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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Arrival: The Recap (short version)

So I finally made it to Kofu yesterday morning at about 5:50am. There's a whole let to tell you about how it all transpired so let's get down to brass tacks. Because I'm a bit behind on the posting. I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking here, with a few comments to let you know what's going on or where I'm at.

 We road a jam packed bus to the tarmac where we eventually on the plane.
 Right here's the little station where we boarded on a the Boeing 777.
 The corridor leading into the plane.
 Greeted by the Malaysia Airlines staff.
 A couple of pictures from inside the cabin

 Dinner time!
 Still a while from Tokyo...
 My seat was right in line with the wing of the plane.
 A shuttle taking us to the customs station.
 Number 25, the shuttle to my hotel.
 A panoramic shot of the view from my window
 Saying goodbye to the  Narita Tobu Hotel Airport.
 Back in Narita airport where I had to find a JR rail to Shinagawa

 The train I road into the Shinagawa Station here
 Pictures from the Takanawa exit.
 I had to take a picture of this place.
 The bus terminal is only 200 more meters! Hooray!
At last, the Shinagawa bus terminal
 A view from inside.
 I forgot to take an actual picture of the ticket inside this envelope.
 The arranged seating on the overnight bus.
 A view of where the bus dropped me off in Kofu.

I'm trying to write more about what happened in between all of that, but things are just coming at me rather quickly at the moment. In the next post I'm going to spend a bit of time talking about how the first day actually went, which includes a visit to a relaxing onsen, a wonderful shrine, and an Enkai (drinking party) where I had to give a self introduction somewhat on the spot!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sitting At The Dock Of The... Terminal (Still Wasting Time Though)

(EDIT: This post was originally written on Monday August 27th PST but due to poor internet connections I hadn't been able to post it until now)

I write from the row of seats situated just behind my boarding gate. My flight was delayed about an hour and 15 minutes, so rather than boarding... right about now, I'm writing this post! I arrived just after 2pm and had a bit of food with my brother, mom, and dad while we sat around and chatted for a bit. Eventually we said our goodbyes and and I stood in line for the security check. I felt nervous putting my phone in those plastics bins, because the iPhone bumper I bought when I first purchased the phone has now eroded away. The phone looks so pretty without it, but I'm so hesitant to place it anywhere or on anything. Anyway, rambling aside. I should be able to board in about another half an hour. In the meantime here's some pictures from my final moments in America.
I like the swirly lines around the gate time and seat

A portal to the world

If you just look at the bold it sounds like they're talking about something else

Gate 142! Blargh


Monday, August 27, 2012

Predeparture Interlude

Amongst all the Vegas recapping, another topic has been slowly boiling to the surface. It's been simmering for weeks and... okay food analogies over, tomorrow I'll be leaving for Japan! My flight is set to depart at 4:45 pm, and I'll land in Narita, 28 hours from then at 8:45 Tuesday night. I'll complete the telling of what transpired in Vegas very soon after I get my bearings. Things have just been a little bit hectic in preparation for leaving. I'll be posting loads and loads as events unfold with new things happening in new places. So stay tuned, don't adjust your monitor, and don't contact your local internet provider, I'll be back in a few days with the initial report on touching down in Narita and the journey to a pleasant little town called Kofu.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Morning After (Vegas Part 2)

We spent a great deal of the first night in Planet Hollywood itself. There was a bit of gambling alongside the occasional drinks. Truth be told, we tucked in rather early, calling it a night at about 3am. The four of us that had driven were fairly done in by this time and though we felt slightly bad that we were ending Jonathan's birthday night early(ish) we knew there were still two whole days of shenanigans in store. We played a bit of twenty questions before dropping one by one, like flies, into a well deserved rest.


Things started for us sometime between 11am and noon. We all felt like getting a food for the morning and had hoped that there would be some kind of affordable buffet in the area. Upon inquiring the concierge as to where we might find brunch, and what kind of discounts he might be able to toss our way, we were saddened to learn that he was of little use to us, merely pointing out the establishments that were neither inexpensive, nor buffet. Here's some pictures of the strip as we walked around looking for a place to grab a bite.

Glorious sunshine and humidity

Paris, now in hot air balloon form

Bellagio off in the distance looking mighty fine

A good shot of Bubba Gump on the video screen up above

A shot of the strip from the bridge

More cool buildings

And of course when all seems lost, there's a McDonald's just around the corner. Normally I'm not a McDonald's person. In fact, the last time I ate at one was in 2007, while I was in Japan, because you have to do that at least once. Try the Ebi (shrimp) Burger, it's fantastic! Anyway, I wound up getting some kind of burger with bacon in it, which I cannot recall the name of. As we sat down and ate our collective post-lunch-breakfast, Vinny remembered that he wanted Jonathan to get what's known as a B-52 from a place on Fremont Street where they'll light it on fire. I think we were all still in the waking up process because when Vinny told Jonathan this I completely misheard him and said, "What the hell is a Beef In The Tube?". We all had a good laugh as Vinny explained that he was talking about the drink. I joked about how it was definitely not something to write home about. It became the first of many great inside jokes.

The breakfast of Olympians everywhere!

After we ate, we decided to go check out the pool located on the 6th floor of the hotel. Let me tell all who are reading right now. Never book a room on the same floor as the pool. I'm sure it sounds enticing to be that close, but the carpet leading out of the elevator and towards the pool smelled like a pile of rotting feet. It was horrible. When we got to the entrance Lauren, Jake, and Jonathan still had a bit of food and drink leftover from earlier so the employee on watch told them they had to wait inside until they were done. Vinny and I, with nothing in hand, ventured out to have a look. I didn't take any pictures at the pool, because then I would become that guy. So you'll have to just bask in the glory of the knowledge that it was an average looking pool. Most of what we saw encompassed decks chairs, and general sitting-around-to-get-a-tan places. The ground was blinding as well because of the sun being directly overhead and the nature of concrete. We made our way back inside to an empty room -minus the guard- and headed back upstairs to where we presumed the others were.

We got back and tried the room key a few times but it wasn't working. Keys, as it turns out, are useless when your friends are on the other side of the door holding the handle so you can't turn it. Jonathan and Lauren were getting ready for the pool while Jake was resting because he was a bit exhausted still. The three of us decided against going to the pool, Jake for resting, but Vinny and I because I was going to meet with my parents and grandparents for a little bit and he thought to come along.

Looking out our hotel room on the 22nd floor

Looking back inside at the rest of the room

 Along the walk across the bridge to the Crystals Mall outside the Aria we encountered many vagabond types, singing their tunes, with cases open for tips and gestures of gratitude. Equal to this were a number of people that demonstrated no talent apart from the ability to hold a sign asking for money. Some of them you feel bad for, and some you don't. The "do nots" are the times when people are clearly mooching, which in the case of one person -who was clearly not 21- held a sign illustrating as much, hoping for donations with which he could fund his party. Mmmhm. Good try. Clever points maybe?

So we made it to the Crystals mall only to discover that they had moved from where they were to another place. I received a phone call while we were walking to leave the mall asking where we where, which was right in front of Louis Vuitton and Tiffany's. I was then told to stay there and that they would find me, because they had moved once again. Vinny and I chit chatted for a bit and talked about whatever else we wanted to do. Pictures!

To the right
In the middle

To the left

We met up with my parents and grandparents and discovered that my grandpa had lost his phone, oh no! He never was able to find it but hopefully this means he'll finally get an iPhone like he's been talking about getting for a while. We walked inside a few places and talked before splitting up once again. It was probably about 5pm or so by now. Jonathan and I had to be ready by 7:30 for one of his presents, VIP seats to Penn and Teller's show at the Rio. Excellent.

Vinny and I made it back a short while later meeting Lauren and Jonathan there who had since returned from the pool. We went down to the casino level for a bit before returning upstairs. I opted for a shower in order to be fresh and ready for the show. Jonathan was ready by this point having washed up early after swimming. Vinny and Lauren were going off on their to see Vinny's cousins that lived in the area. Jake, decided to walk to strip by himself to gather in the sights.

We left for the Rio at around 7:40 and got there fairly quickly. The show wasn't starting until 9pm so we had plenty of time. After getting our tickets in order and getting a few drinks from the bar (alcohol for Jonathan, coke for my dad, water for me) we sat in the theatre space and waited for the show to start.

I'll post more about the show itself later

The first thing I noticed was a jazz act playing on stage to the right. The pianist was quite amazing and the bass player was excellent as well. After a bit of inspection, I came to realization that the person playing the bass was none other than Penn himself. How cool is that? I can not for the life of me think of a more non-diva thing to do than what he did. He was not only there, ready for the show, but entertaining us and providing music well up until 10-15 minutes before the show started. As much as I already love Penn and Teller and everything they do from their magic performances, to their TV shows (Bullshit, Fool Us, etc) that put a lot more into their stock.

Up on stage was a solid wooden box, fastened securely on all sides, with one hinged front end open for incoming people to examine. Next to this was a easel-like device that held a pasteboard with the day's date on it, and a manilla envelope that people were singing. Jonathan and I got up on stage and signed it while also managing to get a picture of Jonathan in the box itself.

I think I'll talk about the act itself in another post because I'll want to avoid spoiling it for people who haven't seen it, but it was fantastic. Such a joy to watch. Entertaining, mystifying, and delightful all at once. Look forward to that post later on.

After the show ends Penn and Teller perform another feat that is truly worthy of praise. Provided you want to, they will meet and shake your hand, sign your things, and take a picture with every person that stays afterwards. Every single person. It was incredible. They separate themselves a bit so that people do one at a time. We waited for Teller first, took a few pictures, got a few things signed and then did the same for Penn. All in all it was a very cool night, propelled by a very genuine and talented pair of performers.

Meeting the guys

 Once we got back to the hotel, we found Lauren, Vinny and Jake were all back. Toilet paper had lined the walls and jumped all around the room in criss crossing patterns. I unfortunately did not manage to get a picture of it. There was a moment though in which we somehow managed to do the following:

It feels like the last scene in Ghostbusters

Later on, we headed back out into the night and strolled up the strip checking out whatever we could along the way. There was a horse statue that we tried to take a funny picture with, but couldn't quite get it right. I was however, entertained by Lauren, Vinny and Jake dancing behind Jonathan in the distance. I managed a sad attempt as well, and though it didn't work out that time, I did keep this trend up throughout Vegas and pulled off a few good ones later on.

Just wasn't working

As soon as I contain that horse I'll eat it
 Other interesting things of note were the halted treadmill-like entrance to Bally's which was being cleaned, presumably because someone could not contain all the happiness inside them, which as a result, had to force its way out into the real world. Kids of insanely young ages walking around has us perplexed. It was about 2am, so even if it wasn't Vegas they still shouldn't have been up that late walking around with all the working ladies about and general drunkenness that accompanies the strip at this time.

No puking on the treadmill

When we finally reached the point at which walking felt stupid, we also felt like eating. Everyone, except Jonathan that is, who was beginning to feel the pangs of a hangover even though it wasn't the next morning. We encouraged him to eat something because he hadn't really eaten that day apart from McDonald's earlier. On the way back we stopped at a Denny's and had a great 3am meal courtesy of our waiter, Jun. He was entertaining and oft funny, if only in the silly way. It was enough to make us smile, and after the long day it was exactly what we needed. Part of Vinny's order included sausages that were not fully cooked. Very pink on the inside. Vinny cracked a joke about eating the sausages if Jonathan wanted to throw up but it came out way more hilarious than he intended.

"If you have to vomit dude, just eat the weenie, it's easier that way." We had another good round of laughs.

As I was putting a bit of cream cheese on my bagel I missed and got myself instead. Maybe it was the late night experience. Maybe we had the giggles. I don't know, but we all had a good laugh about it.

"Wups, that wasn't a bagel…" (Me)
"What was it?" (Lauren)
"My finger." (Me)

The only picture we took at Denny's was this, our matching wristbands

We made it back a little later and crashed hard. It was a long day and we were still hoping to make it to a craps class at the Monte Carlo in only a few more hours.

PS Today marks 11 months in a row without drinking anything except water!