Three Sisters

The Blue Mountains near Sydney provide some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. This is of the the three sisters in Katoomba. You can climb down some stairs and up to the middle of the first sister. Those were some scary stairs.

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Great Wall

The Great Wall of China. I still can’t believe I actually got to go! It was the only place I knew I wanted to see on our trip. We took an overnight tour offered by our hostel and had an amazing time exploring the wall.

We left the hostel at 1 pm and drove two hours to the far end of the Badaling section of the wall. This was not the Badaling section teeming with tourists and souvenir stalls. In our entire time on the wall we saw only one other group. Our guide showed us where the tents were and told us what time to meet back for dinner and then we were free to explore the wall!

As amazing as it was to be at the Great Wall, all I could think about for our three hour hike was how many stairs there were, and when they would stop. It was quite the workout. Up and down, up and down, some parts on rocks that crumbled beneath our feet or on stairs only half as wide as my foot. The extreme concentration I was putting into not dying of a fall or a stroke meant that I took only one photo of myself on the wall, and it’s that beauty up there. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

 

After a delicious dinner we were set free on the wall until 8:30 the next morning, when the guides would be back to pick us up. All alone on the world heritage site, we had a good time playing with our cameras and flashlights, until one of the flashlights fell over the wall and we were forced to compete in events of physical strength instead.


The night was cold, windy, and more than a little miserable, but it was worth it in the morning, when we woke up to watch the sunrise. Some of our group were ambitious and went on a two hour trek, but I only made it to the first tower. The view was spectacular.

I definitely recommend the overnight tour. While we might not have been at one of the most famous or most beautiful areas of the wall, having the whole place to ourselves was amazing. The tour cost about $90 and included three meals and all the camping equipment. I would however, recommend bringing warm clothing and an extra blanket so you can sleep well enough to hike in the morning.

How to: We booked the trip through Leo Hostel, a place I would definitely recommend staying!

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Sleeping in an internet cafe

Many Japanese people rely on public transportation, but also work/party very late and often miss the last train. Luckily there are a lot of options for people who can’t make it home. Capsule hotels are popular and cheap, but usually for men only. Another option is the Internet Cafe. Popular with the young, the cheap, and the drunk, internet cafes advertise their rates by hour and by night.

On our trip to Kokura, we had no place to stay, so we hit up an internet cafe. For about $15 we each got a small room to ourselves for 9 hours.

The room had a chair, a computer and a foot stool. WE also got access to blankets, pillows and a lot of Manga.

There was an unlimited supply of vending machine coffee and coke, and a sweet massage chair.

It wasn’t comfortable, but it was interesting.

 

*sorry for the bad pictures, they’re from my phone.

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How not to use your Mama-Chari: Bicycling in Japan

When I arrived at my apartment in August, there were three abandoned bikes lying in the yard. It turns out there are a lot of abandoned bikes in Japan, because they are so cheap. A decent bike is only about $80 at our local store. Of course, these bikes are pretty basic, with no gears, but they come with a light, a lock and a sweet basket. It’s the basket that gives them their name, Mama-Chari, or Grandma’s bicycle.

I, at one time, owned three bikes, one I purchased, one from the yard and one from my school. However, it seems that bikes are the only thing people in Japan will steal, and my school bike was stolen from the train station that I had one described as ‘so remote, you don’t need to lock your bike’.

My major bike mishap was a little more serious though. The mama-charis come with a light attached to the front wheel that uses the wheels motion to power the light. You can flick it off during the day to reduce resistance. A month ago, I was riding to the station in the dark when I decided to flick on the light, with my foot. Whoops.

Of course, my shoe immediately got stuck in the spokes and I had one of those transcendental, slow-moving time moments where I knew what was going to happen and I couldn’t stop it. Up over the handle bars I went, as I did a face plant on the ground and my bike landed on top of me. In a little shock, I tried to get up and I noticed a small child staring at me from his parents lawn. His eyes were gigantic and he ran away as soon as I said hi. Picking up my stuff, I decided I could still make it to the train station on time. I was obviously delusional. My bike was barely functional, having lost the light, the bell, some spokes, and most of the basket to the fall. I made the train but after getting on I looked in the mirror and noticed a huge bruise already forming on my face and then at my hand to see that it was covered in blood. I got off at the next station and turned around.

A week after the incident!

Scott met me, and as soon as we made it home I discovered massive bruises on my thighs from the handlebars, the beginnings of a black eye, and a killer headache. I spent the rest of the weekend in bed catching up on Mad Men, so at least one positive thing came out of my idiocy. And I’ll definitely never stick my foot in the spokes again.

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