Video: Visiting Japan in 2015

 

In January, 2015, I visited Japan for 8 days taking in the sights in Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. I had always wanted to use the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and finally got the chance when visiting Kyoto and Hiroshima departing from the Shin-Osaka station.

It was pretty cold as you can see from some of photos and I definitely wasn’t dressed for the occasion, having just flown out, after spending several months in Malaysia.

I stayed in a capsule hotel that had some unexpected and surprising features that I had not anticipated, but it was an interesting experience to say the least!. I spent the day in Kyoto and visited the Manga museum which is housed in a converted school. And I also spent the day at Hiroshima and stood where the bomb had detonated.

To find out more about my trip to Japan, and the rest of Asia, you can now get my book from Amazon on Kindle. The paperback version will be released in the coming days.

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Book Release: A Learning Curve

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This book introduces me and my story while I explore Asia’s fascinating history, especially the relationship between Asia and Europe over the centuries, and how Western influence has played its part in Asia’s development. From simple fishing villages to high-tech industry, I have seen it all.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, a couple of friends and I travelled Europe by rail for seven weeks taking in all the usual sights in Paris, Monaco, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Athens, Vienna, Munich, Belgium, Amsterdam … to name just the highlights. When I was 24, I lived and worked in the Costa del Sol, Spain, for 18 months, where I discovered there was no turning back – I was hooked. At the age of 28, I got my first taste of Asia on a short holiday to Thailand with my father. The following year I began my first solo long haul expedition, starting in Malaysia, where this book begins. It follows my journey over six years as I tell my story of some of the people I met, and the places I visited in my search across the continent.

Speaking of highlights, I wanted to write a book that I would want to read, and I don’t know about you, but I like things to be kept simple. Not to bog you with irrelevant information but merely an introduction to Asia and its history, its people, its customs and its cities, old and new. This book is intended as an easy going read, with some interesting stories throughout history that will hopefully guide you on your journey as they guided me on mine.

This story is about my travels through Asia and some of the things I saw, but it is also a book about what I learnt. I regale stories of trade history between the East and the West, as well as little known information the guidebooks don’t tell you while revealing some harsh truths about our colonial past. During my journey, I discover some of the darker sides of the human race, foreign and domestic, especially during times of war and the hardships that inevitably occurred. In my words, I also describe some of history’s most successful travellers, activists and invaders.

In 2010, I rented a house in a Thai village near the Myanmar border and lived in a small community for several months. I tried to blend in with the Thai way of life as best I could, often with disastrous consequences, and personal tragedy. During my time in the village, I discovered that Thai people are incredibly superstitious when it comes to life and death, and I manage to answer just some of the questions about Thai culture that many of us have in the West.

I learnt early on that having knowledge of the area I was visiting began to bring the place to life, and the more I unearthed about the country, and culture, I was visiting the more spectacular my encounters became. As I moved my way around Asia, discovering ancient cities that had once been crucial to the emerging world economy, I was enamoured when learning about the significant figures that have shaped the way we all live our lives today, orchestrating events that have changed the face of the earth.

When I first arrived in Asia, I had no real idea of what to expect, and I was a reasonably inexperienced traveller. While as I progressed through my journey, I augmented the necessary skills to gain the confidence to get off the beaten track and try to see a part of life that tourists don’t get to see, which unfortunately didn’t always turn out how I expected.

If you are only interested in partying than I can recommend right here and now, to go to Pattaya and Bangkok in Thailand, and you’ll find everything you’re looking for there. But, if you are interested in experiencing a truly fantastic world of beauty and idyllic locations then this book will point you in the right direction.

Before leaving for Asia, I was keen to learn more about the things I had only heard about from watching TV, or from family and friends. For instance, before going to India, I knew little about Gandhi and what he stood for, but after a chance encounter with another passenger on a flight to India, I realised I was already on the path to discovery. Before going to Japan, I was interested in knowing more about the samurai culture and the country’s high-speed railways. And then there are the things I have learnt along the way; trying to scratch the surface of Thailand’s way of life and, of course, the mesmerising history of China and the unexpected surprises of Malaysia.

I have always been fascinated by famous travellers throughout history, and over the course of my journey I attempted to follow in some of their footsteps – feel free to follow in mine … it’s a hell of a ride!

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My book, A Learning Curve, is now available on Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FPAA86K

Check out the contents page for A Learning Curve – http://goo.gl/aR9Kgj

 

 

In the nick of time

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

4 Visa’s in the bag and we’re ready to go. Phew, I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever gonna get it all sorted in time!

I recently acquired some ‘Lonely Planet’ books for India, Beijing, Japan and Vietnam. Boy, am I glad I did – it just goes to show no matter how experienced you think you are, there’s always a chance for error.

For instance, though I’ve driven cars in Thailand before, I only just learnt that in order to hire a car in Asia, I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) – unbeknown to me, I have driven many times in the past, sometimes from Northern Thailand to the South, without ever getting an IDP – oh well, no harm done, you live and learn.

To be honest, Vietnam seemed such a distant possibility, it never occurred to me to arrange a Visa before I left, seeing as the standard time to apply for Visa’s in the UK is 3 months prior to your journey. This limitation has left me struggling to get some of my paperwork in order.

In early September I arranged a short trip to Turkey, and was reluctant to send my passport off for any Visa applications, until I returned, just in case I did not get my passport back in time. This meant I only had 8 weeks (not the usual 12) to get all my applications completed.

Apart from jumping through some initial hoops, my China Visa was fairly straightforward and took just over a week. Since my first trip to mainland China in 2009, the process has changed a little. Now all Visas’ for China have to be completed through a 3rd party organisation, increasing the cost three-fold. My first Visa 5 years ago cost me £30, but now they have risen to £85.

My India Visa was rejected, and was send back. This was because I did not include the proper ‘India Visa Photos’, that are slightly larger than normal passport pictures. This meant I had to resend my application, slowing my progress even further. Again, what was once a £30 Visa from the Indian Embassy is now closer to £90 through 3rd party ‘Visa Centres’. I tell ya, it makes me wish I was going for longer than just a week!

My Thai Visa was also rejected, due to my sending it to the wrong place. As of January 2014, the management at the Thai Embassy in London decided that they are the only people who can issue Visa’s for Thailand, but neglected to point this out on the website…or maybe they didn’t! I simply downloaded the ‘Visa Package’ from the site and followed the instructions. I then sent it off to the Thai Consulate  (not the Embassy), setting me back a couple of extra days. Fortunately with a week to spare, I received my Visa for Thailand, my Passport, and my IDP arrived too.

I don’t know why all countries can’t simply implement the E-Visa system like Australia and Turkey, where Visa’s can be applied for online. As it turns out, my Vietnam Visa was the easiest to complete. I filled out the online form in just a few minutes – which was lucky considering it was just an afterthought, and I would not have had enough time to apply in the conventional manner.

In hindsight the good thing about E-Visas is that you don’t need to apply for them before you leave your home country.

So hopefully that’s it, I have been working tirelessly for weeks now and I can’t think of anything else to do, so with a bit of luck, we are all set to go, 1 week from today. We are all booked up until the New Year, and all travel arrangements have been made, from hotels to airport pick-ups…but I just know something’s gonna go tits-up.

If you would like to follow my blog, you can sign up here to receive emails when I post something new. For more info see my earlier post ‘Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride‘.