Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Temporary Asylum

I've touched down in NY. Should be in Boston in a few hours. A couple weeks rest, then off to Korea via Missouri.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


So, I made it to Munich. A friend of mine from Texas is here for the year, so I've got a place to stay. They mostly speak English life is pretty easy.

My trip has become something of a WWII tour: I've been to Hiroshima, seen Russian celebrations of May 9th, went to a concentration camp and Nuremberg. I guess I just need to stop at Pearl Harbor on the way home or something.

In Nuremberg, I learned that I apparently emit some sort of insane-person pheromone. Three different crazy people felt the need to speak with me (and just me, not my friend or his girlfriend) while we were there.

The first just rambled at me in German. He seemed happy, and I thought if I just nodded and agreed, he'd go on his way. He did not. He continued talking. I informed him I didn't speak German. He was not deterred. It was awkward.

The next guy approached me in the train station and asked if I was American. I confirmed. We were just sitting w/ some time to kill. He busts out a tattered piece of paper and shows me how the German railroad is planning to sell 25% of it's holdings to the Chinese. He explains that this is particularly insane b/c the Chinese require 3000 alphabetic characters to read the newspaper. I guess he just knew that, as an American, I'd totally care.

The third guy also came up to chat before we got on the train. He rambled something about and African restaurant across the road (or something). I have no idea.

I'm not sure why insane Germans like me, but I guess I appear to be a sympathetic figure.

Anyway, I head to Austria tomoro and back home next Tuesday. Probably won't update much. But, come June 14th I'll likely be in Korea for 2 months, so the blog of Brandon + Asian cultures should return.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Worst 84 hours

10AM - The scratch I felt in my throat yesterday was not, as I'd hoped, the after-effects of too much celebratory vodka and lack of water, I am sick. Not terrible, but my throat is sore.

1PM - I'm at the station waiting for the train. Maybe a little tired, but hopeful that 3 days of forced resting will cure my illness. The idea of it getting worse is unpleasant. At least I now know a Russian-speaking American in Moscow- assuming I survive that long.

1.28PM - I board the train and get to my kupe. I'm dumbfounded by what I see. It had somehow never occurred to me that babies could be on the train. There are 2 in the 6x6 kupe I will live in for 84 hours. It is a twisted joke.

9PM - Baby 2, the 3 year old, decides to welcome me the first night by screaming for hours on end. I am angry at first, but then feel pity as I realize the baby must have some sort of parasite that is painfully eating it alive. There is no other explanation for this amount of screaming. I was precious hours of mp3 player life trying to pretend the baby below my bunk is not dying.

7AM- Babies wake earlier, so do I. The Asian man who was across from me is gone. I assume he couldn't take the babies any longer and just jumped train during the night. I think it might be a wise move. Also, baby 2 has survived the night and appears healthy. I hate her.

11AM - I feel worse. The throat is in pain.

3PM - The damned keyboard toy plays the most annoying song ever for the 15th of 2345 time I will be on the train. I have begun to fantasize about killing the babies. Like, in vivid detail.

4PM - I'm trying to imagine what would happen if I punched the 1-something year old as hard as I could in the stomach. Would this kill it? I mean bodies are resilient. I want to know.

7PM - I eat some of my ramen noodles. To do so I sit downstairs next to the hell-spawns. They're mothers' are nice enough, but there's almost no room to sit at the table since the whole kupe is strewn w/ crap for babies.


10AM - I drift in and out of sleep. The illness makes me more tired, but the babies- either screaming or playing with loud toys counteract this. Also, the bunk is not comfortable. A little too short. A little too hard. Since I pretty much stay in my bunk 24 hours a day, it's getting very old.

2PM - My throat is feeling much better. My left eye, however, has been watering more than normal.

4PM - My eye looks like hell. I don't think it's just lack of good sleep. It's puffy and blood shot. Tears well up continuously. I'm a bit concerned about this.

6PM - I've been keeping my eye shut. This leads to tears entering my sinuses and leaking out my nose. It's irritating and I'm dripping lots of fluid.

9PM - I'm feeling bad enough and worried enough that my eye, which seems to be worsening, is going to be a real problem that I don't really care about the two babies.


6AM - I wake up and cannot open my eyes. I pry open my right eye and go to the bathroom mirror. There is crap lining my eyelids and sealing my left eye shut. It looks like snot. It's gross. I wash it off using tea at the suggestion of one of the mothers.

8AM - My eye is feeling somewhat better. I'm optimistic. My nose is running more now, which I hope is a sign that my body's clearing some crap out. My nose is raw from wiping leaked tears with coarse toilet paper.

1PM - I blow my nose and everything explodes. Something in my sinus gives way and I'm spurting blood from my bunk. I shove toilet paper in my nose and head to the bathroom. The mothers seem concerned.

2PM - One mother has given me cotton balls and the blood has finlly stopped. I still have too much snot and breathing requires the delicate balance of blowing enough snot out of the way without reactivating the blood flow.

5PM - I'm now envisioning torturing the babies. The earlier vision of giving them plastic bags to put over their heads no longer satisfies me. They need to feel pain. I would like to justify each of their cries with pain. It seems like a good sign for my health, that baby-hatred has re-entered my mind.

7PM - I stagger into the restaurant car, looking like hell and starving. I've even very little the past few days. They have a menu. I can't read it. It doesn't matter, they don't have anything I point at on it. I hate Russian restaurant service. I look up in my dictionary 'anything'. I get some soup.

9PM - I use the last of my mp3 player battery trying to drown out the last baby fit. I think I will get a vasectomy.


3AM - The mothers are up and packing. I'm wary that it's a trick. Perhaps my illness killed me and I'm in hell.

4.18AM - We arrive at the Moscow station. I don't know where I am, I don't care- it's the best place I've ever been. Walking off the train is a wonderful sensation. I'm still sickish, but not bad. My eye is feeling/looking better, my throat's good, I'm just snotty. I can handle this. I hate babies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moscow: the reprieve

I got into Moscow at 4-something this morning. I'm currently in a smoky internet cafe waiting for the metro to open. The last 84 hours or so are amongst the worst I've ever experienced. I will not elaborate currently, but they involved:

Multiple babies
Weird mucas crap sealing my eye shut
fantasies of infanticide
and being on a train for 3+ days straight

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Images from leg 1

I get back on the train and head to Moscow in a few hours. I'm not going to try and really tell about the train ride thus far. I'll probably have time (like 4 days) to write about it soon enough. Here are some lovely pictures, though, just to give you a taste.

View from the train as we get closer to Irkutsk.

Me and my train room/cell mates. Anton, Nina and Dennis. Anton spoke enough English to make everything much simpler. He and Dennis are in the army. Good people.

Toilet. The other one has a hose attached to the sink, so you can kinda shower.

The dining room part of our cabin.

My bed.

Don't worry, I'm well aware how awesome I look.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vlad II

Vlad 2

So there’s a Versace store a few blocks from my hotel in Vladivostok. This may go along way towards explaining my experiences thus far. Apparently, I’m in the ritzy part of town, which is why restaurants have been unimpressive and overpriced. I guess the coat-check at the Italian place should’ve clued me in, but Madonna videos and a mulleted bartender tricked me.

There’s really no absolute way to tell what part of town you’re in. Here, the nice area has crumbing sidewalks and port-a-potties. When I went to Zurich last year, I thought I was in the nice part of town until I walked past a brothel. Unless you know the whole city, it’s hard to judge an area.

So if I consider the fact that I’m a sloppy looking foreigner (who probably smells a bit) waltzing into high-end restaurants, I can understand the cold reception. If only I knew enough Russian to ask where the working-class part of town was. Then I could go hang out w/ my own kind and not accidently insult all the people who want to shop at Versace and eat in nice restaurants w/o having a dirty traveler spoil their illusions. If only there were a country w/o all these status symbols and class distinctions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vladivostok Day 1

Thus far, Russia is not winning me over. My hopes had been building during the cab ride into Vladivostok from the airport. The place seemed a run down. A little past it's prime. Houses on the outskirts were patched together and the roads had potholes. All in all, it seemed crappy enough to have some character. It seemed like a town I would like.

I got dropped off in front of the train station by a parking lot full of grocery vendors. While the cab had been more expensive than I'd hoped, I figured it was worth it to not have to try and figure out the buses I'd have needed to catch to get the 60km in to town. Oh, and by cab, I really mean some dude w/ a car who offered to drive me and I then haggled down from $100 to the still more than I'd hoped for ~$60.

On to the train station. There is nothing in english. There are few symbols or pictures. I copy down the request for a ticket to Irkutsk as shown in my Trans-Siberian Handbook and approach the window. The lady reads it and tells me to go to the ground floor. Ok, there are many doors on the ground floor. I get lucky and the first one I enter has a map showing the route from Vladivostok to Moscow. I assume this is the place. Around the map are listings of different train numbers and from what I can tell their destinations and such. If the schedule of these trains is also somehow encrypted in the table, it is beyond my ability to decipher. Seeing no other signs of information, I take my note and wait in a line. I try to ask the guy next to me if this is the correct window by pointing at my note's request for a ticket and the window. He stares at me.

I get to the window and hand the lady my note. She asks for my passport, and then writes down a departure time and an arrival on May 8th. I say this is fine. She emphatically points at the time and repeats something a couple times. I nod as though I understand. I think she was pointing out that this time was in Vladivostok time, not Moscow time. I hope so anyway.

The ticket sets me back around $250. This sucks. My guide said that a ticket all the way to Moscow for the class I got ranges from $75-$350. When I'd checked online, I'd seen a quote for ~$130 for the leg from Vladivostok to Irkutsk. The guide also indicated that bying tickets at the counter was the cheaper method, though it did warn about fluxuations. Maybe if I had asked about other days, I could've gotten a better deal. Maybe if they posted schedules and prices at the train station I would know. But I couldn't ask and they didn't tell, so I just handed over the cash.

This experience makes me more appreciative of technologies and the automated ticket machines in Japan and Korea. Trains are pretty easy to figure out. Even if you don't know the language, you look up a place on a map, get times and prices and it's pretty clear. Doing this on a computer is easy. You through a person in the mix and suddenly you have to be able to talk.

I then began my hotel search. The closest cheap hotel looked like a craphole and told me they didn't have any rooms, I think. The next cheap one didn't appear to exist (there was a demolished building near where I the map indicated. As I approached the last of the cheaper hotels in the area it started to rain. It turns out the cheap rooms the guide mentioned don't exist, only the more expensive ones w/ the ocean view. I decided that it was worth paying $40 more than I'd hoped to keep my only pair of pants from getting any wetter. So, while I'd been hoping that ~$500 would last me until I got to Moscow, I ended up burning through ~$400 in my first 3 hours in Russia. So much for this being the cheap part of my trip.

The rain lets up and I go looking for food. The first random thing I purchase from a street vendor is delicious and the beer is reasonably priced so Russia gets a couple points there. I wander and nothing looks particularly appealing, though I might've been walking past restaurants unknowingly.

In addition to Vladivostok have a kind of crappy/skank town appeal, the people here remind of some bizzare late 80's/early 90's parallel universe. Guys are rocking mullets and demin jackets, girls wear too much makeup and pants that are too tight. This theme is further supported when I end up in a pretty boring Italian place that's playing old Madonna music videos on the TV.

I kill some more time and take a shower. Around 8 or so I decide to go get a drink. I head off in a new direction from the hotel towards the train station. I see a place with many christmas lights and blinking neons. It's gaudiness reminds me of a pachinko parlor and I assume it's one of the casinos I'd read about. Nope, it's a grocery store.

There was a place that specifically said 'Pub' in English, so I head towards it. Next door at the pizza place, though, there's a live band playing. I go in and catch the last 2 songs (The finale being Bon Jovi's 'It's My Life' which is pretty entertaining w/ a Russian accent). I'd ordered some appetizers with my beer. When the waitress brought the appetizer she said 'enjoy your meal' in the most hateful tone ever. I think she meant to be nice. I'm not sure if it's that she was speaking English or that I was raised only hearing Russian accents from villains or what, but it was really weird.

This made me realize one of the issues thus far with Russia. It seems like business exchanges are very rigid or something. When I'd bought some water at the grocery store the lady had asked me a question as I paid. I shrugged and shook my head saying I didn't understand. Instead of a nod or understanding smile, she turns away and basically ignores me. The waitresses do a similar thing. When my beer was about half gone one appeared and poured the rest of the bottle in, but they seem to avoid interaction and even eye contact. The first lady at the train station who told me to go to the ground floor had also managed convey general contempt in the one sentence she said to me. I guess it'd possible that they all really do hate me, but I think I just don't understand how they operate here.

After this I wander down by the waterfront. There are a lot of people there. There are a lot of beer vendors as well. I get a beer and walk along the boardwalk. A pair of police officers tell me that I can’t have beer here. This seems strange since it’s for sale everywhere and I’ve seen other people drinking it, however, I’m not going to try and argue w/ Russian police. In fact, I’m mildly terrified of the encounter. I have to say, though, these police were far more laid back than any I’ve ever encountered in America. They didn’t ask my name or to see my passport. After I threw the bottle away, one asked if I was alone and if I spoke any Russian. Yes and No. These seemed to strike him as the wrong answers. It seemed like he wanted to say more, but couldn’t find the words. He just shook his head and waved me on.

Needless to say, this put a damper on my exploration ambitions. I walked a little further down the boardwalk then headed back to the hotel. I don’t really know how dangerous Vladivostok is, but it didn’t strike me as particularly bad place to be. Granted it was 11.30 (I thought it was 9.30) but it was an open area w/ lots of people about. When I talk to Russians they seem to be of the opinion that being alone and unable to speak Russian is akin to a death sentence. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I haven’t encountered anything that seemed too sketchy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seoul Part 2

The hostel I’m staying in has eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast. It’s all self service with a small kitchen area. When I get up, there are a group of Japanese tourists at the table. They kindly point out where everything is for me. They seem to assume that as an American I have never set foot in a kitchen and can’t identify instant coffee or tea. The toaster is on a light setting and when it doesn’t brown the bread in one session (? Is there a word for this?) I put it back in for a second go round. One of the older Japanese women sees this and takes it as evidence that I’m completely retarded and takes it upon herself to help me. She stops the toaster, pulls the bread out and hands me butter. I’m somewhat baffled, but decide it’s not worth attempting to argue. I decide that eggs are out of the question and pick up a waffle (with honey and some cream, awesome) from a vendor on my way out.

I’m staying right by the Geyoung-yeoung palace complex, so I head over to check it out. I arrive just as they’re switching between night and day guard shifts. The palace isn’t inhabited, so the whole process is just for show. They have announcers describing everything in Korean, English and Japanese. It’s a very choreographed and colorful affair. It’s a pretty striking contrast to buses full of cops with riot gear that they use nowadays. I think they should have kept the hats.

The day is rainy. I get an umbrella, but don’t wander far. I go to a museum. I go to lunch. I order some stir fried octopus and am asked if I like hot food. I do not, so I order the mild dish. It is not mild. It is horrible. I am starving, but eating the food is painful. You don’t actually taste anything b/c your lips are burning. And your tongue. And throat. I eat about half the plate at which point the hunger pains are less than the mouth-burning pains. I leave and stop in a nearby dunkin donuts where I am confident I can find palatable food. I get a chick donut. Dunkin Donuts is much classier in Seoul than Boston.

Later, back at the hostel. I’m on my computer when a Japanese lady (it’s a holiday in Japan, so there are Japanese tourists everywhere) staying at the hostel comes in. With the hostel manager acting as translator, she tells me there is a parade starting soon and invites me to join her. Sounds like a plan. I head towards the center of town w/ Yuko.

Apparently it’s the first day of the High Seoul Festival. There’s a parade and an elaborate stage area. The parade route, however, is not blocked off. There are just masses of people wandering around the street. Some are in costumes. Many have posters and flags. There are also armies of police everywhere.

Finally, the parade starts. But since the routes not blocked off, they just have people in the front that kind of push they’re way through the crowd. Protestors scream and wave posters at the parade participants. I wonder if the cops will recognize that I am not involved if/when a riot breaks out.

After the parade arrives at the stage area, performers come out and sing and dance. At any break in the music, protestors (making up at least half the crowd) chant and yell. Yuko clearly doesn’t like the protestors and police presence. She indicates that she’s ready to go and, since the novelty of Koreans in pink costumes singing and dancing has worn off, I’m fine with this. We go to a nearby restaurant and have bland soup. This time w/ beef and rice. Korean food is seriously disappointing.

Yuko heads back to the hostel and I decide to see what Seoul has to offer on a Saturday night. Having no knowledge or guide about Seoul, I’d been planning on going to the cool little theater district that I’d discovered earlier. It’s getting late though and rather than deal with making sure I don’t miss the subway, I decide to stay close by.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot going on in this neighborhood. The places that have ‘Hof’ signs (I think Hof just means alcohol, but I’m not 100%) are just restaurants without bars and I don’t really want to sit alone at a table. I end up just going into a nondescript place a block from the hostel. It’s on the 2nd floor and in the stairwell I run into a pair of Korean kids who tell me they go to the University of Michigan. They also ask if I work there. They’re kinda drunk.

I’m sitting alone at a table when the 2 from the stairwell come into the restaurant place and sit down w/ 2 other Korean guys. They invite me to join them. Turns out they all met at the University of Michigan, but are back to serve their 2 years in the military. They seem genuinely excited to have a foreigner to speak English with (all four are fluent) and I’m glad to have company.

They’re curious about what I think of Korea and how it stacks up against Japan. They’re adamant that I should ignore stereotypes of Koreans (I explain that in Missouri there aren’t Korean stereotypes b/c we don’t recognize such fine distinctions amongst Asians) and insist that Koreans are very friendly. After a while they say they’re moving to another place nearby and invite me along. We lose the two from the stairwell, Alex and Tony, at this point (Actually Tony’s been out of commission pretty much the whole time. Though when I asked his name, he perked up long enough to say “Tony, like Tony Montana or Tony the Tiger”. )

So, this leaves Sunny, Young and I to head to the next place. It’s another little restaurant down an alley. We order some food and small bottle some sweet liquor. We take shots and eat the first decent Korean food (excepting the waffles) I’ve had. I learn a bit about why all the police are around. By 2AM or so, the restaurant is packed. Apparently, it stays open all night and people just eat and drink till dawn. Around 3 we decide to call it a night and I head back to the hostel.

The next day I do a lot of wandering, trying to see more of Seoul. It seems much more spread out than Tokyo. I found a sweet Korean market and if it weren’t for my limited luggage capacity I definitely would’ve been buying some socks w/ Korean celebrities on them. Come June, they will be mine.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Russia: Day 1

Well, it's not as cheap as I'd hoped and accomplishing simple tasks here is much more complicated than anywhere else I've ever been, but I've survived the night. I've also only just now discovered time here is 2 hours ahead of what I thought it was. Something crazy going on with the sun here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seoul Arrival

I'm up at out of the capsule hotel by 6.30am. I get to the airport around 7 and am the first passenger at the international terminal. I guess the earliest flight isn't till after 10 (mine's at 10:40) and 3 hours is way more time than you need. A restaurant upstairs is just opening and I get the 'American Morning'. Aside from the salad it includes, it is a reasonable approximation of real breakfast food.

The flight out of Fukuoka is short and I arrive in Busban where I'll be connecting to Seoul. I'm amazed that despite being a foreigner and not speaking the native language, airport security is far less of a hassle than for domestic flights in America. I'm also surprised to see a Dunkin Donuts. I'm even more surprised to find out that I kind of missed seeing Dunkin Donuts.

If the airport is any indication, Koreans generally seem to be better with English than the Japanese. Which is good, b/c I want to speak to them in my broken Japanese, which is hardly useful in Japan. It was actually kind of weird to have stewardess switch to English to greet me on the plane rather. It's also annoying to be illiterate again. I didn't understand a lot of signs in Japan, but I could at least try to sound them out and figure out what they said. Here is all just scribbling again.

On the flight to Seoul I got a seat in the emergency exit row. The seat seems very small, but at least I mostly have leg room. It's only 'mostly' b/c a stewardess is sitting directly in front of me for take off/landing. She turns awkwardly to the side b/c there's not enough room for both our legs. The stewardesses also all wear awesome cloth things tied around their necks that stick out like 6 inches. I'm hoping this is a sign that Japan's sweet uniform obsession will carry over to Korea.

I take the subway in from the airport to pretty much the middle of Seoul. Since I really did no research in where to go in Seoul, I'm just following a pamphlet from the airport that says this is a tourist area w/ many hotels and such around. There are cops everywhere. Like ridiculous numbers of cops. Like an army wearing body armor and equipped with riot gear. Clearly someone has tipped off Korea about my arrival. Fortunately, after three months in Japan, I seem just like a Japanese tourist and able to slip by undetected.

I later learn that something involving the former president has led to the armies of cops in the area. Apparently he was arrested on corruption charges or something and his house is nearby. The picture above is at one of the subway entrances near the hostel I'm staying at. There are groups of police like this at every subway station and on many corners. I think half of Seoul's population must be police.

I check into a hostel, wander a bit, take a nap then go eat. I go to a place with chickens rotating on a spit that claims to be a traditional Korean something or other restaurant. There's a line out the door, so I figure it's probably good. I figured wrong. Sitting on the floor sucks. There's really no upside to this. It's not quaint. It's not interesting. It's just uncomfortable and annoying. Maybe if that's what you do your whole life it works fine, but I'm not a fan. Also they have flat chopsticks here which prove to be a pain. I'd gotten decent with the chopsticks in Japan, but these aren't working. Part of that is b/c I'm trying to pick chicken off the bone that's floating in a soup using chopsticks. When I do manage to pull a piece out, I almost invariably have to spit out some bone or cartilidge chunk or something. And to top it all off, it's the blandest soup ever. And I usually like bland things. Also, Kimchi does nothing for me. I'll eat it, but it holds no appeal.

While Korea's food is thus far not winning me over, they at least try to make up for it with the beer. I wandered into a fairly nice bar and beer is less than 3000 won per pint. Compared to Japan, this is fantastatic. And you don't tip, so compared to Boston, this is fantastic. I hang out at the bar talking w/ a guy who'd apparently just finished singing a set. He's friendly enough and offers further evidence that English is better spoken here.

A lady singer starts playing. There's a group of ~10 near the singer. Mostly business suits, a few women. One guy is awesome. He performs captivating dance routines for everyones enjoyment. He then forces one of the other men to join him, holding his hands and hopping around while the lady sings 'So Happy Together'. It's pretty much justified the plane ticket to Korea.

Back to the hostel. There's a small dog in a dress hanging out on a chair in the common room. No one appears to own it. nice.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Farewell Tour

Some Part of Osaka

On my way to Fukuoka I stopped in Osaka to check out the aquarium and the Tai Sakuma memorial plaza. Unfortunately, the plaza was undergoing reservations. But the aquarium was cool, in an 'it's an aquarium' sort of way. They have whale sharks in really big tank. Apparently the amount of acrylic glass used to build the tanks is equivalent to 1.5 times the entire world's annual production of the material.

Renovations at the Tai Sakuma Memorial Plaza

In Fukuoka, I decided I should experience a capsule hotel. The lobby was really nice and the place had a sauna on the eleventh floor which included a rooftop sauna. I'm definitely a fan of the Japanese hotel setup. 24-hr onsens are a brilliant idea. The place was also under 3500 yen for the night. The downside, I guess, being that your room is a small tube.

I dropped off my bag in my assigned locker on the second floor and headed out to get some food. The nightlife in Fukuoka is set alongside a canal not far from the train station. I'd walked passed when I stopped off on my way to Yakushima and seen all the street vendors and carts lined up along the river. Michael, from the restaurant in Tokyo, had recommended going to this area and written down a couple of things I should eat.

The area is lively with vendors trying to lure people into one of the many food places. I'm not really sure what they're called. They're basically bars built around a small counter behind which the cook makes ramen, or sushi or the little grilled meat on a stick things. They all sell beer and shochu and the place has a laid back kind of festival feel. The food was good, the weather was nice. The food places all have a half-dilapidated makeshift feel to them. I'm a big fan. Fukuoka rates well in my mind.

Figuring I'll need to get up early to make sure I make my flight in the morning, I decide to head back to the hotel fairly early. Along the way, I pass a pachinko parlor and figure it'll be my last chance to check it out. As is obvious from walking past other ones, the place is deafeningly loud. All the machines are blaring noise the whole time. I investigate a machine near the door and have no idea how it works. I wander through and aisle where people sit entrances by the little video screens and dropping metal balls. Some people have stacks of baskets filled with the balls next to them.

The long line at the counter up front dissuades me from pursuing panchinko any further (despite Nicholas Cage's assurance of its entertainment). I guess I've never really seen the appeal of slot machines either, but I don't remember casinos I've been in being quite as loud as this place (could be misremembering). Oh well, I probably don't need to waste anymore money anyway.

Back at the hotel, I change into my awesome hotel outfit (if I button the top shirt button, it nearly chokes me) and head to the sauna. After a brief visit to the rooftop hot tub, I head to my assigned tube. The tube hallway has an awesome scifi movie feel to it.

Creepy Capsule Hallway

There's really not that much to say about the tube. It's big enough tha I can sit up. There's a tv attached to the ceiling and a control panel for the alarm/tv/radio/lights. That's about it. It's a tube.

That's pretty much it.