White Chrismas 2008 in Vancouver

Merry Christmas.

For the first time since 1971, every region in Canada has a White Christmas. I think the last time Vancouver got so much snow was in 1996. Yesterday on Christmas Eve, the snow kept falling all day and I had to plow the snow three times or else it would have been unmanageable. In the afternoon alone, more than 6 inches fell. It had been snowing for almost a week here, which is pretty rare since it almost always rains in December.

The result is the following:


Received My Official 2010 Winter Olympics Lanyard

It's the 24th of December and it is still snowing. So much snow that I had to shovel the snow two times already today. But the main reason for this post is to show the Official 2010 Winter Olympics lanyard that I received via the mail today.


I am quite disappointed in the quality of the lanyard, especially when VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee) charged $23 for it. It didn't even come with any standard packaging. It just came in one of those cheap plastic sleeves which street market DVD vendors use to sell pirated DVDs in. From looking at the plastic holder, I am also surprised at how big the size of the tickets will be.

Seoul Day 4: Incheon International Airport

3 months have passed since my last posting, and its time to continue where I left off.

During the past 3 months, two of which were spent intensely studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam Level 2. I completely underestimated the test and whether I passed or not, I learned a lot of new things during those months of study.

Now back to the original topic of this post. I took these pictures on May 5, 08 on our last day in Seoul. Despite the large size of the airport, there was almost nothing to do while waiting for our flight at the airport.

Regarding the shops in the airport, every single one of them was a duty free shop which sold luxury goods priced in U.S. dollars, not Korean Won, even though we were in Korea. I found this quite strange, but I guess the duty free shops can make more money from the exchange rates. Also what few shops that weren't selling luxury goods were selling merchandise that only targeted the Korean people. I thought this was kind of weird that for an international airport that they didn't have any other types of shops which offered amenities to the international traveler like newspapers, snack food, etc.

The departure hall:


Seoul Day 4: Namdaemun Market

This was our last day in Seoul (on May 5, 08). We stopped over for 4 days en route to our final destination of Singapore. Our flight to Singapore was at 7 pm on that day so we had the entire morning and afternoon to finish our sightseeing.

We had visited most of the usual tourist attractions with the exception of the Namdaemun area so we went there on our final day in Seoul.

Some pictures of the Myeongdong area from our hotel. We stayed at the Ibis Myeongdong hotel. We picked that hotel because it was highly rated on the TripAdvisor.com travel website. It had a pretty reasonable price of $100 per night and was located in a very good location. The only bad thing about it was that the air conditioning was centrally controlled and for one day in our 4 day stopover, it got really hot and we had to ask them to bring in portable air conditioners because they wouldn't lower the temperature of the central air conditioner.

Some pictures of the Myeongdong area from the hotel lobby. The way the hotel was set up was pretty weird. The lobby was on floor above the rooms.


Seoul Day 3: Myeongdong at Night, Cheonggyecheon Stream

Continuing from my previous posts from May 4, 08, this is the final part of "Seoul Day 3".

As night approached, we went walking around the Myeongdong shopping areas. We didn't buy anything as there was nothing that suited us.


Seoul Day 3: Insadong, Seoul Skyline from Han River

Continuing from my previous post from May 4, 08.

Seoul Day 3: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsangol Traditional Folk Village

After visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we walked to the nearby neighbourhood of Insadong.


Seoul Day 3: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsangol Traditional Folk Village

On May 4, 08 our last full day in Seoul, we decided to see the remaining stuff to see on our "things to do" list. This included visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace so we started off at the end of the long boulevard that stretches to the palace's front gate.


Seoul Day 2: Seoul Station, Deoksugung Palace, N Seoul Tower

Continuing from my previous post, on May 3, 08 after the DMZ tour ended at around 3 pm in the afternoon we decided to walk back to our hotel in the Myeongdong area because we figured it would be really close since the taxi ride in the morning took only about 10 minutes.

On the road by to the hotel, we passed by Seoul Station, which is the main railway station in Seoul. It serves as the terminus for high-speed railway services to Busan and other cities in Korea. From our experiences with railway stations in Japan, there are usually a lot of shops and restaurants inside the station so we decided to go inside to take a look.

From the station plaza.


The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the USO Korea Tour

On May 3, 08 my family and I participated in a tour of the Demilitarized Zone, a.k.a DMZ (the border that separates North and South Korea) organized by the USO in Korea.

The USO or United Services Organization is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. military worldwide.

It has a base near the city centre of Seoul called "Camp Kim". I read through many reviews on the web that only the tours organized by the USO gives you access to tour the conference row area (the blue coloured huts where representatives from the two Koreas hold meetings) inside the DMZ.

In order to join the tours organized by the USO in Korea, I had to email them and book in advance. Their website is not very good and not updated so I had to email them to get the most current schedule. In addition on their website, it says that you have to pay them in advance in order for you to reserve your seats. It doesn't really help that they have no online payment and after I phoned them, they said that I could pay by credit card but that I would get no receipt of the transaction or that I could come in early and pay on the day of the tour. Being wary of giving out my credit card number over the phone with no receipt in return, I opted to choose to pay on the day of the tour. The civilian price was $44 USD per person.

The tour starts quite early and we had to get to the USO Korea "Camp Kim" by 7:30 am.

The USO offices (in reality, these pictures were taken on our way back to Seoul)


Nanyang Trip: Stopover in Seoul Day 1: Arrival and Namdaemun Night Markets

On May 1, 08 my family and I had boarded a Singapore Airlines flight from Vancouver to Seoul. When we landed at Incheon International Airport, it was already May 2, 08 and the time was around 5:30pm. I don't like how you lose a day when you fly towards Asia from North America.

After a quick lineup at the immigration and customs at the airport (most of the arrival passengers were Korean, so the foreigner's line was quite short) we went and boarded the "Korean Airlines Limousine Bus" headed towards Seoul.

Typical Korean style apartments. Pictures taken from the bus.


Nanyang Trip: Departure from YVR International Terminal "West Chevron" Wing

On May 1, 08 my family and I departed from Vancouver on a 3 week trip to Nanyang (Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei).

This is the first day of the trip, the departure from Vancouver International Airport to Singapore via. a 3 day stopover in Seoul, Korea on Singapore Airlines.

Coming to the airport 3 hours before departure time allows a lot of time for wandering around at the airport.

All the ticket stubs from the planes we boarded during our 3 week trip.


The following are pictures from the International Terminal Building at Vancouver International Airport (more commonly known by its aviation abbreviation "YVR") and the newly opened (July 2007) "West Chevron" wing for international departures that only passengers can enter.

The Canada Line trains in testing (due to open in 2009) providing direct access to Richmond and Downtown Vancouver via rail transit.


US East Coast Day 8: Washington D.C. Back to Vancouver

On Jan. 19, 08, I had to take a taxi from my hotel in the suburbs of D.C. (Vienna, VA) to Washington Reagan National Airport that was just across the river from the National Mall. My original plan was the take the Metro from the hotel which would have taken me 30 minutes and cost less than $5 but that day being Sunday, the Metro did not start operation until 7am in the morning (compared to 5am on the weekdays) so there was no way I could have made it in time for my 7:15am flight. I ended up spending $40~ on a taxi ride.

The main terminal of Washington National Airport.



US East Coast Day 7: New York to Washington D.C. by Acela Express

On Jan. 18, 08, I bid farewell to my friend and the city of New York and headed to Washington D.C. I wanted to see what the best route on the American railway network was like so I decided early on to buy a ticket on the Acela Express, America's "bullet train". The ticket was fairly expensive at $167 one-way but this is only considering that the only cabins on the train were for Business Class and First Class. This train obviously does not cater to tourists or "normal people" but for business people. The journey time to Washington D.C. took about 3 hours.

The stub of the used train ticket and other Washington D.C. attraction tickets:


US East Coast Day 6: Philadelphia

On Jan. 17, 08 we went on a day trip to Philadelphia. Not wanting to take the so-called "Chinatown Buses", we took the train from New York's Penn Station to Philadelphia. The whole journey took 2 hours and cost about $20 one-way.

It was not a direct train ride, we had to stop in Trenton, N.J. to change trains. During the train ride, all you could see was blight, miles and miles of abandoned factories etc. and garbage. The landscape of New Jersey is pretty depressing.

At Trenton Station, this town, the state capital of New Jersey, is also pretty depressing, we were hungry and there was nothing near the train station except for a deli 1-2 blocks away run by Mexicans.


US East Coast Day 5: Brooklyn Promenades, Brooklyn Bridge

On January 16, 2008 we started by heading out to the Broooklyn Promenades where we could see the Manhatten skyline from another angle.



US East Coast Day 4: Roosevelt Island, Central Park, Musical

On Jan. 15, 08, the 4th day on my stay in New York, we first went to Roosevelt Island to get a view of the Midtown Skyline.

Taking the elevated subway line:


US East Coast Day 3: NYC: Rockefeller Center - Top of the Rock, Nintendo World Store, Colbert Report Taping, Times Square

On Jan. 14, 08 my friend and I headed out to the "Top of the Rock" observation deck on the top floors of the GE Building at Rockefeller Center.

The tickets for going up to the "Top of the Rock" were pretty expensive. One ticket per person was $17.50. The tickets were "timed" so you had to arrive at your scheduled time printed on the ticket. We bought our tickets online and printed them out (seems to be a recent trend in tourism now). We decided to go to the observation deck at Rockefeller Center versus going to the one at the Empire State Building because I had read reviews on Trip Advisor of how crowded the the observation deck at the Empire State building was. And besides wouldn't it be better to see the Empire State Building instead of being in it? (I had been to the Empire State Building when I was a kid but now have vague memories of it...)

January is a nice time to visit New York and other popular tourist cities, because there are almost no crowds. We almost had the whole observation deck to ourselves:

Model of Rockefeller Center at the lobby:


New York skyline:


US East Coast Day 2: New York City: Statue of Liberty, Financial District, Chinatown

On Jan. 13, 08 I started my first day exploring New York City. I stayed with my friend's family in Brooklyn so I went around sightseeing with my friend.

The first thing we did was buy a Metrocard for transit. The 7 day pass for $24 allowed unlimited access to buses and subway trains. Although we didn't really get our money's worth (one ride on the subway cost $2 no matter how far you go), it was better than fumbling around with change.


New York City Subway:



US East Coast Day 1: Vancouver-Dallas/Ft. Worth-New York

On Jan. 12, 08 I started my week long trip to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Usually a flight from Vancouver to New York direct would be about 5 hours, but since I redeemed my flight from Japan Airlines mileage bank, I had to fly with American Airlines (their alliance partner).

Since American Airlines no longer has any direct flights from Vancouver to anywhere else but Dallas, I had to fly to Dallas to change flights. They used to fly direct to New York, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Washington D.C. if memory serves me right when they had a partnership with the now defunct Canadian Airlines.

Arriving at Dallas, the airport is so big that you have to board a train to change terminals to get to your next gate:


Kagoshima Airport, Kyushu Japan

Happy (Belated) New Year!

It seems that after launching this blog way back in Dec. 2005 back as a student exchange student, I finally get page loads each day. Thank goodness for that post on fixing the Compaq V2030US laptop!

Here are some more new "old" pictures of provincial domestic Japanese airports.

I used this airport from my trip to Kagoshima