As you probably know, this time around I’m in Japan on a tourist visa. This means that I’m limited to remaining in the country for a maximum of 3 consecutive months. Most foreigners in this situation resolve it by popping over to Korea for a weekend and returning with a nice, shiny new stamp in their passport. As for me, I’m about ready to try someplace new. My love for Kyoto will never die, but if I’m gonna be living in the most expensive country in this part of the world I might as well do it when the weather’s beautiful and the fun is plentiful. That means getting the hell out of here for Winter and coming back in the Spring 🙂
So what are my plans between now and then?
First, let me start by saying that I’m constantly making big, elaborate itineraries which rarely reach fruition. I make them knowing this right from the get-go: I only bother because I always like to know what’s around me and what options are available. Whether or not the knowledge comes in useful is usually up to circumstance – but without at least some knowledge of issues like visas, transportation, weather, political stability, etc – I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to make things happen.
Take my recent trip to the Middle East for instance. I’d looked extensively into not only Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, but also Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey – all accessible within a couple days of each other by boat. It turned out that I made it to only half the countries I’d looked into…but without all that research I might never have noticed that I was sitting in a hotel just a few hours away from Petra, or that Egypt does in fact allow entry to visitors with Israeli stamps in their passports.
So anyway, here’s what I’ve been tossing around.
Step one: around the end of next month I head to Osaka Station and pick up a “Nikan kyodo kippu,” a combined train-ferry-train ticket from Osaka direct to Seoul. There I’ll meet up with Eli, a good buddy who you might remember my meeting during New Year 2006 in Tokyo. I’ll arrive just a few days before Halloween – which happens to fall right on October’s Hongdae Club Day. From what I’ve read, Hongdae Club Day is one of the best nights out anywhere in Asia – an entire district of clubs, bars, and stages, ALL of which allow admission on a single all-night pass. Sounds good. And Eli’s apartment just happens to be mere minutes away on foot. Sounds extra-good.
Then, since I only had one day of tourism on my last visit to Seoul, I’d hang out for a couple weeks, working in the mornings and evenings while sightseeing in between. I was able to find quite a few single hotel rooms WITH Internet for about the same daily rate as I’m currently paying for my Kyoto Apartment, and with my own private place to work, I anticipate no problems concentrating like I experienced in my Tel Aviv hostel.
Then I’ll catch a boat over to China via Qingdao or Tianjin, continuing by train to Shijiazhuang. Shijiazhuang is the city where Andy, one of my oldest friends (whose name I’m sure you’ll recognize from his comments on this site) has lived and worked for the past three years. There, he’ll help set me up with a furnished apartment where, visa permitting (this is the big “IF!”) I can ride out the winter until Chinese New Year. The plan here is to work. The combination of ultra-cheap cost of living, cold weather, and total lack of nightlife will keep me totally focused on productivity while at the same time providing the opportunity to experience living in a totally new country. If I make enough headway in my 2 current projects, maybe I can even get started learning a little Chinese.
After that is where things really start to get dreamy. I’d give the following a very low chance of happening, but if it somehow does, I’ll be one happy camper.
The possible route I’m looking at could take me all the way South to Thailand in time for Thai New Year in April – from Shijiazhuang through Hong Kong and Macau, on to Hanoi and down Vietnam to Saigon, West through Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and finally back up to Bangkok. I’ve got two friends living in Bangkok and a couple of second-degree contacts in the Southern Thai islands, as well as a friend who I just learned will be modeling in Hong Kong about the time I’d be passing through. And aside from these various meetings, by making my way solo-style and moving very slowly my hope is that I can continue programming all the way through – splitting my time up between work and tourism.
Keep your fingers crossed that everything falls into place! 🙂