An ink drop of Japan

To be honest my major mistake regarding Japan until I got there, was judging it by it's fancy cover, the cover on the right side of course.

I knew it has some stunning countryside and culture but still I always assumed it's this ueberhightech society in which technology shows it's viability for the future – oh well it doesn't do show so much.

Although there are some real nice goodies and solutions for everyday life problems, being human is still the issue – or solution. The sense of perfection and craziness I've drawn from the media (despite earthquake and tsunami related issues), proved to be a ghostly whim appearing and disappearing constantly. When was the last time you got an »taped« audioguide, half heartly recorded and not telling you more then what's written on the signs? Then on the other end, do you really need heated toilet seats (yes, yes, yes if you don't like to sit on ice) or lots of vending machines?

There are however some big industries who are driving progress but this didn't stop Apple to enter their homemarket and create a big impact – probably the reason why the iPhone is so popular is simply it's simplicity. Don't get me started about the controls for the toilet seat.

The perfections in century long crafted rituals (e.g. tea ceremonies) and architecture of the past, mostly bond to the elite or religion, seem also to slowly vanish – perfection in crafts is nothing for the modern mass market and traditional performances (shadow play in Gero), although great in execution are spiced up by multimedia elements.

Spiced up is also the building market, buildings come and go instantly, but they did so in the past as well. Many cultural heritage buildings are actually modern copies of an original building, which was devasteted by the forces of nature. Ironically nature plays traditionally an important role in the layout of a building. The play of the trees’ shadows on white walls is just amazing and the sound of running water is more then relaxing and invites to whistle along. Unfortunately this, as well as an distinctive japanese touch on the smaller buildings, is slowly getting lost in all the megapolises’ building frenzy. Too often there are buildings who stand out by not fitting in – that's what their respective owners (probably deep rooted and part of the system) want, I guess. Hereby some buildings seem like trying to dress up european without really succeeding. And there is a certain adaption of european lifestyle, which I just can't believe. On the streets of Tokyo and Osaka you can see a lot of “patisseries” and spot products like “Baumkuchen”, german toys and a lot of BMWs.

So even if the modern consumer market has offerings all along the spectrum, it's not said that people invest in “Made in Japan” products. Actually they really like to adapt things for their home market and thanks to the U.S. a rich culture of overavailability and overimpressing the poor spectators has developed here, starting with vending machines on each and every corner, flashing billboard mobs and advertisers in front of restaurants – not to speak of the many deluxe places which want to attract you by offering some craziness from hostesses to robots for a big amount of money – at least the entertainment should be guaranteed. And entertaining is not an easy task.

One day I was watching “Oz. The great and powerful.” and was better entertained than I would have thought, especially of all the humor and lack of seriousness it displayed at some points or to put it blandly: I laughed a lot. But I was the only one laughing I think, without having to do too much with things lost in translation I guess.

So guess what, a lot of Japanese may seem shy in the beginning, first and foremost because of the culture, second because of the language, I guess – this also proofed right for me: In some instances I just let go or didn't start at all because I had this feeling of approaching sth. honorably is only possible for me if I can do it in Japanese – what most of the time wasn't possible.

Moreover even if most people in a train are reluctant to sit next to another person, they're even more reluctant if it's a gaijin. But then again they are more at ease when they're drunk (who isn't?). And there is a real drinking culture in Japan.

So there is great food ranging from dried apple to raw fish. On of my favourites is still “okonomyaki”, which is basically on one half a flat pancake, on the other half an omelette and inbetween fried cabbage, ham, shrimp and noodles topped by a yummy brown sauce and mayonnaise (by your own choice). So it's not all raw fish and rice but a more diverse food culture than I thought – although all the “macha” taste can get annoying at some point in time.

Talking about culture, when I visited a temple an older couple approached me asking about my whereabouts and after some smalltalk the man said to me »Germany has also a big cultural history«. This made me thinking: We may have a rich (cultural) history but what is the state of »german culture«? I don't have an answer yet.

Here in Japan I was shocked about how much was not so japanese (whatever that is) as I would have expected it to be and the styles are undistinctively the same as in many other countries – western convenience. But then again regarding the topic, I was blended by some Tokyo style reports.

In Sendai I talked to a japanese graphic designer who worked and lived abroad and now came back to Japan: She said it's sad that most people copy (western) styles though that one of the major barriers (despite adapting things) for interactions with “the west” is the lack of knowledge of the english language.

Sometimes you figure out how to communicate something via signs or using google translate, but doing so on the fly about important things is a bit more complicated. It's not always about telling somebody what kind of food you do want. But then again it's most of the time exactly this – and asking somebody to take a picture of you. And even though a lot of Japanese are avid picture takers, I can't say that the people in Japan are more obsessed with cameras than people in other countries, but for sure there are many people who are using state of the art DSLRs or MFTs. And looking at the scenes they photograph I’m not sure if it's always worth the money to gear up like this – but then again I shot some film and got it developed and scanned for around 100€.

There's one thing I learned not only out of this: People don’t really need something to spend money on, they just have to think or believe that they need it, and humans are pretty emotional about beliefs.

Talking about beliefs, there's a weird mix of modern day life and religious rituals in Japan. Attending a rememberance ceremony along the Myagi coast and visiting a house (container) for some tea and snacks, I found myself sitting right next to an act of exorcising a possessed woman and soon thereafter nipping on my tea while watching the priest typing on his mobile and having a smoke. These are the real valuable experiences, as it's also the case with some sights, for the better or the worse.

The gutsy part of the “Peace Museum” in Hiroshima carves itself deep into your memory. Compared to this the High-school students who collect signatures against nuclear weapons seem delicate – and pathetic in a way that they seemed to do it because it’s expected of them. All the gay rainbow colored peace displays doesn't make it any better: It’s just a ridiculous view of peace. Thousands of years of warfare proof it. So what can you achieve in a short breeze of 67 years time? The bombs devastating inferno only took seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years.

Having been in Japan for 3 weeks I have to admit it's nothing compared to people I met who spent 2 weeks in Tokyo alone or were walking through Japan in 180 days. More so the beginning of march really isn't the best time to visit. Like in Central Europe there's still a mix of brown earth tones, cold spring nights and even white leftovers of snow in some places.

Furthermore prepare good savings. And though the JR Rail pass is great to cover big distances fast and cheap, I really would like to drive around Japan by my own the next time. You're just so much more flexible, especially regarding the really interesting places far off the public transportation networks. Learning some Japanese will also be not a wrong decision.

But having been in China for a couple of days makes you miss some things one had in Japan – stay tuned, perhaps I have to revise some things. Pictures to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down Under

Terra australis lost it's magic of the unknown to me as soon as I arrived there. I flew into Perth from Singapore and was picked up by my friends who decided one year ago that Australia should be their new home. On the way to their town we passed industrial zones, malls, fast-food restaurants and spreading suburbs. I immediately drew connections to the cities i've seen in the U.S. and our dinner at “Hungry Jack's” pretty much american. But don't zite me now saying Australia is like America, in fact the devil lays in the details and although both states had some similar developments regarding “civilizing”, farming, mining etc., there are differences. But I don't want to write a book here. Let's just assume that in some parts there are negative sentiments against all kinds of others.

Back to my friends. I had the opportunity to stay at a nice suburban house with them and their houseowner, which gave me some time to relax after being on the rush the couple of weeks before. Though to be honest I pretty much enjoyed being on the road constantly.

After an average new years firework display, we chatted an snacked into the New Year (the street party had already ended when we returned around 1am).

In the beginning of the year we went for dune riding in Lancelin, which was great and I had to slowly figure out how to go on.

It's not easy to travel 4 weeks with people of different backgrounds in a car exploring the south of Australia. But even traveling 4 weeks with people you know pretty good isn't easy – the last family roadtrip showed me that once more.

So there I was sitting next to Mal., a German with a winered Toyota 4runner, in which we waited for our third passenger Mar., an Italian. All of us had met via gumtree, an australian website dedicated to search and to offer stuff.

The first thing we did to support our new union, was a stopover at K-Mart where everyone stilled his equipment needs: For me it was one of the cheap soft surface mattresses, while the others got themselves air mattreses (which Mar. had to replace a few days later with a bigger uebersize version – by accident I guess).

We had some pretty nice time around the south of Western Australia, topped by a night of staying around the beach in a National Park, which was definitely one of the Highlights. Not only sleeping on the rocks (the others in the car), hiking up a hill for the sunrise and taking an early morning dip in the sea, but also some trouble w got with a persistent ranger later on.

Driving over the Nullarbour was another interesting but tiring experience. Long straights an the heat are the death of concentration.

After everything we had already seen, the Great Ocean Road was a bit underwhelming.

Arriving in Melbourne we finally were able to ease some of the accumulated tension by parting fromeach other.

For me this meant some days in Melbourne (Chinese New Year), two days in Sydney and a week in Brisbane.

In the train to Brisbane I met an Australian who told me his life story from braintumor to drug addiction to being married to a furious wife, getting divorced, trying to make a living again and then being hit by a car. And he was still laughing then,as he proclaimed »Laugh, and the whole world …« (look for “Ella Wheeler Wilcox”).

It's difficult not to stay positive in your life after hearing this.

In Brisbane I stayed with MarT and his housemates, we went to an AYCC action camp and enjoyed the time including camping in the rain.

On my final day MarT gave me a lift to the Gold Coast Airport from where the plane was bound for Singapore.

 

 

 

Climate change, low cost carriers and costumes

Talking about climate change, low cost carriers and costumes isn't easy.

First off I don't like the term climate change or to be specific the “change” in it. It's because the temporary use of “change” implies in many minds a U-turn. Let's use modification instead or adjustment. Our climate adjusts to real factors, which include the intensity of the sun, the ozone layer of the earth, the subtle change of the atmosphere and more. This leads to changes or modifications in the way the elements of the earth influences each other, which could lead to intensified weather conditions. And there's also a natural influence relating to the earths behaviour in our solar system, which in past times lead to variable environment conditions on the earth.

Relating to this it's also plain wrong to talk about changing climate change or stopping climate change but don't use this now as an excuse not to change anything.

Though this is what people do.

It's more important than ever, especially because we know better now, to invest in progress. This means abolishing a system of heavily subsidized energy delivery (in different forms), adjusting lifestyles, use of technology fitted to the given environment, create healthier ways of production and consumption and think of even smarter solutions.

Debateing this topic should be about improving the lifes of everyone in the here and now – following generations will profit the one way or the other and come up with even smarter solutions.

Unfortunately people are a bit selfish and lazy, which isn't the best headstart, for nobody.

Sitting in a low cost carrier flight while writing this, I ask myself if I wouldn't prefer a proper flight with more leg room and friendlier service (don't get me wrong, most of the time the mood really depends on the “environment”) but it's kind of a sacrifice for being able to stay longer in a certain destination. Is this selfish? The atmosphere feels a bit strange tough, as if everybody just wants to get to a place fast and cheap compared to flights, where there not so many alternatives. Easy to say, especially for me, but the atmosphere in a low cost carrier flight is just different – and I'm not only talking about the flight attendants costumes.

As for costumes, they're a great way to influence peoples perception of oneself or change one's perception of the people by wearing a costume yourself.

I had the chance to be a mascot for one day and it was intriguing. It gives you this feeling of being able to do things, you wouldn't do otherwise, but then again wearing a helmet with only a downward and small field of view doesn't necessarily allow you to do everything.

Waving and gesturing after having spotted a person in an occasional upward movement of the head, it's up to the people how they react: Do they walk way, do they approach you in a reserved manner or are they falling in your arms in storm? Do they only want a photograph or do they also want to know why you're there? Seeing just the feet of the people and hear them talk is a weird experience – you don't have facial gestures and hands you can follow for additional/emotional context. The only emotional context you have, is the strength of their hugs or handshakes.

Knowing how the people react to your “character” you can also stage moments for entertainment. I liked pretty much the moment when I randomly walked up against something just to give spectators a laugh.

No I know why everybody likes wearing masks.

Asia on a rush

Laos

Coming from Vietnam, Laos was exhilarating and exhausting experience. In the small town we got out of the bus (the guys and girls from spain and me)we realized that there was a festival with dragonboat race going on and it was difficult to find some accomodation – we finally managed to find a nice place on the other side of the river, so the only remaining problem was getting some money: There’s nothing more horrible for a westener than having no ATM. Luckily there was a bank office which could do cash advance on credit-cards and currency exchange butnot before the next day. The on-going transport down the Namou river was by boat. The North-east of Laos is really beautiful and pristine than the parts down southwards.

River ferry, Northern Laos

I did some nice trekking, had some nice food (although most are variations of rice meals, many snacks are Thai-imports and so a bit more expensive than local things) and got to know some nice people there.

On my way south down the Namou river by Kajak, I not only experienced the influences of a food poisoning on my body (bloody chicken foot) but also heard about and saw the influence of a Chinese/Lao dam building project on the local environment (there probably will be a forced resettlement of local communities along the river).

Local kids, Northern Laos

Kayaking on the Namou river

In Luang Prabang there was talk about how bad the french managed their colonies – no longlasting infrastructure was built, no investments in health and education were done. Who is still wondering why a lot of people dislike french people nowadays (although I know some real nice people from there). The food poisoning stroke again and I had to stay in the city, which has nice and ugly parts for another week before heading to Thailand by bus.

Bus at the roadside, Houxai

Fortunately the bus only got stuck one time and getting into

Thailand

was pretty straightforward. Crossing a river, getting a 15 day visa and looking for a bus to the next bigger town (the bus driver’s even ask you when they pass by).

My first stop was Chiang Rai a not so small town in the North east, which has some art offerings around the city (Black House and White Temple) and a market with big food court in the evenings in the center. I also got to lnow that there’s a tourist strip where it only took me a couple of footsteps from a buddhist temple until a woman ran up to me, grabing my arm and asking »Happy massage?« – »No thank you«.

Buddha statue near Nan

Heading south my next stop was the provincial city of Nan – I only got to know about it by a good friend, heads up to him – which is an old city (although »thai modern« in a lot of streets) with nice temples and countryside, as well as what is really important: Not so many tourists around and really good food. I stayed there longer as planned, got to know some nice people & places (stay at the Nan Guesthouse), but ate probably way too much.

In the forest around Nan

Forests around Nan

After Loy Krathong I headed down to Bangkok over Sukkothai, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi (ugly cities but some objects of historic interest) to be in the capital for the King’s birthday and for doing some shopping of course.

Bangkok, 5th of December

Bangkok, 5th of December

The relationship of the Thai’s to their king is really interesting as well as worrysome to me. The birthday was fascinating, just to see all this masses of yellow dressed people but then in another part of the city seeing not much of what was going on in other parts of the city. I had some nice dinner with friends and I ended up staying in Bangkok longer than planned. I also got my Myanamar Visa there before heading to

Cambodia

by train. The only reason for this detour was that I wanted to see Angkor Wat and this was what I did for one day.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

People at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photographers, Angkor Wat

Photographers, Angkor Wat

The two other days I spent wandering around Siem Reap which is way too touristy for my taste, but if you easily want to stock up your Dollars you can do so via the ATMs there. Leaving Siem Reap in the morning by plane, I landed some time later in

Kuala Lumpur

in Malaysia. For me it was one of the more fascinating cities in Asia. I especially liked the culture mix there which is obvious in arts, architecture, foods, language and the people. Visit the Islamic Arts Museum to see that Islam also has a highly intellectual side. The two days I had in the city I mainly spent roaming around in parks and museums before heading to

Myanmar

which was one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited so far. Not so much regarding the landscape but all the experiences I had and because I learned to calm down there, although I had a strict but flexible 2 weeks plan. I stopped worrying and love being constantly on the move. Moreover I experienced a lot of very nice and lovely people, even if there was sometimes a spoken language barrier.

Monk, Nay Pyi Taw

Mt. Kyaikto, Golden Rock

Train tracks, Myanmar

Train tracks, Myanmar

What I fear most right now is that a further opening of the country to tourism will have a negative effect on the people and culture like one can see in other asian countries. Right now they already have serious problems with waste disposal: The state should make immidiate efforts in environmental education and invest in proper waste disposal facilities – if not I fear, there’ll be not only big health but also long lasting serious environmental problems. For me it’s easy to say because I went there, as a tourist, did sightseeing, bought packaged goods and drinks (although I put the waste into bins, which is like throwing it in the river later) – who am I to judge?

Watching tourists, Near Mawlamyine

Leaving again via Yangoon, which would have been a way better investment than (still) building an characterless , spacious layouted capital which is incompatible with the belief of modernity which it’s build upon, I got back to Kuala Lumpur, where I took a bus to

Singapore

which is the perfect symbol of a modern city. The space is little and precious, problem solutions smart and the streets (which could also be transformed to a race track, but you know that) clean. The downpoint is, that there’s just the part of the soul missing, which make some other asian cities so great: In Chinatown I had the feeling everything was just too orderly, there was chaos, noise and also some of the intense smells missing, which I usually associate with chinatowns.

Chinatown, Singapore

Chinatown, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Via metro I arrived directly at the airport, where a cheap Jetstar flight (around 100$) took me to my next destination:

Terra australis.

Vietnam

I thought stepping out of Hanoi's airport and smelling the sweet smell of monsoon rain, awakening nice memories about Delhi during the monsoon, was a good sign of what to expect in the next couple of days. As it showed, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Waking up the next morning in the hostel, all the magic was gone. Although the day started with a simple but good breakfast, stepping out in the rain felt like a bad accuse. I haven't experienced much of rain in the months before, so to me it felt quite depressing though more so the atmosphere in the city: Loud, dirty swarms of motorbikes, people in pairs constantly approaching and asking me for donations, a young woman wanting me to take a city tour with her on her scooter and not taking “no” for an answer, as well as a motorbike driver/guide scam which made me bargaining hard about his actual performance, including his waiting time – luckily I felt jet laged and wanted to return to the hostel early for having a nap (a pretty long one indeed) and planning my getaway, so I skipped additional driving costs.

Sapa, the northern mountainous region sounded like a good getaway but before that the hostel staff talked me into going to Halong Bay and although not the cheapest option around, I wasn't eager to look for other offerings than theirs.

The trip wasn't too bad. I could learn a bit about the “culture” and tourism industry. It seems like a lot of people are studying tourism at university – whatever this means. Moreover going to the temple to pray for money and disrespecting local traditions for economic growth (communist state, anyone) seems pretty common and of course according to most some people, all the people of different ethnicities live happily together.

Halong Bay, although kind of pretty, is more interesting because all sorts of diverse people (and not so diverse western tourist crowds) get attracted by it and seeing what this tourism does to the surroundings (although they proclaim caring about the environment). The coast is dominated by building sites for grand hotel resorts and some of the major islands getting packed with people everyday. Despite this I enjoyed the bit of beautiful scenery I saw and also met some nice people from Europe and Southern California on the junk.

Going back to Hanoi the day after, I was happy to take the night train to Sapa in the late evening. As soon as I arrived there, I was again eager to explore.

There were more people than I had expected but I realized just a few days later that it had been weekend when I arrived.

The best part, despite the village you had to pay an entrance fee for visiting, was a two days trek with Sapa O'Chau, a local organization focused on the education of H'mong children and their training as guides. Although the scenery around the town is impressive, we had rain most time of the first day. So it was kind of an adventure to walk along the paddy fields on muddy paths. The actual homestay looked simple but nice and after roaming around the village and playing with some boys,

the next enjoyment was the offered herbal bath and plenty of local food. The next day after the breakfast (pancakes for the french and me, rice and leftovers for the locals and me) the weather cleared up, the views got better and we walked back in a slow pace. Having had arrived in the city, I shared a tea and some sweet potato with the guides before I went on to book my bus to Dien Bien Phu and an ongoing to Laos at the “Sapa Hostel”, where I stayed. After having woken up early the next morning I waited for the bus in the lobby, when the manager came to the front very sleepy, exchanging a few words with me before getting to the back again to throw up. All while his wife did the necessary work in the hostel.

One hour of tiring waiting later he told me the bus won't leave this morning because of some engine damage which had to be repaired (was it the truth or was it just overbooked?) and I'll have to take the evening bus. Asking them about the connecting bus I had already paid for, they assured me multiple times there won't be any problems, but of course there were.

Getting in the evening bus, it didn't take long for it to be fully packed. Next to me there were sitting some spanish (and catalonian) men and women, as well as some locals on the floor. The ride started a bit bumpy and the road wasn't to get less bumpy till the end, which lead some local, a young men undecisively clothed in some western style mix, to throw up in the middle of the bus and night. People here seriously enjoy the freeing feeling of a good throw up, don't they? Luckily I sat at the window side but shoes, bags and jackets of my neighbours were less lucky. Before we finally came to an halt, the spanish cursing had already started and the boy, probably not knowing what to make out of the situation, had a look on him which was somewhere inbetween indifference and remorse. Unfortunately this delayed our already slightly delayed ride even more and while the people outside were cleaning their stuff or having a smoke, I just tried to relax telling myself: In such places, such things happen. What I was unprepared for was of course the connecting bus which was handled by some young hair-styled “dude”, pretending to be cool and wealthy by showing off his iPhone (original?) in every instance which allowed him to do so. I don't like these sort of people actually because a lot of them are just eager to squeeze money out of your pockets, not only in Vietnam. So of course he didn't accept my ticket (which just stated I had already paid for both buses, but earlier ones), of course he wanted cash, of course I hadn't enough Vietnamese Dong left, of course he didn't want to give change back for my five dollars – it's not that it's a big amount of money, just the fact that this man I feel disgusted about keeps it for himself. But I was just too tired to keep on arguing. Not the Catalonians who complained about their ever shrinking leg room. Answering these complains the dude yelled at them, threatening to throw them out of the bus. What a morning. I sure was reliefed as I was finally passing the border to Laos and asking myself what's in for me next?

 

Hawaii and other islands

A few weeks ago I did a 11 days stopover in Hawaii and wasn't prepared for all the things to see and to do there: The time just wasn't enough. I arrived in Honolulu in the evening and took the bus to Waikiki where the hostels are situated at. After the check-in i moved into the dorm room and started to talk to the guys there before going to sleep. The next couple of days where dominated by attractions around Honolulu, which is a city by all means. I walked along Chinatown, the Downtown area and the beaches, visited the Honolulu film festival (Dead Sushi yeah!), museums and the Pearl Harbour memorial. The memorial is actually free (the audio guide for 7,50$ makes the experience a lot more intense), but the technical museums (submarine, USS Arizona, Pacific Aviation Museum) aren't: I advice to skip them because they're to expensive for what they deliver. For me the best experience was to see a proper history treatment on U.S. Ground which actually helped me to better understand all the things which led to Pearl Harbour and to what Pearl Harbour led to. Although it was really worrying to see people pose in front of the engraved name plates posing and smiling for photographs: Is all sense of morale and humanity already lost?

The next day I flew to the Big Island (the Waikiki beach style of the people also started to bother me), picked up a rental car (red Ford Focus) and after driving to Target to stock up one week of supplies I started tour around the Island, stopping by deserts, beaches, jungles and volcanoes. The first day I already met a guy who was living on the Island since around 20 years just out of his van, but he told me the situation there gets more and more difficult. You're not allowed to camp on most places anymore and a lot of nice coastal parts are getting bought by investors for building big resorts or yacht harbours.

The following day I started a hike around Waimea/Waipio Valley which leads to an isolated valley where you only find a handful of people (i've seen nobody around) if you're lucky. It's quite exhausting but worth it. Even if you don't have many supplies because there is fishing equipment, palms and a source around.

When i returned back to the car the other day, it wouldn't start. Bummer. 2 hours and some phone calls later. Somebody arrived to give startup help but it cost me 80$! Next time I will figure out a cheaper solution by myself.

I kept on driving to the south to some of the volcanoes and spent there 2 days hiking and sleeping in the car on volcanoes, which was a really great experience. Following this I drove south to the southern most point of the U.S.A. Which is only a assembly of rocks and then kept on going up the west coast finding a hotel, doing laundry and having the first relaxing night since some days. The next morning I decided to go snorkling near the Captain Cook memorial where i ended up swimming with dolphins.

My last night I spent at the airport – actually in a restroom next to the Kona airport, which was the only place where the security would let me sleep there.

My flight to Honolulu/Oahu was leaving early in the morning and after arriving i got myself a convertible to tour the Island for the first and last time.

Lucky me: I was undecisive about the hostel for the last night. Although they're right next to each other I decided to go to the more expensive one I already knew. As I woke up in the morning I smelled smoke and looking out of the window I noticed there's a fire in the other hostel.

Looking back there are a lot of beuatiful places on the Island, some are close to what would regard as paradise and “The Big Island” alone with its changing scenery is worth a visit. But despite the beautiful landscape the Islands are always portrayed in the media (and of course tourist brochures) as a wholesale paradise, although there are some underlying problems right now. A lot is about property sales, growing living costs, native culture, retirees and so on. I think a good introduction to some of the topics is the movie “The Descendants” starring George Clooney.

 

 

 

The southern tip of the U.S.A.

 

Chance

The journey from Prince Rupert in Canada to Juneau in Alaska via the Alaskan Highway Ferry is a breathtaking one. Although the scenery changes not so much as the weather does, there are a lot of breathtaking views. I'm lucky because the weather is fine most of the time despite some heavy clouds and fog, but it's autumn afterall.

The Alaskan shoreline is made up of many small islands, some small villages and a lot of trees. Inbetween you could spot seagulls, cormorans, eagles and sometimes a small group of whales moving in the bays between the Islands.

Although it's cold and windy on the ferry's deck you can sleep there under a roofed part with heatlamps. Warm sleeping bag highly adviced.

Getting from the ferry port to Downtown Juneau can be quite pricey – either you've booked a hotel/motel with a shuttle service or you have to take a 35$ Taxi.

The first night i'm staying at a B&B, the other nights at the hostel where i finally meet more people who share the traveling thought. A guy from Japan who hitchhiked through Canada and a carpenter who spends some days in Juneau for work. In the following morning he shows us a historic goldmine which is quite interesting. After this me and J. Are going to do a walk around a glacier and we're talking a lot about japanese and western societies.

The next day i'm on my own and hence the nice weather i hike up Mnt. Juneau and follow it's ridge.

In the evening my time in Juneau is close to an end and chance strikes. I contacted Z. this guy on couchsurfing a while ago who wasn't able to host me due to some personal endeavors. When I was coming down the mountain I met him. Total chance. He was on a walk back home, aproching behind me, i turned around, he slowed down.”Are you Sven? Hi i'm Zane.” “Yeah, I'm Sven.” What a coincidence. in such small places, small things happen (edited quote of a indian movie, who knows which?). We ended up walking together to his home, talking about wildlife, life in Alaska and such. After having some beers and cheese cassadilla at his home, he drops me off at the airport, where i spend my night and from where i'm having a beautiful flight to Anchorage the next morning (heading to Hawaii).

 

Canada’s last stop

Prince Rupert. The name (derives of a prince born in czechoslovakia) was voted for in a public poll in search of a city name. Despite the fact that it's the rain capital of the world, I had a beautiful sunny day here. I stayed at the Java Lodge which is run by a japanese family and I have to admit, it was one of the nicest experiences so far regarding a B&B (the hostel was full). The rooms just felt so nice, also because of the morning light. There was breakfast available in their lobby (felt a bit lonely there), as well as in the internet cafe downstairs. Moreover I had the possibility to use the room until the afternoon and they told me to just drop the keys onto the stairs when I leave.

Being a pretty small town (although there's a big harbour) I decided to go on a hike to the local mountain. This time it was a pretty lonesome experience, despite the fact that it's the only real hike right next to the town. But up there I had a real nice view over the whole bay and on my way back down I met K. who told me about his life, some energy gathering techniques, 9/11 supermacys and the global economy, while inhaling some greeneries. Arriving back at the town through a jungleske shortcut, I bought some stuff and started the several miles walk (2-3) to the ferry terminal.

In the anticipation of sitting 2 days on a ferry, walking is not bad I guess.

Art in Prince Rupert

Art in Prince Rupert

View on Prince Rupert

On top of the mountain next to Prince Rupert

View on the bay, Prince Rupert

Jungletrail, Prince Rupert

Dawn, Prince Rupert

To the ferry terminal, Prince Rupert

Harbour, Prince Rupert

 

Vesper in Jasper

Arriving 6 am in Jasper I had no real plan, so I went with H. (the girl from Korea who I met on the bus) to the only place which was open in the morning: a comfy place by the name of Bear's paw bakery. Not only because I felt like having coffee and breakfast, but also because it was freakin cold outside (compared to all the other places i've been to in the last week). Inside the bakery, adding to the yummy danish pieces and muffins, it was also lovingly warm. Funny encounter for at this place: There was a bathroom (Americans prefer restroom, don't they?) without a working doorlock (or the not-Americans are just to stupid to use it) which lead to a short encounter with a japanese girl sitting in there (xD).

Going through the maps on the bakery's table I decided to go to the hostel first and took a taxi up there, cause it would have been a long cold walk by foot. The driver was a chatty one and he even stopped a couple of minutes on the street so we could watch some mooses looking for breakfast. I arrived at the hostel 15 minutes before they opened at 8 am. When a dead-tired and hungover looking guy arrived at the counter I immediately checked-in and felt sorry for him to make him work right off his start of the day. I dropped my bag in a locker, got some items out and went upstairs to start a hike up Mnt. Whistler. In the Lobby I met F. who while putting on his hiking boots asked me what I'm up to. We had the same plan and were hiking up together until at 2/3 of the way up, snow and wind forced us to turn around. With the day still being young we got to the city and grabbed something to eat at the local KFC (or PFK – why the hell do they translate all names you can imagine to the French language). We continued to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Maligne Canyon is formed by a stream of water coming through a cave system from the lake ground, which got some holes in it. At the lake itself we encountered around 11 cm of fresh snow and a not so fresh bus sitting in a ditch.

The evening was less successful. Hanging around in a local bar with a lot of young and local people (seemed like they don't have too much of a perspective) with beer and snacks. They beat us in billiard though. We went there with people we met at the Hostel, so I talked to this young woman A. from Israel a lot, mostly about history, politics and living concepts (Kibbutz).

Waking up after a night of good sleep I felt like killing Petrus or whoever is responsible for the weather. There was a nice blue sky with some big white clouds. Wonderful hiking conditions and I had to leave by train the very same day. But on the station I met K., a swiss woman travelling in the same direction for a bit. So we talked a lot in the train and watched the beautiful scenery passing by.

Mnt. Whistler in the morning, Jasper

Mountain to the east of the Hostel, Jasper

Maligne Canyon, yes I jumped over the fence

One brand, two names

Wildlife in Jasper

Wildlife in Jasper

Wildlife in Jasper

Mountain to the east of Jasper

On the train to Prince George, Canada

 

Vesper in Jasper

Arriving 6 am in Jasper I had no real plan, so I went with H. (the girl from Korea who I met on the bus) to the only place which was open in the morning: a comfy place by the name of Bear's paw bakery. Not only because I felt like having coffee and breakfast, but also because it was freakin cold outside (compared to all the other places i've been to in the last week). Inside the bakery, adding to the yummy danish pieces and muffins, it was also lovingly warm. Funny encounter for at this place: There was a bathroom (Americans prefer restroom, don't they?) without a working doorlock (or the not-Americans are just to stupid to use it) which lead to a short encounter with a japanese girl sitting in there (xD).

Going through the maps on the bakery's table I decided to go to the hostel first and took a taxi up there, cause it would have been a long cold walk by foot. The driver was a chatty one and he even stopped a couple of minutes on the street so we could watch some mooses looking for breakfast. I arrived at the hostel 15 minutes before they opened at 8 am. When a dead-tired and hungover looking guy arrived at the counter I immediately checked-in and felt sorry for him to make him work right off his start of the day. I dropped my bag in a locker, got some items out and went upstairs to start a hike up Mnt. Whistler. In the Lobby I met F. who while putting on his hiking boots asked me what I'm up to. We had the same plan and were hiking up together until at 2/3 of the way up, snow and wind forced us to turn around. With the day still being young we got to the city and grabbed something to eat at the local KFC (or PFK – why the hell do they translate all names you can imagine to the French language). We continued to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Maligne Canyon is formed by a stream of water coming through a cave system from the lake ground, which got some holes in it. At the lake itself we encountered around 11 cm of fresh snow and a not so fresh bus sitting in a ditch.

The evening was less successful. Hanging around in a local bar with a lot of young and local people (seemed like they don't have too much of a perspective) with beer and snacks. They beat us in billiard though. We went there with people we met at the Hostel, so I talked to this young woman A. from Israel a lot, mostly about history, politics and living concepts (Kibbutz).

Waking up after a night of good sleep I felt like killing Petrus or whoever is responsible for the weather. There was a nice blue sky with some big white clouds. Wonderful hiking conditions and I had to leave by train the very same day. But on the station I met K., a swiss woman travelling in the same direction for a bit. So we talked a lot in the train and watched the beautiful scenery passing by.

Mnt. Whistler in the morning, Jaspe

Mountain to the east of the Hostel, Jasper

Maligne Canyon, yes I jumped over the fence

One brand, two names

Wildlife in Jasper

Wildlife in Jasper

Wildlife in Jasper

Mountain to the east of Jasper, Jasper

On the train to Prince George, Canada