Nara

Keyboard soaked in wine which I tried to emergency-clean off, keys a little sticky, still, I will try to describe to you my recent trip to Japan.  I have been to Japan before and it is amazing every time.  Every city I visit here, every restaurant, every street—everything about this place.  Japan is the “old world”, indeed.  Customs are out of the classics I read.  Behavior, the courtesy to fellow earthlings, the precise and meticulous attention to every tiny detail…  I did say that I will retire to Italy but I am reconsidering my opinion.  Although, learning Italian would be a heck of a lot easier than learning Japanese but I am sure I can try to.  So, getting back to this.  Nara, the ancient capitol of Japan, the first capitol of Japan, is located nearby Osaka and Kyoto in the heart of Japan, keeping its customs and preserving the temples and traditions.  Let’s see what is it about it that I like so much.

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Day 1

I just flew in.  Dazed and confused, I got to Nara at around 11pm their time.  Sleepy?  Not sleepy?  I have no idea!  I went for a search of a pint of beer and somewhere to buy cigarettes (proved to be more difficult than I had originally thought).  Note of caution: as of May 2014, Japan does not accept our bank cards, our ATM cards.  I figured this one out!  You have to go to the International ATM which are found in the post office (some say at 711 but I did not see).  They do take our credit cards but the vending machines do not…  Oh, and the cig vending machines have some weird age verification that I have not figured out at all and had to resort to shopping in stores.

Speaking of the vending machines… There is one on my floor at the hotel, there is one downstairs in the lobby, there is one right outside the hotel, there is one… everywhere!  Water, tea, juice, and beer!  $3 (or 300-or-so JPY) and you got it!

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Pattern on the top of my elevator and in the most of the hotel.  Don’t know why I like it but I do.

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While this hotel has entire smoking floor(s), the rest of the hotel and most of Japan is smoke-free.  Nice, I suppose!  I am going to quit sometime and the cities are well on their way getting ready for when I finally do :-).

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See what I mean about the vending machines everywhere?!

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Not entirely sure what this means but I think it means that you cannot purchase cigs til 20?!  WOW…  In US it’s 18, and in Russia it was 16 when I was there.  True, doesn’t seem like the young generation here smokes…  Good!

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Otherwise we’d all be stuck at this oily, yellowing desk.  Filters don’t really work well…  Makes me want to develop my plasma-based air cleaner, finally.  It would fit perfectly right here :-).

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Still, it’s an idea, to have a smoking room.  This way all the nastiness will be confined to one room only.  I get it why the hotels like it.

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Ah, a nice chair in the elevator, for the weary traveler.  How splendid of them.  Somehow I do not see this in other elevators as often.  Japan looks to have a large proportion of the aging population.  Either just seems like it or their elder are more fit any physically active so more of them are on the streets rather than nursing homes.  Come to think of this, I see old overweight women by the hospital much more than anywhere else in the States.  Right now I see a beautiful older woman (probably in her 70s or older) but she is perfectly fit and exquisitely-dressed.  Asian, naturally.

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Short day.  Need to rest.

Day 2: Downtown of a small city in Asia.

I have the whole day to myself.  Got up at 6am, refreshed.  I think the travel in this direction is quite splendid for the morning activities.

This is around 8am and the city is already wide awake.  Everyone is ready for a productive… Sunday!  8am Sunday…

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I love this idea of protecting the flowers from the car fumes/wind.  Plus the weight of these is more than enough to protect the pedestrians as well.  By the way, I can spot four vending machines just right here…

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Sleeping quarters.  This is a downtown of a major city on a Sunday morning (remember, yesterday was a Saturday and everyone was drunk and partying)…  You’ll read more from me below but to summarize, the city is gorgeously clean and finding any trash anywhere is so impossible that I simply gave up.

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I like the designs on the sewer manhole covers the city uses.  Sometimes there are painter different colors, making this place yet even more attractive.

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One thing through—the mess of electric lines…  This is an old city and it looks like the wiring was added here one-house-at-a-time with a decade apart each house…

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Flowers and plants are everywhere.  Asians are wonderful at planting and maintaining these on every corner, no matter how large or small.  Amazing!

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Is this a temple or someone’s house?  I cannot tell either…  I think it is a combination of both…  You see what I mean about this place?!

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No, this ATM does not accept any of my cards, either.  I just want to point out the pencil and the calculator.  They are not glued to the machine.  Both are just laying there, chillin’.  How fast would it get stolen in any other country?!

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A back alley (we’ll see a lot of these).  See how clean?  Keep in mind that this is early in the morning on a Sunday so there are no people here.  Plus this is a tourist-infested bar and party district so it gets fare more attention at night than it does now.

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A lot of hills here.  If I recall correctly this may be the hilliest city in Japan I have visited.

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Ah, a nice lake.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  Smells of dead fish.  Eeeek!

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Found a rock?  Just place it on another rock and stare at it for a while.  Yeah, the green water… smells of rotting fish.  No, really.  Hmm.  Pleasant morning stink :-).

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Ah… Turtles…  I suppose this is a turtle lake.  These buggers are dirty!  But interesting creatures.

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So, these nets seem to have fish and I this it is for these to feed on.  Now we’ve creaked the code!  That is what’s adding to the smell.  Honestly, I don’t even notice it anymore…  Kind of like the smell of fresh mulch on your back yard, your brain begins to associate the smell of fertilizer with the forthcoming flowers and makes the stench “pleasant”.  I like it here now.  Smells… earthy :-)

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The views everywhere in Nara are absolutely breathtaking!  I’m walking in a postcard!

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Here’s a version without the turtles.

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I was going to bring my skates here and I am glad I did not.  The roads are far to steep in most of the places and it would be too dangerous, especially that I don’t know the city… and all the bikes coming in and out of shadow would make this place unskatable.  Anyway I think the people here are not really ready for a white guy in skates (they get scared-enough seeing me run as-is).

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OK, not temples, but half of the rooftops have the same look.

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In Chicago I dated a girl from Deerpark and here I finally am at the deer park.

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Everything here is made to look so natural.  I think they do not even try but this comes to them naturally.

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Looks like the water drainage system is quite new.  Perhaps no more than a few dozen years.  I wonder how it was here before.

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Here are the deer.  I heard there are a few thousand here in the park and they seem to not venture out.  Not much, anyway.

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I tried to ask how old these trees are.  Alas, to no avail.  Most tourists here are Asian so no speak Engrish.

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Oh, and here are the tourists.  You buy waffles for the deer (just a bit over $1) and then run away from them…

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These status have a hole on top covered with a paper.  With a bit of time the paper gets wet and flies away.  I suppose this is a test if you are visiting or not.

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See, these are everywhere. My oh my…  Do you see the empty bottle at the bottom of the left pillar?  Ha!  Trash!  I knew I’d find some!

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And always remember to look up.  Sometimes it’s nice to do so.

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Is it me or this is the only “civilized” country still using old school brooms?

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More water control.  They make it look so natural…

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I wanted to take this pavement photo for myself to remember.  Most of the roads in the park are paved with this.  Whatever it is, it is rather comfortable to walk on.  Also, note how clean…

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Shaded area for a conversation, perhaps?  Where are the chairs?  Aha!  Perhaps this is why Asians are so skinny…  Hmm… Walk more.  Noted.

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This is, actually, the exit from our conference facility.  Postcard goodness.

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Yeah…  This dude…  I guess the phallic symbol of the deer is not overlooked by the Japanese.  *wink *wink

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This little girl screamed and ran over to the water; so did her father.  Hmm.

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Ah.  Figures!

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THIS is my daily commute.  I get to walk through this every day for the next week.  Life sucks :-).

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This is some kind of a construction site.  I am not sure what they are building but just wanted to show HOW they are building it…  See?!  So freaking clean it’s almost annoying.  I never see as much respect for their own work in any other culture but Asians.

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All this time I was trying to figure out how the gravel stays so, um, smooth, and does not bunch up, even with thousands of people walking around on it.  Aha!  Here we go!  :-)  These guys install some metal things under the gravel.

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Random Buddha.  Probably some deep meaning there.

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Lots of red cloths with hand-written signage, a cup ALWAYS full of water, and a coin.

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And I mean whatever cup you had with you at the moment will do.  100% pure beef?  Bring it on!

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A semi-outdoor shopping mall.  Now is closer to 10am so the city is waking up finally.

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You see what I mean about the alleys?

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ENGRISH!  Let’s check it out.

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Zen!  Pure zen!  And nobody around.  I wonder if I can just walk in and do some yoga.  Namaste ;-)

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Oh, yeah, remember I told you they paint these?  Well, here is one :-).

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I am starting to leave the crowded downtown at this point and heading out into a random direction.  I keep checking my map to not get completely lost… controlled lost is what I am after :-).

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Flowers at every corner.  And the flowers are blooming.  Someone keeps watering them all the time.  This culture is amazing!  I can somehow see the attraction to Asian women by American men.  I, perhaps, need to try as well.  I don’t know any but this might be the right time to meet some.  Not here, of course [busy… it’s a conference afterall].

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Back to the electric lines.  I really wonder how an engineer knows which line is which.

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Outskirts backyard.  And so clean…  Where are the empty bottles?!  I mean there is a freaking beer vending machine on every block… Where are the beer cans?!  Respect!

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Look what I found!  I think this is a whorehouse.  Or something like that.  Not sure as I can’t read the signage.  Looks like the back of the newspapers I pickup for free in Philly.

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Enough of the whores.  Here is for you a fire hydrant, drowning in flowers.

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Low riders.  OK OK Toyota is cool.  But a bug?!

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Telecommunications carrier.  “Au” in Russian means… it is what we scream when we are lost in the forest or something.  AAAAAAA UUUUUUUU!!!!  Superb name for a telecom.  Oh, wait.  Can you hear me now?  Nope!  Ha ha ha.  Yeah… Great name…

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The clean precision of a precise profession.  I’m gonna guess this is a firetruck.  Anyone has doubts?

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Sleeping quarters of the city.

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Making way for, perhaps, more sleeping quarters.

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The construction lights have a small solar panel powering them.  They blink day and night.  Very nice and effective.  Excellent.  US should adopt this but I bet it’ll get stolen in 3 minutes.

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Christmass lights on a bigger road.  Must be nice at night.  Too bad I won’t be here tonight.

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This is a few miles off city center, I suppose.  I like their style.  Drowning themselves in flowers.  Respect!

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Oh, yeah, they sure love flags…  I am surprised I don’t see as many flags in my photos as there were in real life.  All over the place.  Almost as abundant as the flower pods.

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OK.  This is a bridge over a busy intersection.  Where are the fucking cig butts, beer cans, used condoms, and similar American shit?!  I mean I haven’t smelled piss anywhere yet and I’ve been walking for 2-3 hours already…

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Nope, no piss here either.

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The culture with a beer vending machine every 50 feet has no beer cans and no trash cans…  A puzzle!

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Well, there is trash (seemingly comprised mostly of beer cans) but it’s so dang orderly I am shocked.  I feel genuinely bad flicking my cig butts on the ground :-(.

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Probably deadly.  Hungry?

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Way out of the city now.  This is where normal people live.

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OK, so here is a nice find.  Let’s look at this on the map for a second.

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Not entirely sure where I am at but this is gorgeous!  Abandoned parking lot.

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Some kind of an old-style gate.  This was a BIG event.  What was here?!  If you know, please post in the comments.  I will add the info here and will give you full credit.  I am very curious.  I’ve asked and nobody seems to know for some odd reason.

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Dream Parking, indeed.

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I would love to live here, I think.

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A church.  Oh, thank g*d, organized religion made it here.  I would really like to set this place on fire, just to do it.  One fucking ugly building in the whole of Nara.  Fabulous.

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A tribute to railroads?

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OK.  So, I notice a transformer box.

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Oh, wait, they are literally everywhere.  How come I did not see them before?  Perhaps did not look for them.

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Look to the right.  Oh, a temple!

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Um…

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I like this.

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Finally, made it back to the hotel.  Put the main camera down and went downstairs for a coffee.  Well, coffee (at $6) can be accompanied by an ice-cream, right ($5).

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See, I was posting something.  Love my Instagram!  But love this ice-cream more, sorry :-).

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I usually Instagram leftover food.  So, here you go.

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Day 3: A morning run with addons.

Today I ran with my phone so I had a way to take photos (also offers me a little break).  Remember that lake with a temple from above?  This is it.  Just at 6am.

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Does your running route compare?

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Yeah…  I know.

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Tea service ceremony.

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With a red carpet rolled out for us.

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And deer right on the street.

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Dirty deer.  :-)

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No comment.

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YES COMMENT!  This was $10.  TEN DOLLARS.  There IS heaven and it is in Japan.

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Day 4

This is the night of day 3 but technically day 4, right?

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The whole meal with LOTS of beers cost us less than $30 a pop.  I’m fucking moving here, it’s decided!

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And, five hours later, I’m back to my running.

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Just something I visit during a quick run.

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I bet a billion dollars this is better than your run.  Unless you are in South Beach Miami.  Then there are more perfect shapes there.  And you DO know what I mean.

Alright.  For lunch I decided to actually walk to the same place.  It’s supposed to be open by now.

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The artifacts of iPhone panoramic shot…  But at least I have that option available.

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We’re about to enter the Big Buddha temple.

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Holy shit this fucker is HUGE!

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And he has two angry Buddha protectors.  Numero uno.

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This is a great way to carry a clipboard.  Noted.

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Numero dos.

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What do YOU wish for?

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Day 5

No, but I had to.

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In Russian this means “Oh, bitch, please!”

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Ashtrays on busses.  Nice!

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DEER!

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Um…  Even I can draw better…

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So, I’m hitting the main temples here.  Should be interesting.

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WOW, an advanced boom :-).

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I just have no comments to these.  Take them in and imagine yourself there.  Not much had changed here in a very very long time.

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The roads, I mean walkways, are still clay…

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But now they sell High Blend Coffee :-).

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And photo film…  We are kind of stuck in the 90s here.  Film?!

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Trash! YAY, I found some more.

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School trips are amazingly organized here.

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So, the walls are held by this sequence of wood “springs”, right?  Guess what, these are to suppress earthquakes.  Apparently those are frequent and this structure is the better type of support.  Amazing technology from forever ago.

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Please form an orderly line without a single complaint, thank you.

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Postcard, I’m telling you!

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Yep.

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And did I mention the flowers everywhere?

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Somebody lives here, right next to the Temple…

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I’m back in the city for a walk.  Perhaps I’ll get lucky?

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Local foodcart.

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Day 6

The conference banquet turned out to be absolutely awesome!  But this is not the right place to talk about it.

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I stood there, mesmerized for about 10 minutes, just watching new asphalt being put in.  These people are a machine!  It’s not one of them but the whole crew.  Amazing!

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Morning.  Bus is schedules for 10:45.  You know what that means?  10:43 we are all in and waiting.  Doors close as the clock ticks 10:45 and we are off.  In 25-or-so hours I will be home.  Except it will still be today.

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This is it.  This was a wonderful conference at a perfect location.  We try to control these people with trade embargoes and such similar shitty techniques instead of trying to become competitive.  We need to develop to their level and then compete accordingly.  I love Asia and especially Japan.  For me, the next stop in a bit over a month (from the time this photo was taken) is China—let’s compare.

I want to thank the organizers of ICPM-5 for their hospitality and the absolutely fabulous job they did.  I also want to thank g*d for somehow letting this culture still thrive even though it’s surrounded by the Western world.

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Toodles and see you soon :-)

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