Archive for November, 2008

Hostile Hostels

November 22, 2008

One of my biggest concerns prior to leaving was the selection of a place to stay in Hong Kong. A friend of mine, who grew up there, stongly recommended against staying in one particular building. I asked if the neighborhood was bad, and she replied, no, just the building. Her story was coroborated by some other articles which I read, in fact they warned away from another building as well.

The problem is that becase I’ll be staying there over New Years, which is a very popular holiday, finding a place to stay, at an affordible rate, was very difficult. I spent several days searching and could not find anything less than $150 a night which was anywere near the city or municiple railway..

It was with great trepidation that I eventually chose a place in the building I was warned against.

The online reviews of the place basically fall into three complaints:
1) The building is pretty old.
2) The rooms are tiny.
3) There are pushy merchants selling fake watches and other questionable goods in and around the lobby of the building. However, most reviews seemed to think that the place was relitively secure once you got past the merchants.

I did a lot of reading of other reviews, not necessarily about this building. One of the things which struck me was that many travelers complain about bait and switch tactics used by the opperators of the hotels. Additionally there were stories of having to haggle the room price down from a previously agreed upon rate. Most people reported that they were only able to get the origional deal after enough agruing and haggeling.

It became quickly apparent that some of the reviews were fake, probably posted by the owners themselves. These are easy to spot because while every other reivew is low these are high, they mention no negitives about the place, nor speciffics about the experience.

All of these things together make me feel uneasy about what my Hong Kong experience will be like. One thing that’s hard to do, while reading a review is to get a feel for what kind of traveler the reviewer is. Everyone brings their own bias and expectations into a new situation even if it is the norm for the area, as evidenced by the “small room” complaints.

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Blast off!

November 22, 2008

The time has finally come to leave the country.  I’m pretty sure that I have everything packed and ready to go.  I’ve been pretty relaxed since I ran my last errand at 7:30 last night, but now I’m starting to feel a slight panic… Am I sure I have everything packed?  The check list grows with inane items like “keys” and “wallet”, can’t leave without those!

While I’m pretty sure that I’ve got everything, I’ve been up all night, so fatuge is a factor.  I woke up 24 hours ago, went on a 15 mile bike ride, went to work, finished up packing, attended a birthday party, and tidyed up the apartment a little.  I’m feeling pretty good all things considered.

Anyway, the next post you read will have been published in Japan.

I’m off!

The Countdown has begun.

November 12, 2008

I’m making progress on my todo list, 9 items are checked off, and there are 12 remaining. Of couse, I keep adding items, so I feel like i’ll never reach the end.
Below is a photo of my Japan Rail Pass. I was able to walk into the travel agency and have it issued to me in a few minutes. Of course the exchange rate has been working against me, so I feel like I overpaid, but better to have the pass and not have to worry than to be waiting for the sun and moon to align with the currency market.

Not much to report other than that, I’m leaving in 10 days, so I’m really starting to feel the count down.

Meanwhile at work I’m getting a few more last minute projects piled on. Hopefully I’ll be able to crank through that stuff in the 8 working days I have left, but I it’s at the point that if something goes wrong then It could take a lot longer.

This post has also served as a successful test for my ability to take a photo edit it, and publish it online from my phone.

Travel Info

November 10, 2008

Timeline:
Nov 22:  Depart
Nov 23 – Dec 15: Japan
Dec 15 – Dec 21: Taiwan
Dec 21 – Dec 27: Singapore
Dec 27 – Jan 04: Hong Kong (Might take a quick jaunt to Macau)

Flights:
United Airlines # 837
Departure SFO Nov 22 11:06 PST
Arrival NRT Nov 23 15:30 JST

United Airlines # 853
Departure NRT Dec 15 18:45 JST
Arrival TPE Dec 15 22:00 CST

EVA # 871
Departure TPE Dec 21 16:35 CST
Arrival HKG Dec 21 18:20 HKT
United Airlines # 895
Departure HKG Dec 21 20:10 HKT
Arrival SIN Dec 21 23:50 SGT

United Airlines # 896
Departure SIN Dec 27 06:50 SGT
Arrival HKG Dec 27 10:25 HKT

DragonAir # 864
Departure HKG Jan 04 09:30 HKT
Arrival PVG Jan 04 11:50 CST
United Airlines # 858
Departure PVG Jan 04 13:45 CST
Arrival SFO Jan 04 08:07 PST

TODO

November 9, 2008

My todo list is growing out of control. I still have way too many things to do before I leave on my trip in two weeks, and I’m worried that I won’t get most of it done. For example, I’m going to be in Hong Kong over New Years and I haven’t booked a place to stay yet. I’m worried that I won’t be able to find a place. If this was the only thing I had to do, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but there are many more things, and they all require some of my time.

Also on my list is getting a Japan Rail Pass. This is a requirement if you want to get around Japan because the general train fares are very high. And, while it might be entertaining to get a car, the reality is that it would be very expensive and there would be nowhere to park, not to mention that I can’t read Japanese, so figuring out the complexities of valid parking times and rates would be a big hassle.

I still have bunch of shopping I need to do as well… Man, I’m never going to get this stuff done!

On top of that I have friends visiting from out of town, so I have to hang out with them because I won’t see anyone I know until next year. Next year… it sounds so far away. There’s also birthday parties, and various other social engagements, which are all competing for my suddenly precious time.

So, the mood of the day is stressed.

I’m also trying to find a good camera to take with me. The problem is that I basically have to order it today if I want to buy it online. Otherwise, I’ll have to stop by Best Buy, or some other crappy retail outlet which will have clueless sales goons and overpriced goods.

The good news is that I’ve figured out how I’m going to keep in touch with everyone while I’m on the road; this blog. Now all I have to do is email everyone I know and tell them about it.

Time for me to start working on shortening the todo list. Accomplished 3 items yesterday, added 1 item today so far, so only 17 items to go…

First post

November 7, 2008

Welcome to my blog. After playing around with a band name generator I’ve finally come up with name which amuses me.

This is a test picture of a Tokyo guide book given to me by a friend.