I’m sitting in a room in which all the walls are mirrors, the ceiling has a mirror, and the
bed is on the floor. There is a pokie machine in one corner, a water dispenser in the other, a large flat
screen tv, it has a separate toilet (squatter), and a large bathroom with bath and shower. The carpet is
thick shag pile.
It is what they call locally a “love hotel”
The cost is usually 8000 Yen for 3 hours, but because I’m staying overnight (at the time
when most Japanese men are home with their wives), I got it for 5000 Yen for the whole night. There are 2
glossy magazines on the desk, both are full of pictures of girls, thousands of pictures, each stating their
dimensions, age and price. Some are dressed as dolls, others in various themes, and there are also 2
laminated sheets of a4 paper, each with about 12 girls on them, I figure these are the local
In case you’re wondering, the price seems pretty standard at 17000 Yen for an hour, or
22000 Yen for 90 mins, I think there are more options but it’s all in Japanese so I cant
I’ve stopped about 50km short of Motegi on National no 5, planning to ride there tomorrow
to check out the Honda museum. This was the 4th hotel I found since the sun set, all of
them were “love hotels”. The first three didn’t have anyone at reception, in fact they didn’t have a
reception, I walked in trying to work out how to get a room and gave up exasperated as the temperature
outside dropped below zero. The first one had pictures of the rooms, each was done in a different theme, one
that caught my attention was a motorbike racing theme, complete with a bike in the room. Another was an
office environment, and another was a tennis theme. This is some freaky shit.
I had heard about these hotels, but had no idea they were so prolific, I was really just
looking for some simple lodging, but there just isn’t anything of the sort around here. For an uptight
society that has so many rules and traditions, they sure are open about prostitution. I just hope I don’t
catch anything from the shag pile – best to use the slippers they provide!
Last time I updated was from Kyoto, or at least that’s the last one I can find in my sent
items, I had a feeling that there was an update from Hiroshima too, but it’s nowhere to be
I left Kyoto and stopped a couple of times along the road looking for… Hmm, I’m sure this
is old news, let me look a little harder…
Ok, so. Hiroshima was an interesting place to visit, I left there much the wiser regarding
the a bomb, and with a plan to ride a long way north along the north coast of Japan. I made an early start
(easly-ish) and was enjoying the ride along twisty b roads in the south of Japan, it turns out you can
powerslide a 950 Super Enduro on tar when the tyre is fried, so I was having fun leaving long black marks off
all the slower turns, and trying to keep it in a straight line as it spun up off the faster turns. I stopped
for fuel about an hour into the morning and took a quick look at the chain. The news was not
About 1 in every 4 of the rollers had disintegrated, there was actually a little pile of
steel in the bash plate! OK so plan A went out of the window, and plan B was to find a retailer with stock of
chain, and hopefully a little piece that I could use to add a few links to it as I thought the KTM chain was
121 links long. I stopped at a KTM dealer I happened to ride past and immediately made friends with Takashi,
another customer sitting in the shop.
Takashi rides a 690 SMC, (hopefully my next bike too) and was nice enough to translate my
problem to the proprietor, but not before dragging the whole staff outside to see the bike and ask 100
questions about the trip so far. The tech guys went inside and started calling all the rest of the ktm
dealers in Japan to try to find a chain and rear sprocket, and meanwhile I checked the chain length to
confirm the no of links…
“ummm Takashi, a 120 link chain will be ok…” I said rather sheepishly having counted it 3
“RS Taichi” he replied, and printed an address, complete with GPS coordinates for the shop
in Osaka. Great! So I mounted up again, set the GPS for the J=Hoppers hostel in Osaka and said goodbye to the
gang there. As I was leaving the boss asked me to stop for a minute, and then came over with a KTM T Shirt,
saying simply “gift”.
“arrigatto HAI!” I replied with a smile.
Osaka was another 300km away and it was already 4pm so I knew the rest of the ride would be
in the dark, but this being Japan (and not Africa) I wasn’t concerned, I put on my $100 prescription glasses
that I had made in Vladivostok by the lovely Victoria (hi!), downed a can of hot coffee from a 7/11 and hit
Riding in Japan is an odd experience, it’s not challenging in the Road of Bones type
challenging, and it’s not fast like a Sunday run down Gorge Rd used to be, but it is quite a bit of fun. It’s
fun because the roads are in great condition, the drivers obey the rules and don’t do anything stupid, and
most of all – THERE IS NO LAW ENFORCEMENT. None, Zip, Nada.
been routinely riding at whatever speed I deem safe under the conditions, with little regard for the limit
which is almost always 50. Usually I’m going much faster than 50, but haven’t been fined, cautioned, stopped,
beeped or even given a dirty look. It’s not a very fast way to get around, but it is great fun carving up the
The last 2 hours ride into Osaka was in the dark, which was an amazing experience. We’ve
been riding in Russia and Asia for the past few months where there is NO STREET LIGHTING at all, no lights,
no lines on the roads, no cateyes or reflectors of any sort. Japan by comparison has so much lighting that
the actual traffic lights are hard to spot in all the confusion.
There are LED lights on the reflectors leading to each corner that actually blink on and
off, there are multi colour arrows that flash on all the guard railing and there are lines about 40cm wide in
some parts of the road. It’s almost sensory overload, but it sure makes it easy to drive here at night
The last 60km into Osaka was on toll road, albeit much cheaper than the one I took out
there, it was raised above the level of the ground so I got a great view of the towns that led into the city.
And by ‘towns’ I mean enormous cities, a continuum of highrise, illuminated LED billboards, skyscrapers and
flashing lights. Quite spectacular.
The hostel in Osaka was full, and so was their next recommendation, but the last one had
beds available. I took a map and headed off across the city again in search of the place. This was not
simple. It was not simple because it turned out that it was on the 5th floor of an office building, with little
in the way of a sign until you arrived at the 5th floor. They had a 12am curfew, a no
booze rule and generally a no fun policy. I ate a quick dinner across the road and went to sleep in a room
that smelt like a hospital.
Next morning I woke up quite excited about the prospect of doing some work on the bike and
was actually on the road before 9am! RS Taichi is a great bike shop full of virtually everything, from panels
to engine parts, tyres, exhausts, chains, sprockets, go fast bits etc etc. I checked for a rear sprocket but
no luck, so settled on a new chain which they even fitted for me. While I was waiting for the fitting, I got
the rear of the bike apart to remove the spare rear sprocket, fitted a new front sprocket, and reassembled
the rear of the bike.
The workshop was CLEAN – so clean Paul would have been proud of it, and everything had it’s
own place, so while I’d usually be concerned about having anyone else fingering my Girl, in this case I
sipped on coffee and took some pics while the guys removed the old chain (much talking in Japanese about the
state of it) and fitted the new one.
That done we headed back to the hostel that had been full the previous night and bumped
into the gang that had been there a week earlier. We ended up chatting all night, drinking too much and
waking up with a rather sore head in the morning. One of the guys – Jesse from Canada was off to see the
Osaka palace that day so I tagged along, we took some pics, ate “all you can eat sushi” and admired the local
Next day I headed off planning to get as far north as possible before the daylight gave
out, and arrived in Nagoya early evening without a plan for accommodation. This was a bad idea. I rode around
the central part of the city for an hour expecting to see a hostel or similar but there was nothing in sight.
Then I spotted a sign that read “Capsule Hotel” and pulled up to take a look.
I had read about them in my guide book, as being tiny rooms akin to a capsule where tired
Japanese business men could crash after a long day at work if home was too far away. My mental picture was
something like the beds in 2001 a space odyssey, or a tanning bed. It was nothing of the sort. The rooms were
tiny, but the bed was quite big, like a king size single, the price was 4800 yen including dinner and a beer.
They were in pairs, so my bed was up high with a panel below it, and the one that backed up to mine had the
bed at floor level with a panel above it. There was about 50cm between the bed and the wall, and the room was
just as long as the bed.
But it was clean and private, it had wifi, a common shower and toilet, and dinner was great
– all the food in japan is Great!
Next day I rode about 250km north to Takayama (where I did have a reservation for a hostel)
and checked in along with another 6 Australians! One of them Charlotte was travelling alone too, so we joined
forces and explored the city that afternoon, tried some local Sake, and swapped stories from far flung
places. The following morning we checked out the local street market and tried to find a coffee to prop up
the sake headache.
Charlotte headed to Nagoya at lunch time, and I headed out for a ride to see one of the
local hot springs that was supposed to be a natural rock pool, about 40km from Takayama. The ride there was
more “heideneau destroying” but I was disappointed to find that the road leading to the spring was so poorly
travelled it was covered in autumn leaves.
“this doesn’t look promising”
Sure enough after a few km of climbing the twisting leafey road I came to a gate that was
locked shut, so dejected I turned around and headed back to the station for more
“hot spring closed, not open winter time”
Undeterred by this info I headed back to the same road this time finding a way past the
gate and continued to head up the mountain pass. After some km the leaves gave way, and then quite suddenly I
was up above the snow line and riding on snow.
“quite exciting huh Betsy” I said, just before almost sliding clean off the side of a
cliff. And then again, and then again. I really wanted to see the spring, but I also wanted to get back down
alive, so I turned her around and headed back down out of the snow. I was musing about the consequences of
losing the bike up there, up past a locked gate… until I finally arrived back at the gate and tentatively tip
toed across the leaves back towards the main road.
Not tentatively enough though, because within sight of the tar, exiting a slight right bend
the rear stepped out, then the front washed and then down we went. The road was really steep and the leaves
had started to rot forming a sludgy deposit on the road that seemed the ideal viscosity for sliding a KTM as
far and as fast as possible without slowing down. All the way off the road and down a bit of a
Getting out of these situations is hard enough when there are 2 of you, but on your own
when you’re a bit banged up it’s a royal pain in the ass. Much cursing, pushing, heaving and scraping later I
had betsy back on the road and then back on her tyres. She was a bit upset about the fall, and blamed me
completely for it, although she did admit that the Heideneau’s were rubbish and certainly hadn’t helped the
situation. I showed her my bruises so she was satisfied that we both got it pretty
So we kissed and made up, and headed off again, this time a little slower until hitting the
main road. Back at the hostel, the owner had arrived for some business and it was great to finally meet him
(Iida) who I have been emailing since arriving in Japan. Iida did a round the world tour on a bike years ago
and came back to Japan with the idea of starting a chain of traveler friendly hostels, thus were the
J-Hoppers hostels created.
Iida was nice enough to call a bike shop in Tokyo for me to order a second set of tyres
that I’ll put in the crate going to Kuala Lumpur, with the intention of fitting one set of new ones in Tokyo,
and then the second set when I return to KL after travelling north to Thailand and
Which brings me to today. Today I was planning to ride about 550km north to a monastery to
check out an ancient mummification meditation ritual where monks undertake 3 lots of 1000 days of meditation.
Unfortunately I’m not feeling all that much Zen right now, so at the last minute I changed my mind and
decided to go directly to Motegi to check out the display of old motogp and formula 1 bikes that Honda have
in their museum.
And now for the coolest thing that has happened since I arrived in Japan. There was an
earthquake!!! YES AN EARTHQUAKE!!!! I was eating dinner in a local bar when I heard a loud noise like a big
truck rolling past you on the highway, only deeper and louder, like the earth was growling. And then the
whole building shook, it shook hard for about 10 seconds! I was totally freaked out but the locals just gave
a bit of a cheer and went back to their conversations.
Some people have told me that if you hang out here long enough you’re bound to get one, but
I wasn’t expecting it, very cool though! Cross that one off the bucket list!
side note, I feel as though I should be apologizing for the lack of interesting content, but this is all I’ve
got right now. Thanks to the people who are continuing to donate to the ACRF regardless of this, you’re
legends, if nothing more exciting happens I’ll start making stuff up J
10th November 2010
So I made it
out of the love hotel without incident, the owners even gifted me a traditional Japanese coffee mug called a
‘younome’, this took me a little while to work out, as I thought he was telling me that we’d met
It was a short
ride to Motegi, and I was lucky enough to arrive just on 11am when there was a Honda robotics display, ok ok
I am a nerd, so I thought it was cool to see a little humanoid robot fetching coffee, walking, running and
The display of
bikes and cars was pretty cool, some of the championship winning bikes ridden by the likes of Gardner,
Doohan, Biaggi, Kato, and of course Rossi, although given the number of championships he won for Honda, there
were only 2 of Rossi’s old bikes on display – sour grapes anyone??
I spent a few
hours wandering around the museum before setting the gps for Tokyo and making tracks. The map I have
for Japan is an opensource jobbie, it has most of the roads on it, but it’s in Chinese so neither I nor
anyone else around here can read it! The navigation isn’t great either, so the ride into Tokyo took me
in via some obscure back roads, nice to avoid the highways though!
ENORMOUS. I had the preconception that I wasn’t going to like it for this reason, but it turns out that
I really do. It has this great vibe about it, it’s colourful and clean, has some wide open spaces and
that Japanese reliability that I’m coming to expect from everything starting from the subway to ordering
dinner via a ticket vending machine and giving the receipt to the chef who then makes your
I went out to
pick up the new tyres I had on hold and spent the next hour in a park across the road from the tyre shop
fitting them. At one point while I was struggling to get the old rear off the rim, a kind hearted
Japanese man tapped me on the shoulder, I was about to say “no thanks, I don’t need any help” but he
just passed me a can of cold soft drink. I said “thankyou”, he said “gift”, smiled then walked
The last few
days have been spent exploring Tokyo, there is just so much to see here that I now regret having booked my
flight for Saturday on a non refundable fare. I was lucky enough while in Hiroshima to meet a Tokyo
local, Emi, who offered to show me around Tokyo when I got here. So I have been able to get off the
tourist trail a little too, sampling some traditional local cuisine, hanging out with a fun bunch of Japanese
guys and generally having a lot of fun.
Betsy got an
oil change while here too, the Japanese are just so accommodating when it comes to this stuff. I
stopped at a bike shop to buy the oil and then asked if they would have an old container I could use as a
drain tray… instead they let me park in the workshop, provided rags and a real drain tray (asking me not to
pour the old oil onto the floor…) and asked if I needed any help!
This afternoon I took Betsy to the packing factory where
she will be boxed before being sent to Port Klang in Malaysia (near Kuala Lumpur). I’m really going to
miss her, 3 weeks apart!! It feels like I’ve lost a limb J
Ok, so maybe
not that dramatic, but I am looking forward to getting all this shipping and organizing business over and
done with. I have just learned that there is roll on roll off ferry service from Malaysia to Sumatera
so this might be the last time we travel separately until arriving in Aus.
A big thanks
to the guys from the Australian high commission in Kuala Lumpur who have arranged a delivery address for some
spares I need sent from home. You guys have been great! Big thanks to Paul too for pulling it all
Off to the
fish market early tomorrow morning, I’ve heard great things about it, so will be gorging on raw fish in a few
Tokyo Mule over and out.
Am writing while in a subway carriage on my way to Narita
airport, en route to Malaysia, reflecting on the Japanese adventure that I’ve just
I’ve spent the past few days since last update exploring
Tokyo, it’s such a great city to just wander around in, take a metro somewhere, see where you pop out, eat
something, walk some more…
While I was in Hiroshima I made friends with Umi, a nurse
from Tokyo, and in Osaka I met Jesse, originally from Canada, but now teaching in Tokyo, and both of them
have been cool to hang out with while I have been here. If you’re reading, make sure you come visit
Having sent Betsy on her way a couple of days ago, I went to
the markets and bought a small sports bag for the rest of my belongings and then back to the hostel to pack
them up. I was initially a little concerned that the bag would be too small, it’s only about 50cm x
25cm x25cm, but as it turns out that’s plenty. It made me think back to the first time I went to Europe
with an enormous backpack and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had in
I had made a reservation in a Ryokan for my last night in
Japan so in the morning I checked out of the Anne hostel in Asakusabashi and took the metro across town to
Kimi Ryokan, dropped off my bags and headed out again to the fish markets.
Which I arrived at far too late to see anything of real
interest, but I did eat some great sashimi in a little back alley from a shop with a line out the front for
seats at the bar. Oh and I bought a Japanese hand filleting knife sharp enough to shave
Jesse was having dinner with a couple of friends and invited
me along so early evening I headed back to the Ryokan to get showered and ready. On arriving I was
informed that they had a 12am curfew after which the doors would be locked and not reopened until
This was bad news. My last night in Tokyo and I have a
curfew. What the?! I tried asking for some way around the situation, but the guy at checkin just
looked blankly at me as he repeated
“sorry, doors locked at 12am, not open again until
So I checked out and back into Anne hostel. This little
situation reminded me of a story Jesse told me about trying to get a sachet of mustard with a mcdonalds meal
that didn’t technically include mustard. At home this would involve asking for mustard and getting as
much as you want, but not in Japan.
There are systems and rules for the way things work here, and
they are very inflexible when it comes to bending them. He was refused the mustard, so he asked to
speak to the manager, who refused too, but after a lengthy and loud debate, was begrudgingly given one small
sachet of mustard.
The trains run perfectly on time, no one crosses the road
until the walk sign is illuminated green (not even late at night when there are NO CARS ANYWHERE), the place
is spotless and it runs like clockwork, but you can’t get mustard unless your happy meal includes mustard,
and you certainly can’t get in after 12am if they have a curfew.
I have no idea where to get off this train. I suppose
I’ll just get off when with all the rest of the people with suitcases get off. Oh that’s right, I’m in
Japan, there is an LCD screen that cycles between English and Japanese, along with announcements in both
languages before each station.
Next station Nairita Airport Terminal 2. Shit I don’t
know which terminal I’m at!!
Sitting downstairs at the hostel I have in Bukit Bintang in
the middle of Kuala Lumpur.
Fortunately for me I got a quick sms off to Paul who was able
to work out which terminal I needed seconds before I had to get off that train to the airport! So the
flight was all very routine, as was getting into KL, it’s great to be in shorts and a tank top again, it’s
really humid but still better than the cold, the hotter the better as far as I’m
While they are both classified as Asian cultures, KL is just
so different to anything in Japan. It’s dirty and smelly, hot and humid and slightly trashy in parts –
I love it! Have been getting to know the local neighbourhood the last few days, the hostel is $10
a night and dinner costs about $2, so I’m starting to make up for the budget blowout that was Japan. A
beer costs $5 though, so it’s a good thing everything else is so cheap!
This district really lights up after dark, quite seedy with
massage girls down all the streets and then prostitutes later on at night, but the street food is amazing,
and there are some cool places to hang out too. I went for a walk to see the Petronas Towers today, and
then wandered the ultra high fashion mall that’s attached to it, trying to make sense of the unashamed
commercialism, but I ended up buying something instead… If you cant beat’em, join’em!
The package I had sent over from home has arrived in KL but
been detained by customs, they have incredibly high import duty on some things (like booze), so I’m a little
worried about the bill, but this is SE Asia, so I expect that some underhanded tactics will be enough to get
it released. The guys at the Australian High Commission have continued to be great, special thanks to
Lihn-Nhat who has offered to take me out to the airport (an hour away) and get the customs stuff sorted
out. I owe you a beer or 3.
I found a garmin store in a mall yesterday and was able to
buy the garmin maps for all of SE asia for only $20! Turns out the guy at the shop was doing a little
business on the side, I kept asking if they were legit copies of the maps, and he kept saying yes, but then
wouldn’t take my credit card, and knocked another 20 Ringet off the price because I had to go get the cash.
In any case I now have all the maps for the entire area, so getting around should be a
Not too much else to report, I hope to be back on the road in
the first days of December, until then I’m just another backpacker…
KL Mule Out.
On the bus
headed to Penang from KL. There is a movie playing with Johnnie Depp and Kate Winslet, something about
peter pan and tinker bell. Random. Actually life feels pretty random at the moment, one minute
I’m riding my bike on abandoned roads in Siberia, the next it’s the Christmas tree lights of the Japanese
roads, and now it’s a bus headed for the old East India Trading Company’s settlement in Penang.
So KL is
behind me, it’s been quite a lot of fun really, except for the afternoon in the Petronas Twin towers which
was a complete waste of time. I’ve met some really interesting people though, including Afkar and
Rasasar, a couple of students from the KL Monash University who I hung out with on a couple of occasions this
week, and JJ who I bumped into while waiting for a ladyboy show to begin in a gritty downtown bar in Buikit
Bintang, and then his sister Daniella while they were out celebrating her birthday later in the
I also picked
up a parcel from MY Post, but not without some help from Nha Linh, the community liaison officer for the Aust
high commission here, who took a bit of risk in agreeing to receive a parcel addressed to her from a complete
stranger from Australia. The parcel was held by customs - which Nha Linh later admitted had her pretty
worried that it was full of drugs! Nonetheless she took a few hours out of her day off to go down there
with me and get it sorted out, and that night she and her fiancée Dylan took me to a great Italian restaurant
for dinner. Thanks so much for all the help guys, it really makes a
The movie just
finished, Kate died, Johnny took guardianship of the boys, I cant work out if Tinkerbell died or not, but in
any case I don’t believe in fairies… opps there she goes!
I seem to keep
writing these while in transit, they could be called the mules transit diaries, although once Betsy arrives I
suppose I wont have this luxury anymore. So right now I’m a ferry making it’s way to langkawi, there
are maybe 70 people on board, arranged in rows of four seats with an aisle in the middle, a bit like an
aeroplane. It’s comfortable enough, although having spent 18 hrs in the back of a truck in the congo
that one time, I will never complain about any form of transport ever again.
aussie woman complaining about the onboard toilet…
“oh it’s just
so bad, I need to prepare myself for it…” she said as she took of all her unnecessary clothes and
opened the door taking a moment to brace herself.
“come on now,
get a grip, it’s just a squatter, and a pretty good one at that!” I replied.
I don’t think
we’ll be friends.
I stayed in
Georgetown while in Penang, in a hostel called the Lovers Lane Inn. I saw it on the net and just
couldn’t resist, even though there were reviews of unfriendly staff and bedbugs, the former being completely
wrong (hi Jenni, Julie, Jimmy and 02!), but the bites all down my arms and legs this morning unfortunately
confirmed the latter. Oh well, at least they don’t eat too much!
As usual I
didn’t bother going to see any of the sights, but instead I caught a few buses to unknown locations, sought
out good food, cold beer and interesting company, and in that much I can happily report that I was highly
successful. The street food in Georgetown was great, a little hit and miss in finding it, but once I
got to know a few hot spots I was set for $2 meals for my stay there.
I also found a
reggae bar where I made friends with a tiny Malay man called Willy, who sells lottery tickets for a living
and does a little pimping on the side. Fascinating to hear about how the whole business works from
someone in the know. Willy also plays great guitar, and will win at dice more often than not. I
bumped into him a few times, the last of which he was lamenting a bad day at the betting syndicate where he’d
lost every penny he has. Playing the high moral ground on betting is of little use when talking to a
gambling addict, so I just bought him a beer and told him he’d have better luck next
I have a
feeling that Langkawi is going to be a little more highbrow than I’m used to, there are resorts lining the
beach with cocktail bars and pools. That not really being my thing, or as Paul and I would say, “not
really being in the spirit of come and try”, I found a cheap guesthouse that came recommended from everyone
except the lonely planet so it should be perfect! The boat is full with roughly equal proportions of
locals and foreigners, (here we foreigners are called “farang” by the locals, which literally translates from
Thai as Portugese). I guess if the boat is half farang, then the island will be too, this makes me a
little worried but on the up side, Langkawi was granted tax free status by the Malay government some years
ago (to promote investment and tourism), so beer is going to be reasonably priced again, and let’s face it,
wherever you are, if the beer is cheap, it’s going to be good fun.
Might get some
sleep now, one too many late nights in Georgetown make the Mule a tired beast.
Gdnight all xoxo.