Dispatches from the back of the sock drawer of life

Month: March 2017

Geek #1: Onomichi and points south

Friday 24th

Looong day. Took off from Dubai at 03:20 (08:20 Tokyo time). Landed in Osaka at 17:20, hour taxi ride to the station, then trains for Onomichi. Got to hotel at 21:45, so travelled for 13 hours or so!

Straight to the bar for a couple of drinks (had food on the train) then a good nights sleep…

Saturday 25th

The word ‘splinter’ doesn’t seem to exist here

With weather looking dodgy later in the day, and still feeling knackered after the show, decided to drop the cycling plan and stay in Onomichi to stroll along their temple walk. Fresh start, around 10 deg C, but soon had a sweat going since the temples are scattered up and down the hillside above the town.


Wonderful views, with a surprisingly large number of temples to see – the town was largely unscathed during WWII, and the route leads you past houses and buildings that haven’t changed in a very long time indeed. The ‘Japan snapshot’ image has 3 archetypes of Japan – schoolgirls in pinafores, overhead wires, and the ubiquitous vending machines.

Took the ropeway up on to Mount Senkoji for great views and ice cream. Sakura (cherry blossom) is just starting to come out, this site will look beautiful in a weeks time. Slightly concerned by the cat pictures on the café menu – ingredients? Here’s the panorama video:

Then made it to Tranquillo for lunch – this was the awesome pizza place we found last year. Deep fried whole shrimp on a pizza – heads and all – yum!

Local bus down through the islands, along the Shimanami Kaido highway that would have been my route (see blog entry from last year). Final suspension bridge very impressive indeed.

Then train to Yawatahama via Matsuyama. Near disaster – didn’t realize there were 2 trains in the same platform at my connection point, nearly went back the way I had come. Got the connection with a minute to spare.

So I had a few hours to kill in Yawatahama before my midnight ferry. What a jumping joint it was – not! But did find a great bowl of ramen in a little restaurant. However the sanitaryfacilities were interesting – the further south I go, the more squat toilets I’m encountering. This one was very practical – if you look on the top of the cistern, you’ll see that there is a sink – so once you flush, the incoming (clean) refill water can be used to wash your hands!

Got to the ferry port – deserted. Couple of hours still, not sure if I’ll be traveling alone… Nope, 30 or so fellow passengers, including truck drivers taking their vehicles to Beppu. Glad I booked first class, cabin to myself – not that I slept much with the vibration. They clearly miss summer, as the temperature of the inside of the cabins seemed to be approaching that of the surface of the sun.


Geek #1: Solo in Dubai

Saturday 18th – Thursday 23rd

So, I return to Dubai for the first time in 15 years, and figured I’d put up some photos and a few random thoughts (my most popular kind!). I’m here for the Cabsat trade show, which is also what brought me here in 2002. That was our first ever trade show as Digital Rapids – and boy has there been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

First sight at the airport is a familiar and welcoming one – Costa coffee:

Yay! Coffee!

Welcome since I’d just come off a 9 hour overnight flight, it’s 7am, and I’ve had almost no sleep. Caffeine and sugar just what the doctor ordered. At first I thought it odd that Costa showed up in multiple places in Dubai – I later found out that the UAE franchise for the London-based chain is actually operated by Emirates Leisure Retail, part of Emirates Group – who also own Emirates Air and who’s CEO is Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum (ruler of Dubai…)

Burj Khalifa

A lot of other familiar brands there as well – Tim Horton’s (Canadian coffee chain!), Yo! Sushi, Five Guys, TGI’s, WH Smith – even Waitrose!
So began my day by dropping bags at hotel and pleading for early check-in – not a hope. Rather warm out, about 28degC, so feeling a little sweaty. Hopped the monorail to visit the massive Dubai Mall, and for my 12:30 visit up the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa.

View looking along the coast

View from the top was pretty cool. Well, I say top but that would imply floor 154, I was actually at floor 124, the observation deck. Still a long way up. Seeing how Dubai has grown like crazy these last 15 years, I have to wonder if there is a bubble waiting to burst here. According to an old friend who’s lived here 10 years, many of the new buildings break ground and construct foundation and first few floors, then move on to start the next one – so there’s a lot of bets being hedged. It’s all about planning for an economy in the future once the oil has run out, and it seems Dubai sees this future in it being a free trade zone which encourages international investment. Good thing too as no-one pays any tax…

Balls of steel!

Oh, and in the image above you might just see a little line of dots along one of the floors – looks to be around the 135th. Here’s the enlargement. My ‘balls of steel’ award goes to these guys, hanging on ropes with climbing harnesses, washing windows…

I’ll leave this post now, with a selection of images from my visit. The aquarium in the mall is a 10 million litre tank, and is currently teaming up with Discovery Channel on their shark week. The only reason the divers aren’t being eaten is because they’re feeding the sharks well! Enjoy.

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