Friday, July 31, 2009

Hakone

I'm not sure whether it was the "unlimited" bus pass that only worked
on one line, the hotel only dining options that closed at 8, or the
severe fog - but somehow I felt Hakone is a tourist trap. I'm sure if
it had been clear, and Mt. Fuji had been visable, I would think
otherwise, but as things are I couldn't see my outstretched hand.

Nonetheless, we did eat eggs boiled in a sulfuric hotspring on top of
a volcano (the shell comes out black!) with hundreds of local
tourists. We also found our way to the outdoor museum, which had some
great sculptures and a surprisingly large Picaso collection.

Ultimately, if the weather had been better I would have focused on the
views. With the fog, I will remember a sleepy lake side village, and
struggling to navigate the transport system - a more Japanese
experience.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The food

In the last two days, I have been lucky enough to have a few old co-
workers show me some of their favorite places to eat. Yesterday, we
spent the large part of the night at a small establishment upstairs
called simply "things on sticks". You sit down at a bar, and they
continually serve you various things (meat, veg, both) on a stick deep
fried - amazing.

Tonight found us at a traditional Japanese steak house for a multi-
course dinner including lobster, soup, salad, and culminating in beer
fed, hand massaged beef, which melted in your mouth with a tenderness
I've never experienced before.

While Tokyo has been interesting these meals - plus the fish market
sushi - have been the highlights I will remember. Heading to Hakone
tomorrow, and I'm rather looking forward to the less urban environment.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The kindness of strangers

Coming off the plane, it is immediately reinforced why it is "asia ex-
japan". This place is fully immersive, it scoops you up and you're
along for the ride and nothing works like anywhere else. This causes
the only problmayo have encountered so far - the complete confusion
which sets in when trying to interact with anyone or anything.
Thankfully, strangers are exceedingly helpful. So far a man on the
subway helped make sure we got off at the right stop, another called
the hotel for directions, and yet two more pulled out maps and walked
us to the ryokan after we got lost again. This was promptly followed
by two students explaining that you don't order from a waiter but a
machine in the corner of the restaurant. Thank you to all of you - New
Yorkers should be so kind.

As I write this I am on a tatami mat in the ryokan - while not
uncomfortable, I am a bit curious about the communal stool height
shower tomorrow morning...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Student Again

After 4 years and 9 days, including 364 days in Hong Kong, I walked
out of the office yesterday for the final time. No blackberry, an out
of office and voicemail greeting saying messages won't be returned,
and no obligations for the next month. A strange feeling to walk away
from one of the few constants since college.

I will be starting at London Business School in late August. The
decision to go back to get a Masters was a tough one, but ultimately
the right one. People keep saying things like this is the perfect time
in the cycle to go, or you're at the right place in your career. For
me though, it is much more a chance to reflect and see what comes
next. The impressions from my time in an office are many and varied -
curious to see what stands out in 6 / 12 months.

Immediately, I'm off to Japan followed by Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
A final jaunt through Asia with only a backpack and my camera kit -
stay tuned.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

School Busses

This was written for a project I worked on a few months ago, I share it as I'm curious for feedback and don't want it to just vanish into my hard drive.