Monthly Archives: February 2012

To Hirafu and Beyond!

Fresh Powder Heaven!!!

We fly to Hokkaido, Japan’s North Island looking for snow, and we weren’t disappointed. This year had been a record snowfall year, more snow than the past 50 years.

Niseko has many Ski/Snowboarding hills, we spent most of our time on Grand Hirafu and surrounding peaks. The inbounds routes were enough to keep you busy for a season for sure, but you need to be quick to get freshies before the powder junkies.

The out-of-bounds riding was wonderful. Basically where the patrol says “Yeah there’s some wicked riding back there, go for it…but you’re on your own…don’t be stupid”. Deemed “Slack-country” because it’s basically back-country that can be reach by chair-lift and a small hike (so for lazy people).

The terrain only has a few Avalanche spots, come to find out we rode directly above one of them – thankfully being smart enough to drop the ridge instead of pulling big air of the big fluffy cornice. (This is why we take Avalanche Courses!)

Our first days had sun, then snow, then snow, then more snow….this leads to riding for 10 days straight and telling your body every morning that rest days are overrated. They are.

Our Hostel

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Mmmm…Sushi, Strong Zero and Beef Bowl Nostalgia…

Amazing! They can turn a hallway into a restaurant – seriously small eateries serving up amazing food. The staple for us seemed to be Beef Bowls – but even the 7-11 served up some crazy full on meals (our favorite, 2$ sushi triangles washed down with Strong Zero).

One of our many favorite spots had to have been the stand up Sushi bar. Where there are no seats, you gather around the bar and make your order a few pieces at a time, he makes them fresh and then moves on to the next customer. You have a mug and each spot on the bar has it’s own hot water tap for you to make your own maccha tea. The best part is that we would order certain dishes and the chef would specifically tell us which ones NOT to put soya sauce on… now that’s pride in your work!

Everything from a machine.

Machines are slowly taking over the world in Japan..I’ve seen it.

You get your beer from machines, you order your meals from machines, you order your hotel rooms from machines, you pay for your Onsens with machines… there’s more, but you get the point.

Japan welcomed us from day one. We had high hopes for Japan and it did not disappoint. Their still is a deep and distinct Japanese culture alive today, which has melded enough with modern times to make it progressive but not lose itself in the westernization of the world. 

Octopus for sale at the famous Tokyo fish market

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Hi!!! Arigatou gozaimasu!

Japan Friendliness

Japan has some of the cleanest streets and friendliest people I’ve ever met. People go out of their way to help you. They will drop what they’re doing, leave they’re store to point you in the right direction. Walk you down the street to your destination, Google Map the place is they can’t find it, and help you translate if you look stunned.

Getting off one subway Suzie forgot her gloves. A lady saw this, grabbed them, ran off of the subway to find us and return her gloves and then made an adventure movie leap back onto the subway before the doors closed. Now that’s gong out of your way to help!

They take your money with both hands and they bow. Even traffic controllers bow to cars when they stop for them – how polite!

There seems to be a sense of morality amongst even Japanese youth that we are beginning to lose grips on in Canada. Stealing is highly shameful, and shameful acts do not only affect the perpetrator but his or her entire family as well. Of course you can’t paint an entire culture with one brush, but each culture tends to have a general character… and that of Japan leans towards acceptance, honesty, helpfulness and compassion.

Angkor Temples, Siem Reap


Where the Killing Fields were a shaming memory in human history, the Temples of Angkor lie in Siem Reap as a source of  pride in the human race’s capabilities to create  architectural beauty.  Built by a number of kings that ruled the Khymer empire around 12th century, the temples are a mix of devotion to Hindi and Buddist deities.  Its hard to describe the awe striking beauty of the temples of Ankor, I’ll let the pictures do it justice. Jordan and I are not too interested in visiting temples for an extended amount of time and by day three we were still not completely “templed” out.  We did as much as we could from waking up at 4 am to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, marveling at the Tomb Raider site of Ta Prohm, to listening to endless explanations from our guide of the various carvings and history of the temples.  One thing we did reallt appreciate was coming back to our hotel and lying by the pool after a long day of “templing”.

Phnom Penh

These are skulls of 15 - 24 year old females

 

Tree specifically used to bash infants heads in front of mothers

Our first stop  in Cambodia was Phnom Penh where we learnt about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge rule, aka Pol Pot’s brutal regime.  An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished during the years of his rule between 1975 to 1979. The legacy of these three years left Cambodia with a huge gap in a generation and haunted memories.  People were forced to leave their homes and join segregated farming communities by young, uneducated soldiers that Pol Pot had recruited from the countryside.  His idea was to eradicate education and societal classes making Cambodia an unified working class, a communist land of farmers and peasants.  Men, women, elderly and children all slaved for long hours in rice fields with little to eat.  It was a sobering educational visit the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek to view where the Khmer Rouge took prisoners to kill them.  Lined along a ditch on their knees many were executed with farm tools to the sound of blaring propaganda music they used to cover their screams.  With the bodies they found after the fall of Khmer Rouge they made a chillingly beautiful memorial with 8000 skulls collected in a glass tower looking over the fields.  Skulls of elderly, men, women and children lie lined in classified rows.
One of the most sobering moments was leaning against a tree and finding human teeth in the folds of the bark.