Thor Winther is an engineer by profession but has been travelling the world full time since late 2015. He is the author of www.worldwidewinther.com, a blog focused on budget/backpacking solo round-the-world travelling.
We’ve been in Japan for a few days now and we’ve posted a few pictures on Instagram about the hustle and the bustle of this insanely busy city.
There are literally more people walking than cars – this is a complete u-turn compared to the scooter heavy streets of South East Asia.
Tokyo has an extremely functional public transportation system. It makes the city calm even with this many people. There are literally more people walking than cars – this is a complete u-turn compared to the scooter heavy streets of South East Asia.
Speaking of Public transportation, we’ve been on one of the famous shinkansens (or bullettrains). They are rather pricy but tourists can buy 1/2/3 week passes – a bit like interrail.
The trains are hella cool. We took the first train from Tokyo and even though they have 22 platforms, with trains arriving every 10 minutes (on each(!) platform) they are not late.
The trains arrive 3 minutes before departure. Everyone is lined up outside in marked areas for people going on the 1st departure and 2nd departure respectively. When the train comes – everyone enters and the train is moving within minutes. At the smaller stations it’s not even a minute.
After departure the people in the line for 2nd departure move into the line for 1st departure and the loop repeats itself.
As an example we’re going from Shin-Shirakawa to Kyoto and with the bullet train it’s about 3 hours (+ half an hour getting to/from the station) for a total of about 4 hours door-to-door. With car, on the premium expressways, it’s 8 hours!!!
I mean, even a plane couldn’t do the roughly 600km’s in a straight line faster than that!
Once inside, you’ll see that the trains are spacious, the seats lean way back, there’ll be a nice lady with a trolley selling snacks and even though I clocked it at almost 300 km/h, it’s dead quiet. Even the people are quiet – in fact, the Japanese are not loud people under any circumstances!
I’ve been on a train in Myanmar going 45km/h’s and the sound was deafening. It felt like the whole train would fall apart any minute. Trains are not just trains!
Futhermore, they’re even talking about magnet trains coming soon, with speeds up towards 800 km/h. It’s absolutely bonkers and it blows my mind how they do it when the trains in the rest of the world are struggling at maybe 130km/h
I’m writing this as I’m sitting comfortably, leaned back, using high-speed free WiFi on the train.
There’s a reason bullet trains are so famous. They are amazing and I’m thoroughly impressed with them
Traffic. Traffic is terrible in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
It’s been about 14 months since I was here last and I swear it feels like traffic has gotten worse – or maybe I’ve just forgotten.
Amy has forgotten how to drive here. She rented a motorbike and drove out. 20 mintues later she was back – she wasn’t able to cross the roads in this chaotic city. Red lights are taken as suggestions. You must be constantly aware of your surroundings.
After less than 24hours we’re ready to leave this city.
Vietnam, the place where you can get a Pho for a dollar and a freshly made pineapple juice for 50 cents.
Da Nang. The pearl of Vietnam. Where the traffic police isn’t corrupt and where the streets are clean. Good food, good people, amazing beaches and weddings by the dozen. We’ve established ourselves, got upgraded to an appartment with two rooms and a kitchen. Life is good
I got on a motorbike for the first time in a year – shaky at first but I’m getting the hang of it again. Traffic is nowhere near as bad in HCMC but still – rush hour in the city center – not for everyone.
I’ve spent the first part of this post talking about traffic. It says something about the impact it leaves on you. But there are other things…
When you come here you’ll see everything from “hamburger bros” selling western style burgers to local places serving pipefish, ostrich, pork belly and other local delicacies. Where you can point at the fish while it’s still alive and you can make sure the food is fresh.
The place where you can get a Pho for a dollar and a freshly made pineapple juice for 50 cents.
An hour massage will set you back about $12.
Vietnam, where the toilet doubles as both the laundry room for the family, and where the dishes are washed for the guests. Where you learn some perspective about what hygiene is. In western culture we’re obssessed with cleanliness.
All of the above and many more things is why I love Vietnam. It’s like I feel at home here but it also feels like I’ve been away for a decade. It’s so vastly different from my home culture. When I’m driving on my motorbike with Amy on the back I’ve got a sensation of freedom and fear in equal parts. Of adventure and uncertainty.
Oh, how I’ve missed the joy of open-ended long term travelling. It’s good to be on the road again