours chatting with the proprietor... Found out that I actually really like Japanese Tea, I just had never had it prepared properly. Not a very full day,
but quite enjoyable none the less.

This morning I did my laundry and managed to wash my passport, Thaiwan visa and Thaiwan airline ticket! I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but I still felt like a pill. Then I went to the Sumo center to see if I could get a peek at the guys practicing, but no luck. I checked out the Edo-Tokyo museum which wasn't bad, but wasn't really good eaither.. After a slight false start I headed off for Kamakura with the results described above.

After visiting the monestaries, I walked into town. There was a very small sidewalk and quite a lot of traffic whizzing by, but I was so engrossed in all the little nooks where people plant things and put beautifull objects that I hardly noticed. One really lovely site was a staircase leading up to a house that was framed on both sides with lovely puple flowers and overhung with an apricot tree. The tree was bare except where it hung over the entry (after the fact I realized that this was almost definatley intentional, as it was very striking) there were at least 20 lovely apricots on the trea... The smell was delightfull, they view was diving ;) Another interesting vista along the road was a "tunnel" with "skylights"... Similar effect to a tree lined street where the trees create a complete canopy over the road... letting some light through... I think it was there as a security measure in case the cliff walls on either side of the road crumbled, because there was nothing on top of the tunnel... I'm finding this very hard to describe so I'll stop there... I enjoyed it as a piece of architecture...

The town proper is really very nice, lots of gorgeous stores! I wanted to buy so much stuff, insense, dishes, tea pots, boxes, baskets, shoes, fans, amazing No masks, jewlery... In anycase it was delightfull looking at lots of lovely things that didn't feel at all mass produced!

Before I got to town I had seen several lovely looking restaurants, but wasn't hungry yet so I kept on. By the time I was near the trainstation to leave I was finally feeling hungry, I was delighted to find a really good and cheap Sushi restaurant (half the price of Sushi at home!)

So even though I'm gonna have to goto the airline and replace my ticket before leaving Japan and I'll probably need to get a new passport (it's still usable, just very damaged), I feel like the day was a major success!

Loads of love to you all!

Posted by binduwavell at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2003

Hello Japan!

Well, I've been in Tokyo just under 24 hours. It's quite a culture shock and sticker shock, but really nice (big city and all). Yesterday and today have both been very crisp, first time I've worn my sweater since leaving England. I'm sure glad I carried half way round the world :) I'm staying in a dorm room in a Youth Hostel for $30 a night. It's very clean and friendly and at the moment. I think it would also be quiet except that there are about a million teanage australian girls prancing around the place. I think they're here for some sort of dance festival/training. I have my priorities straight so I have been roaming around the electronics district. It's infinately nicer than the same districts in Delhi and Bangkok! Unfortnately prices are not great... They weren't in Delhi, Bangkok or Hong Kong either... I managed to blow up the battery charger for my camera so I'm trying to sort that out... Anyway, just wanted to write a quick note to let you all know that I've arrived in Japan and to express some of my initial impressions.

Love to you all!

Posted by binduwavell at 09:14 PM | Comments (3)
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