Nicholas Faiz


Nicholas Faiz

Traipsing about Japan

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi April 5th 2010

Varanasi was the place I'd most imagined visiting for this Indian holiday. My quintessential image of India has always been people bathing in the Ganges on the ghats (large stone stairs leading into the water); just one of those images I picked up at some stage and wanted to see for myself. Then, having read further about it, ideas like it probably being the oldest populated city in the world (Iron Age settlement, 1000 BC), being the home of learning and spirituality, etc., etc., also hooked me. I took a hotel immediately on the river, spending the most on a room anywhere in India. I wanted a balcony with a table and chair, so I could work overlooking the river. I was given a lower room, and lacked such a vantage point, although there were views ... read more

Asia » India » West Bengal » Darjeeling April 1st 2010

This will be a hasty post. I've reached Varanasi, sitting in a dark, cavernous room using an internet connection powered by a diesel engine, and the Ganges is sparking with sunlight outside. I spent 5 nights in Darjeeling. I booked a good room in Hotel Dekeling, and was pleased when I arrived. The process of arriving, however, was an ordeal. I took the night train from Kokata to New Jalpuriguiri Station, in 2 AC class (I couldn't book 1st class). Mine was the lower berth (lower bunk) and when I entered I met a Darjeeling family on the two across from me. I left my copy of Hannah Arendt's 'The Life of the Mind' on the table with other things, and a face from the upper berth glanced down at it. Above me was another Australian, ... read more
Hotel lounge room

Asia » India » West Bengal » Kolkata March 24th 2010

I leave Kolkata tonight on the train for New Jalpaiguri, to reach Darjeeling. Kolkata has been a mixed experience for me. The first thing to mention is the extreme poverty, though I gather that has been improved in the last few years (in the central district, anyhow). The hotel's driver met me at the airport and wordlessly led me to the car. There, an old woman with a cane immediately intervened herself between the door and myself, asking for money. I didn't give it. I have barely given any money away here, on the street, because I've found it so confusing about how to judge things (see the title). I'm planning to make a donation to a charity which does verify as being trustworthy upon my return, though. I should also say that none of the ... read more
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Asia » India March 23rd 2010

There's a fire blazing on Park Street, Kolkata, 3 blocks from my hotel. 6 have died, and many have been injured, but even more are thought to be trapped inside of the hotel where the fire began. I should be cautious about stating the number of deaths and injuries. It's the figure being spoken on the news. I walked in the opposite direction when I first saw the fire, this afternoon at 2 pm. I thought it a bit ghoulish to be a spectator and decided to follow advice about avoiding large crowds when traveling. Back in my hotel an hour later, I saw live coverage of it, and went down to take some photographs. The fire doesn't seem to be spreading, and is diminishing, but it has destroyed three floors of the hotel (not sure ... read more
Outside of my hotel, when the fire began
Closer to fire

Asia » India » Maharashtra » Mumbai March 19th 2010

My first impression of Mumbai, and India, was sudden and vivid, despite a slight disinterest I felt upon arrival. The disinterest may sound odd. I chose to visit India on impulse when another programmer in Melbourne (I'll call him Yob) mentioned he was attending a conference in Bangalore. I'm not interested in conferences, but I had been meaning to travel to another country. It made sense to book the ticket. But as the date approached I wondered if I had the enthusiasm necessary to throw myself into another trip. Perhaps I also felt a germ of unease about the Indian culture, for typical reasons of narrow-mindedness but also for personal ones. The flight took 14.5 hours. I barely slept. Local time on arrival was 1:55 am. Trudging through Mumbai airport I found myself in 70s d├ęcor, ... read more
View from taxi, first day, heading into Mumbai

Asia » Japan » Hiroshima » Hiroshima November 27th 2007

The most difficult part about visiting Hiroshima, beyond looking at the ruins of the A-Dome and thinking about the destruction of the atom bomb, was visiting the small shrine set up to honour Sakado Sasaki, the girl who died of leukemia at age eleven, whilst she struggle to fold one thousand paper cranes to wish away her disease. From the story of Sadako we have the international symbol of peace, the crane. I'd hopped off the shinkansen early in the afternoon, and jumped on a tram to hit to Peace Park. The A-Dome was quite interesting. Once quite a large building, now just a ruin which has been listed under the world heritage programme as a reminder for the importance of international peace, it used to be a cultural centre in Hiroshima. On the 6th of ... read more
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Asia » Japan » Kyoto November 25th 2007

Osaka. I arrived this afternoon, after walking the 'Path of Philosophy' in Kyoto. Sundays always make me feel like being at home, and catching the train, finally, to Osaka, the place of my departure this Wednesday, made me think how I'd come full circle. Almost full circle. Tomorrow I'm going to Hiroshima. I planned it as the last place of significance to visit in my trip, because I want to use the holiday as something more than an opportunity to take photographs of pretty places. And, on that note, Kyoto ... I was frustrated with it, at first. Just as, in Italy in 2004, I was frustrated with Florence after leaving Rome. Kyoto is not unlike Tokyo in its centre, grand skyscrapers and architectural wonders of glass and steel. But there are more tourists, crowding everywhere, ... read more
Toji Temple

Asia » Japan » Shizuoka » Mt Fuji November 22nd 2007

Just a brief blog, from Kyoto. Tuesday. I arrived at a small town at the base of Mt. Fuji. Benjamin to follow on Wednesday morning, so we can climb to the fifth station on Mt Fuji and also explore a dark, suicidal forest at its base. Tuesday night. The lodge we'd booked turns out to be a weird, dog-ridden, over-priced, germ infested hole. I arrive there at 8 pm, by 9 pm I am dismayed and running along dark, freezing Fuji roads to find a public phone booth. I am slightly disturbed by the strange staff at Dog Lodge. By 10 pm I have found a resort, checked in there (booking a room for B.T. tomorrow night), and checked out of Dog Lodge with a refund of half my money (I wasnt going to argue for ... read more

Asia » Japan » Tokyo November 20th 2007

I suppose I have to be very brief, I don't want to spend too much time blogging. Faced with the idea of writing a blog about my last weekend in Tokyo, well, I can either write 5000 words or 50. So I'm compromising with 500 to 1000. Friday night - exhaustion, brief visit to Shinjuku. Sake in Minamo Yono (Ben's place). Saturday. Ben and I began wandering around Shinjuku. One interesting thing about the Japanese concept of order is that they naturally form lines - on train platforms, waiting for buses, or even complex, bipartite queues in front of Krispy Kreme. I've included a photograph below, but the immense line before Krispy Kreme is negotiated, wordlessly, by the queuers, to be in two segments, so as not to crowd a public passage. The first person in ... read more
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Asia » Japan » Tokyo November 15th 2007

Yesterday I wandered through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. For a moment it was like stepping into a fantasy about medieval Japan. I've posted some photographs below. I say medieval fantasy, as the Imperial Palace was bombed by the U.S.A. in WW 2, and a replica has been rebuilt on the old grounds. The walls, the landscaping, and some of the surrounding buildings survived. And, because access to the other parts of the Palace grounds are roped off and guarded by police. The notion of the palace in the centre of Tokyo is really curious. B.T. told me that the future emperor is kept there under lock and key, almost like a prisoner, when I remarked how curious and male it was to have such large land in the centre of a tightly packed ... read more
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