Thursday, August 08, 2013

RTW2013 Leg 10: Hiroshima to Osaka to Guangzhou to Los Angeles to Detroit to Boston

7/14 - Hiroshima

Despite staying up all stupid hours to watch anime, I'm up with the dawn again.  After getting a midmorning shinkansen connection time, I just need to go buy the ticket, refill at the bank ($15/box for momiji manju is a killer), then repack, junking the stuff that's out of use, and hit the road.  Temperatures are expected to be ridiculous today, so I need to minimize time under load -- and cut that load down if I can.

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1023. A morning look out from the hotel.

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1024. Train crossing east of the station.  Shortly after, it opened.  This crossing is never open.  Sundays.

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1025. Telephone/power/light pole, Showa district southeast of the station.

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1026. Sewer cover with the Carps mascot.  This is in front of a little Carp fan bar on the edge of the tracks that I really regret never having the time to go in to.

In Hiroshima, I didn't go to Iwakuni more than to change trains, I didn't get to the Mazda plant/museum, I didn't see either the Carp or Sanfrecce live, and I didn't really explore the city center at all.  However, I'm pretty well satisfied with what I did see and do, and I'm not going to be carrying too many regrets on to Osaka.

By the simple expedient of throwing out everything no longer needed -- med kit, rope, half the tissues, reverse souvenirs, backup-camera batteries -- I was able to repack everything with room to spare.  The sandals and the knife will get ditched in Osaka, but they retain their use for now.  I'm going to have to re-repack tomorrow to get into an airmobile configuration, but I'd need to unpack anyway to sew my pack back together.  Stupid vodka bottle tearing stuff loose.

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1027. Reclosable beer flask.  This is also coming back; the cap doesn't count, but the bottle is useful for trolling at work.

By luck -- and by 1050 Sunday -- I managed to get a seat.  It's about an hour and a half, and this train terminates at Shin-Osaka.

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1028. Zoom-Zoom Stadium as the train gets cranked up.

video29: There's no speed indicator, but this is probably a personal land record.  Even in comparison to the Munich-Nuremberg run last year, this is kicked up to Ridiculous Speed.

My ears are constantly popping like nothing on land since the climb out of Stockholm.  Some of this is altitude change, and some of it is the extreme amount of tunnels and what that means, just in terms of physics, for cabin pressure.

- Osaka -

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1029. Passage under the JR station.

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1030. The rather imposing hotel.  I arrived early, sweated a small oil slick on the counter, and in most ways caused too much trouble for the staff.  Another black mark against foreigners in Osaka.  :(

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1031. Clock that old-school setup -- one tap, two knobs, sink, bath, or shower.  The note is a nice touch.

The yukata here is not quite long enough for a selfie where I can be sure my junk isn't hanging out, but it's broad enough in the chest and gut that if it was, I could wear it out of the room with no fear of arrest.  Another Osaka stereotype reinforced.

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1032. An impressive look out.  That's a lightbulb reflection, not some nightmarish multiplicity of suns.

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1033. Street and ominous clouds.

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1034. Sky over apartment blocks.

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1035. Stackable parking, Osaka.

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1036. The wind blew most of the weather east.

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1037. Another five-minute downpour detonates in Osaka.

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1038. A second wave in the next intersection.

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1039. Eromanga ni made mou -- tadashii michi!

As suggested, I went out and got dinner, porn, and a bunch of beer, then made an early night of it.  All I had in Osaka was Tsutenkaku -- which I don't really care about -- and takoyaki, and I'm not super nuts about octopus either.  Better to stay in, drink, watch sumo and Sazae-san, and prep for the flight tomorrow.

Amazingly, there are TWO hipster-moe vampire mahou shoujo shows this season, and only one of them is by Type Moon.  What the hell is this is I don't even.  Also, as an airsoft fan I probably need to follow Stella Women's Academy High School Division Class C3, even though it is just Gainax doing K-On! with guns instead of electric guitars.  Why?  Because I already watched K-On! for the instruments rather than anything plot- or character-related (exception: club advisor's backstory) and Gainax is probably your best bet for "TV animation that is also not garbage intellectually", to the extent that such things exist.

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1040. Tada de getto.  I won this gum at 7-11 while buying provisions; sticking your hand into a box to pull draw cards is also Japan.

7/15 - Osaka

The flight's at 2, so I want to catch the 10:15 Haruka out to the airport -- which means leaving the hotel around 9 -- in an hour -- to be sure I can get the ticket and find the track in time.  Let's boogie.

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1041. Clouds over the tracks; it was dripping a little on the hike to the station.

video30: Cicadas - loud as all hell.

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1042. ICOCA poster with mascot (promoting buying soft drinks with your railcard).  This is a rail card that is also a pun; pronounce with a long i and a hard c as per カード and you'll get it.

I tried to shoot Tsutenkaku from the train, but it didn't work out.  Saw it but; now if I can get some takoyaki at the airport, I'll complete Osaka without doing anything.

The city is just endless; the heavily-built-up area stretches almost the entire way out to the airport, which is built on reclaimed land.  Tokyo is even bigger; dunno if, or when, I'll go and see myself.  This is a big damn planet, and our time is short.

- Kansai International -

Half an hour till the counter opens.  Fortunately, I've gotten re-rigged, and it's marginally better than sitting around waiting for the later train.

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1043. They still make it.

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1044. The contents; the last brick of slightly chocolate-flavored shortbread out of four in the pack.  It's not bad, but it's definitely meant for caloric value alone rather than taste.  The name's not just Engrish.

On gear: back at the start of book 1, I set up two test conditions.  Both were directly satisfied.  It's unambiguous that the modern-day field-ready fitba shirt is the best choice for warm-weather light tourism -- and probably for nearly anything as a primary base layer.  Weighing almost nothing, easily cleaned in cold water, practically indestructible, and quick-drying, there is no reason to wear anything else on the top half of your body, especially if you anticipate having to wear the same shirt at least two days in a row.  I should ideally have had more with me -- or, been non-fat enough to wear the Ecuador shirt -- but I did not need my non-fitba t-shirts at all.

In order of utility, it was about like this:
1) adidas Russia "sash"
2) Nike Celtic "1888 hoops"
3) adidas AC Milan "guido pocket"
4) Nike Celtic "green/black away"
DNW - (unknown) Ecuador

The new shirts beat the older ones easily; the material science behind these things keeps advancing by leaps and bounds.  However, now's not too soon to put these in your travel arsenal.  If you don't have a team, the major manufacturers will still sell you field wear in basic colors intended for youth/club teams, so you can get the science without necessarily flagging as a supporter of some club or another.

The tech components were also as useful as hoped.  The most essential piece of equipment on the Trans-Sib is your slippers/sandals, but the second most essential is a  Kindle.  Light, slim, and high-cap, this will stave off boredom for well longer than the eight-day train ride without either the weight or bulk of conventional books.  The tablet was a less dramatic improvement over my netbook, but still eminently useful.  This tech load has been thoroughly vindicated.

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1045. No, Megatokyo didn't make it up.  This reclosable glass jar is also coming home as an extra souvenir for my dad, since I was not 100% satisfied with the cash fan I got at Miyajima.

The flight is delayed, so it's about two hours to liftoff.  Enough to finish the water and sake, and maybe to take another bite of the Bulwer-Lytton.  :shudder:

I get a sticker I'm supposed to put on my stuff as a transit passenger to avoid wasting my China visa, and as expected, I don't have to bag-transfer till the USA.  I should still have enough time to count a China touch, though -- especially if I get a non-minimart meal in the terminal in yuan.

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1046. Takoyaki getto!  Osaka, kansaishimashitta!

That was a pun, and yes, it's terrible.  If you don't get it, keep on not studying Japanese, crap like that is normally thought of as a feature of the language rather than a bug.  Still done.

You can really tell when a flight's from China by the number of cardboard boxes unloaded.  Not freight, just passenger luggage.  Check for it, the next time you're in an international baggage claim.

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1047. Spider on the terminal window.

A Few Words On (80):
Eugene Aram (E.B. Lytton)
This book is about two or three times longer than it needs to be.  Most of it is soporific early-19th-century filler, but there's enough good material that you keep sifting through.  Boring boring boring.

A Few Words On (81):
Falkland (E.B. Lytton)
This is a weird and disconnected novelette that is half ghost story, half martial romance, that at least is over quickly.  Lytton didn't write too many of those, so cherish the chance to get through something of his in less than an hour.

A Few Words On (82):
The Haunted and the Haunters (E.B. Lytton)
This is another quick novelette, a ghost story that might easily be taken from a D&D module, so straightforward and exoteric is its one-path haunted-house plot.  Blackwood and then Lovecraft would have -- and did -- worked this germ of an idea further forward, but this is a worthy predecessor.

- Guangzhou -

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1048. China touch GET.

This doesn't look like much, because I was trying not to attract attention.  Nevertheless, this is outside concrete, feet down in the PRC, gray skies above and rain falling.  I would not take this as a first touch in China, but I've been here before, so it's ok.  On to LA -- and hopefully my bag will make it, unplundered.

A Few Words On (83):
Lucretia (E.B. Lytton)
This book is super long and super useless.  You should be able to see the twist ending long before everything is in place, but the volume is so stupidly verbose that you will probably be bleeding out of your ears by the time you get there.  Deadly dull and torturous to finish.

Seat 74H is in the upper deck of the A380; not the most legroom in the whole world, but not bad for 13 hours around the rim to LA.  We'll see how things go -- and if the Kindle has enough battery to fill the time around sleeps.

I don't plan to sleep too much, mostly because I seldom do, but also so that I can sleep from LA to Detroit and get back on Eastern time.  The trick is to sleep little enough to sleep across the Midwest, but enough to not pass out in immigration moving toward that flight.  Even yet, I'm not real good at this.  Likeliest case is I'm ticking over 24 hours active getting on that first Delta flight, then I sleep like a rock. least I've got my customs form done and nearly four hours im Plan at LAX.  Nearly a quarter of that is already burned, but that's what I built the time in for on the pre end.  We'll be on the ground for another hour at least -- at least; no telling the actual time.

Takeoff was virtually unnoticeable.  This generation of superheavy is really something.

After a fitful sleep, it's now 1700 Boston time.  We're due in to LA in a little over 5:20; it'll be late, and the 90 minutes on the ground is a lot less than I'd like to have to clear immigration, change terminals, re-check, and clear security, but these things happen coming from China, and we've already made up time from anticipated.  I should have bit the bullet and gone through Tokyo with no backtracking, but that's not really here or there now.

A Few Words On (84):
Pelham (E.B. Lytton)
This is so far the only long-form work of Lytton's that's been worthy of its pagecount.  Between the adroit satire of the novel of manners and the locked-in crime story, there isn't a whole lot of fat in these pages, and the flashes of moralizing, philosophizing, and authorial asides are few.  As odd as it sounds, this is a meaty Lytton worth reading, and almost compensation for some of his other dreck.

A Few Words On (85):
The Coming Race (E.B. Lytton)
This tiresome utopian pamphlet is of historical interest only; not so much for its sterile utopia, but because this is where the word 'vril' comes from, which is an interesting look in a web of pretend government and language footnotes.  It also probably inspired an excellent Hypocrisy song, but the time's better spent per unit listening to "A Coming Race" than reading this.

A Few Words On (86):
This weird volume is kind of a mash-up of bad Goethe, Chaucer, and a discount Midsummer Night's Dream.  Some of the serial tales in the frame are good, and some are crap, and the frame barely hangs together for itself, let alone support the stories mounted on it.  Lytton gets a lot worse than this, but that's not the same as this book actually being good in its own right.

The Chinese breakfast option -- thick fried noodles, vegetables, a few scraps of meat -- helps with the clock reset.  It doesn't feel like near on 8pm -- the sun outside isn't helping -- but this variety of food will help the conceit.

- leaving Los Angeles -

Somehow, I went three terminals at a dead run and through two lines, chaffing all kinds of coins and crap, and made a non-connected connection in 90 minutes total ground time by little short of a miracle.  Long strides, sure feet, indomitable spirit.  I'm on such a crazy competitor's high that I can't sleep now, absent more Bulwer-Lytton; I should be able to sleep across to Boston.

A Few Words On (87):
Zanoni (E.B. Lytton)
This book is not as long as some of Lytton's others, but it's quite every bit as crappy, full of philosophical/religious claptrap and copious unnecessary quotations, dragging on and on and on and stupidly on.  Guillotine the cast, guillotine the author, and read "...Charles Dexter Ward" and A Tale of Two Cities as the separate books they were intended to be.

A Few Words On (88):
Four Max Carrados Detective Stories (E. Bramah)
Hot on the heels of Holmes came other detectives; Carrados is probably the first with a significant disability.  Blind as he may be, his mind is still on the level of Doyle's hero, even if Bramah's writing isn't quite up to the master's.  It's an interesting gimmick well-worked, and if there aren't as many adventures, at least they're all pretty choice.

A Few Words On (89)
Kai Lung's Golden Hours (E. Bramah)
The 1001-nights conceit is an old one, but Bramah's stories all fit their frame well, and the surrounding plot is fairly self-connected.  The slavish imitation of too-literal Chinese phrasing and translation really gets on this person's nerves after a while, but it's better than reading dialect stories at least.  Good, but after my time abroad -- and three H.Y. Bros flicks on the last plane -- I'm almost hearing the characters speaking actual Chinese, which may be an additional help.

A Few Words On (90):
Max Carrados Mysteries - An Anthology (E. Bramah)
In addition to 3/4 of the other Carrados volume, this one packs in four more, in many ways superior.  The shadow of Conan Doyle looms large still, but despite his blindness Carrados often comes off as more believable than Holmes -- less a superhuman genius, more of an honest if exceptionally sensitive applicant.  Good stuff, and by volume probably the Carrados collection you want.

The wholesale garbage of American TV is ever unwelcome to come home to.  Yes, Japanese and Russian TV has a lot of garbage on it too, but the virulent stupidity and useless hyperactivity of our television will go wanting an equal for a long time.  Give me the real world, and with it low voices, silence, or teeth-shattering death metal -- never, in any measure, the amplified derping of Americans to one another on subjects that don't even hold the interest of the conversants.

7/16 - Detroit

Eastern time.  Changed to USD.  Real food down.  Loose, open, quiet flight.  The long airy halls of Detroit again -- as Guangzhou reminded me of them -- in contrast to the mad yammer of LAX on a Sunday night.  I may even be able to sleep this leg; whether my bag makes it or not, I'm kind of past caring.  This is why I run a crashbag, in the final analysis -- razor/dental/deo supplies aside, there is nothing absolutely essential in that crumbling green monstrosity, and everything important is in the bulging black canvas bucket I keep on me always.

video31: Smoking vents.  This happens when the plane's drawing humid outside air in on the ground, but I know people who get freaked out by air travel, and to the unprepared mind, this is fair freaky.  Not as bad as that sludged Coke bottle that I and others thought was a hydraulics leak back in '07, outbound from Germany, though...

My camera took a bad knock and lost the battery gate somewhere on the last plane.  It sucks, but I didn't expect to get through this thing entirely unscarred.  None of the internals are exposed, so it's safe to handle, but I'd be less sanguine about using it wet, or with wet gear.  Shorting out the capacitors in these things is seldom fatal, but always hurts like a bastard.  Something to fix before the next one.

When and where that will be, though, is up in the air.  That unused Chinese visa is going to continue burning a hole in my pocket, and I've been kicking about some mad schemes -- they all involve HK's airport and crossings by subway and helicopter for some reason -- but I just spent several days reviving my personal connection to Asia, and I kind of want to go somewhere else.  Maybe Q4 to Palestine, a haunt of a couple days, then do China a la hardcore in May into June 2014...but nothing is decided yet, not who, not when.  This battered old passport is on its last legs; that and only that is certain.  I will have to take the chip like an ippanjin, and have a noob's crisp cover again, but nothing is forever.  We have only the time, ourselves, that our visas for this place are stamped for, and no matter what condition it's in at the end, one-popped to Canada or double-extended with the evidence of a well-attempted Badass Cert, expired is expired.  To the box, for history; others for use.

Even if these journals were not clogged with near on a hundred book reports, the above should make it pretty obvious that I've been reading a lot of pre-WWI potboilers lately.  Herp.

A Few Words On (91):
The Mirror of Kong Ho (E. Bramah)
One of the things about the post-civil-rights era is that we really don't get books like this any more, where a white man can openly pose as an ignorant nonwhite foreigner reacting to white society.  This is a good thing -- Bramah is usually the least racist, by a long piece, of the writers I've read much from on this trip, but this book is uncomfortable in addition to being unreadably obtruse.  It's not that whites can't write nonwhites, it's that Kong's thoroughly written down, most of the time, for teh lulz, and it's no joke to watch someone else get a kicking when you imagine the boot in your own ribs as much as on your own foot.

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1049. Boston harbor from the air.

Since we didn't get to the gate till like 0940, I was quite surprised to be able to get logjammed going out, exchange a few words and a couple bars of "Bright Side" with a cutie who was being obstructed by roller bags from reaching her bus, nab my present-and-mostly-nonlooted pack off the belt at first grab, go all the way A-B-C-E-lot-Blue Line on the bus, then get bailed over at State and hiked up to North Station before 1030, leaving well enough time to get lunch at the 7-11 across the street, all inside vendors being either stuck on the breakfast menu or just plain not open.  The train's not for a while yet, and I needed a different ticket -- which on purchase got me like $5 bonus back from the machine as a homecoming present -- anyway.  No sense rushing; this is the 25th day I've been out on my current travels, and I don't have to be back at work till tomorrow morning.

Around noon, I got back to my current digs, having spent, as noted, most of 25 days on the road.  I didn't get back on cycle for another week, and finishing writing this up took another week after that besides.  At 44000+ words, this compares pretty well to many of the books I read en route

So, how much did this thing cost?  Well, the short answer is "it was wicked fucking expensive".  The long answer is a little more involved; I'll break it down into Transport, Accommodation, and Cash On Hand.

I spent about $1800 on flights and $1300 on trains in Finland/Russia.  The train bit was more expensive than list because I was using an agency, but as noted, if you don't go through Real Russia, you better have a friend on the ground in the Russian Federation to book your trains.  The expense is justified.  I spent about $200 between postage and consulate fees on my Russian visa -- again, I could have done this cheaper in New York, but I was going through Real Russia anyway for my trains, and they have the significant advantage of putting together an internet package that takes most of the guesswork out of the somewhat complicated and obfuscatory consulate form.  The ferry to Japan cost $310, and trains in Japan accounted for another $250.  So all told, $3860 on transportation to go around the world in 25 days, or $154.40 per day.

I spent the following on hotels: Moscow, $160; Ekaterinburg, $100; Irkutsk, $155; Vladivostok, $580; Hiroshima, $285; Osaka, $55.  In total, $1335 on accommodations.  The truly hardcore could probably take $255 off that bill by not getting off the train, but at $53.40 per day, the train -- and ferry -- is already saving me a fuckload on sleeping arrangements.

As to cash on hand, I took over about 800 USD and 150 EUR, drew 200 EUR in Finland, then about 100 USD in Vladivostok (3000 rubles) and 400 USD in Japan (40,000 yen).  I came back with about 60 USD, 50 EUR, and 12,000 yen, so it looks like I spent about $1495 overseas.  However, a lot of that is double-counted.  I paid the ferry and the Japan trains out of cash on hand, which knocks it down to $935.  Considering I live (gas excluded) mostly on cash for my normal day to day expenses, at a burn rate of about $200/week, this is about $235 over normal expenses for those three and a half weeks, which is suspiciously close to what I ended up spending on souvenirs.  In the real world, I needed to have, over the 25 days, an eventual $1500 on hand, but how much of that was extra expense is a little illusory.

So, final expenses:
Transit paid in advance including Russian visa: $3300
Non-train/ferry accommodations: $1335
Cash on hand including transport paid en route: $1495
Grand total: $6130

As noted, "it was wicked fucking expensive".  Like, $245 per day expensive.  I could have saved money by booking a single train rather than getting off and using hotels, and by selecting my Hiroshima accommodations on price rather than "is it right on top of the JR station", and some of this will scale with multiple people, but the fact remains that going around the world is kind of super fucking expensive.  It's possible and achievable, but it isn't really something you can do on a shoestring, thanks to those transoceanic flights.

This does not count gear that I bought for the trip and threw away rather than trucking home, or discarded on return.  This probably comes to another $75.  It also doesn't count equipment bought specifically for this trip that was NOT disposed of or destroyed, since these kind of have inherent residual value.  I probably could have brought back the med kit, wet wipes, iodine tabs, tissue packs, rope, extra duct tape, flipflops, and baby-blue santoku, but there was no reason to, and it saved pack space and weight.  One of the most important things to get used to for extended overseas operations is the decision process of when to get rid of stuff, and what can be safely junked.  After a while, you not only learn what to not bring in the first place, but what of the stuff you do bring isn't going to make it past point X, and what will only survive to point Y.

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