Green Kyoto

First thing that come to my head when we were thinking about going to Kyoto was…….yes, that famous global green initiative milestone called the Kyoto protocol. Who wouldn’t and I was actually wondering will the city be what it has lent its name to.As the airport limousine bus travels away from the Kansai Airport, which was built on man-made land, I can’t help noticing that all vehicles are moving smoothly at cruising speed. You don’t see over zealous speedy Gonzalez aka fuel wasting. Our bus driver skilfully regulate the acceleration and de-acceleration well according to traffic conditions. Further fuel saving measures, the bus was also equipped with LED fixtures and AC temperature was comfortable, though a bit warm that what we were used to.Reached Kyoto, and wow! Just outside Kyoto station, there is a smoking point. A designated smoking point keeps the rest of the area literally smoke free. And with it, synonymous with smokers, the cigarette butts, none that I can see littered on the streets. Some streets like the shopping belt in Shinjo are completely smoke-free. One can get fined for smoking. As a tourist, it may not be too easy to know, where smoking is allowed and not. Thank god, we’re not smokers. Public transport is big in Kyoto. Got to love the city bus the most. It was punctual. We can just walk up to the timetable information board at any bus stop, check the scheduled arrival time for weekday/Saturday/Sunday and the bus will pull up at the bus stop the exact moment. No need for bus arriving in 1 minute kind of thing and another 3 minutes for bus to actually pull over the bay in Singapore. This punctuality and reliability of the public transport system will naturally reduce citizen desire for car ownership. We also love the fact, bus drivers do actually turn their engine off while waiting for the light to turn green and while loading/unloading at crowded bus stops. Not too sure if this saves fuel, but definitely reduce carbon emission. It makes waiting at the bus stop more bearable, as compared to having 3-4 buses all emitting carbon monoxide simultaneously, like we get in Orchard Road.Retailers, mostly operate up till 8 or 9pm, reducing need for lightings.Cool business attire initiative seems to be taking off well in preparation for the upcoming sweltering summer. We see it everywhere in malls, advertisements and news report of government agencies wearing Hawaiian shirts to work. Looking “kawaii” indeed. Needless to say these cool attire, such cool attire who needs AC?

bicycles parked at Dotonbori

Bicycles are everywhere.

Wider pavements and a generally flat city makes cycling convenient and comfortable for cyclist, pedestrians and motorists too. We rarely see them cycling on the roads. How wide is wide, generally about 2 cyclists and 2 pedestrians. The cycling parking points are well equipped with stand, lock and coin operated. These can be found in subways, bus stations, malls, schools, offices and temples too. As such, we can actually meet cyclists on their way to work, dating couples, kids in baskets, many in their smart suit and ladies in high heels.


Kyushu Shinkansen advert

I saw a commercial video for the Kyushu Shinkansen.
This video was supposed to be released 1 day after the March 2011 earthquake. But as it was deemed to cheery to be shown. Here it is: I wonder how many Kyushu residents are actually involved in this commercial. It can put a smile and possibly some tears on everyone’s face.

Full size bike on public

I was taking the train to the newly opened Gapyeong Station (2nd day of operation). It was in Seoul, late 2010, when I saw this: A full size 26″ hardtail bike onboard the train. Probably the MTB was on its way to rough out the trail near Nami Island.

If we could have this allowed on our SMRT trains…bliss. Imagine a Sunday morning train ride to Pasir Ris, onwards the bus to Changi Jetty, ride the waves on the bumboats and cycle away at Pulau Ubin for a Sunday adventure.

Definitely not going to happen though, a taxi ride to Changi would have cost SGD$25-30 easily. Multiply that with 1 bike per taxi. A $100?The train? Forget it. Every single train is packed like sardines just fished out into the boat. And the government is planning to bring in more. Not more trains or more bicycles…but more people. Sigh.Us at Nami Island

TWS – Travel Withdrawal Symptoms

I’m suffering from TWS – aka Travel Withdrawal Symptoms. The past year December and June school holidays, I’ve always sought to travel out of the country, but not this Dec 2011. Timing of some events and work and nation building does not allow us to plan for a vacation. Anyway, not going anywhere and not doing any trip planning this time around, allows us to step back and save up some money.

Some lessons learned from previous trips and hopefully to further maximize my travel experience in the future.

  • Cheap travel: Not saying, you should stay in a bug infested motels or rooms, but why spend $400 a night, when you are going to sleep at 2am and be up and about for a morning stroll or  a day trip tour that departs at 6am. It will work out to a rate of $100 per hour for those sleeping hour. Talking about day trip tours..
  • Day Tour trippers: I have issues with packaged tours. I joined a packaged day trip to Great Ocean Road, Melbourne. We left super early, waited for others, received instructions, herded through the exploration and rushed through it. Lots of toilet breaks and it really felt like a school excursion at times. Being told when to sit, move and eat..It takes a bit of planning if we want to F&E, but totally worth it.  We did not do any tour in South Korea. All was F&E and we had fun being clueless and totally flexible about everything. We explored Seoraksan, not just the cable car and back down, but we walked the waterfall, view the sunrise from our hotel balcony(both the false dawn and true down), walked on a frozen stream and filling up our bottles with coolest of spring water.
  • Plan everything and.. : …look forward to fail. Totally! Ever wondered how our life sets out to be. When you had always planned for something but the Almighty planned something else for you bigger and better and making you coming out of it, more enriched. My partner was never an early riser, and in some countries where the day is shorter and offices close at 3pm it can make your day shorter and before you know it, it’s night time. In Melbourne, we planned to take the Puffing Billy Train Ride, wife woke up late, and insisted on eating first, and by the time we actually got our directions right and headed for Belgrave, we actually missed the scheduled last ride up to the mountains by just a minute. We actually heard the train whistle blown and it went away.  We checked with the friendly station master, who gave us direction to take a bus up and meet the last train coming down halfway. We took the shuttle bus, paid a dollar, together with primary school kids. The bus driver stopped at where we need to alight, got down the bus and pointed to us where we should go. I remembered he used the word “Paddick” to describe a “grass patch or small field” and I was thinking “they have paddy and rice farm up here?”. We both had fun walking along people’s houses, and there was a beautiful lake, and we managed to take the last train down, although it was 1/4 of the whole experience.
  • Overrated Tourist spots: Some tourist spots can be totally wasteful. Example in the tiny capital of Kuala Lumpur why would anyone visit both the KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower, went up both buildings for the high-rise experience when they are like 1-2km apart. Wouldn’t being high up on one be the same as the other? Yes right, the paid one might revolve 360 or give you a 720 view, when you walk around twice, but how different can it be?
  • Train: Train will soon be a thing for the past, especially steam trains. The newer electric ones just does not have the same feel to it. While heading to Nami Island in Seoul, we’ve missed taking a classic steam train ride to Gapyeong Station by just a day late. The classic system had ceased operation and we have to take the new modern system.
    We’ve also witnessed the Malaysian KTM Railways closed down it’s train services in Singapore, and operated from Woodlands Checkpoint instead. A whole stretch of 26km of rail track disappeared and the majestic Tanjong Pagar and rustic Bukit Timah Train Station will be converted into something else other than a train station.
  • Get your Ride: The flexibility to go where/how/what/when and why worry about taking a wrong turn? Definitely half the fun. It doesn’t has to be a big MPV or convertible car, as long as you are in control and gives you the mobility to go somewhere more of a “not a Lonely Planet” spot.
    A 2 wheeler would be excellent too. But observe safety and put on a helmet even if not required by law. Having travel insurance is one thing, but getting a knock on your head in a road traffic accident can spell DOA – Dead On Arrival