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Konichi-wa!

Well, I guess sayonara is more accurate, since I left Japan a few hours ago. On my ICN-KUL flight now, over the East China Sea northeast of Malaysia about 45 minutes away from landing in Kuala Lumpur. I changed my travel plans AGAIN... I'm spending tonight and tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur, then tomorrow night I'm heading down to Singapore for a day, after which I'll be back in Kuala Lumpur for three days (my current flight gets in around midnight so I don't plan on doing much in Kuala Lumpur on the first day.) Then I'm off to Phuket, Thailand for four days; some of the best diving in the world is supposed to be in Phuket! The 28 - 29°C waters should be especially nice.

After that it's up to Bangkok for a couple days (couldn't get a return flight out of Phuket and only inconvenient dates if I went back down to Kuala Lumpur, so I figured I'd see Bangkok while I was in the area.) Travel between Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand via rail is VERY cheap (my roundtrip to Singapore on overnight sleepers both ways is all of USD20; only standard accomodations though, the deluxe ones are around 4x as much and get you a private room with bathroom but they were all sold out unfortunately) and the new trains they have look quite nice. Then it's off to India for a week and to Europe as planned...

Japan was fun, though I didn't nearly get everything I wanted to do done; guess I'll have to make a return visit! I didn't really get out of Tokyo. I spent most of my time just wandering around the city (plus I had downtime finishing up some work I'd been putting off for weeks. Gotta get the business going if I don't want to become a wage slave again!) Let's see... the most interesting places I did see were Asakusa, which has a great old temple in the area; Ginza, which is like Times Square NYC, but bigger, brighter, and more upscale; and Akihabara, which is a crazy maze of shops selling all varieties of new and used electronics. You can basically buy anything that uses power there, or the parts to make it if you prefer. Tokyo is one of those cities that's ultra-modern yet has plenty of of cultural and historical stuff intact, which is always nice to see.

I'd been planning to AT LEAST see Mt. Fuji, but the weather was completely cloudy the days I was able to go, so I didn't bother since the view would've sucked. I caught a glimpse of it in the distance from the plane shortly after takeoff, at least. Saw a couple friends down there: Nathan, who I've known for years but never met before, and his wife Chita-Sai (I probably horribly misspelled that); and Jay, who I had no idea was in Tokyo until another friend noticed my .jp host and asked if I'd gotten in touch with him! (Last time I met up with Jay, he was in the SF Bay Area.) So yeah, Japan definitely needs a return visit and more than just a few days next time. And yes, the sushi in Japan is amazing. I had some wonderful o-toro. Nice, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth o-toro (at 3000 yen for 2 pieces though, ouch.) And Pocari Sweat (the ionized energy drink!) tastes far better than it sounds.

Oh, and I finally tried the bibimbap on my flight to Japan. It consists of vegetables and minced meat in a bowl, white rice, chili paste, and sesame oil. All these came separately, and you get to mix them up in the bowl (they gave me a little instruction sheet even!) They serve some random side dishes with it; one of them were these little transparent pickled tadpole-like fish, around 1-2cm long and 2-3mm wide. I asked and found out that they were anchovies! (Tasted far better than your average American-style anchovy.)

I'd been meaning to try the bibimbap since I saw it on my first flight, but there've always been multiple other more appealing meal choices; since the ICN-NRT flight is 90 minutes the meal service is limited and the only other entree was cooked fish (who in their right mind would apply fire to fish?) So bibimbap-trying time had come, and it was really good! Actually everything I've had on Korean Air so far has been excellent (they even managed to do my steak acceptably rare from SYD-ICN on the way to Japan.) This is actually my last Korean Air flight on this trip sadly; the remainder of my flights are on Aeroflot, Austrian, Delta, Air France, KLM, and Avianca. (Looking forward to that Ilyushin IL-96 flight from Bangkok to Moscow on Aeroflot though!)