Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Finally got all my photos uploaded. Quite a struggle uploading 1GB, almost 1000 photos.

Well, as there is a 20MB upload limit for Flickr, and a 1GB/500 photo limit for Picasa Web Albums, I could not upload this big amount of photos to any of my normal use web photo sites. I split the photos into 2 parts, and got 2 new Picasa accounts:
1st half | 2nd half

Because my internet connection was slow when I first started uploading, I scaled down the photo sizes of the 1st half. But then the speed went up, and all photos in the 2nd half are uploaded in their original size.


Monday, July 30, 2007

北海道自転車旅行:7/5 旭川へ

We said our good byes to Ryan, made sub sandwichs for breakfast, and were back on the road. Ryan told us that there is a bike route along the river that leads to Asahikawa (旭川), and so that the route we took. The entrence of the bike route looked deserted, a sign pointing to a little paved trail covered in grass. It seemed well once we passes through the grass, as we entered a river side park with a map of the bike route welcoming us. The river side bike route was pritty nice, with green grass on both sides under clear blue skies. We were enjoying it for some kilometers, until the route suddenly turned away from the river into the farms and discontinued soon after. We stuck by the riverside and rode on, seeing the "bike route" appear and disappear now and then: whenever the "bike route" sign disappears, it turned into dirt road. Boy is this route finished? Abandoned? Underconstruction? Or what? We saw signs of neither, only an incomplete product of carelessness. One the bright side, we rode through great fields of grass with rolls of hay left here and there, obviously made from the tall grass grown there. Hay rolls on green grass under the golden sun, with eagles flying above: a sight you never see in the tropical/subtropical island of Taiwan.

After that beauty, we passed a huge sign, shapped as a bike, that said "Takikawa-Fukagawa bike route". (Fukagawa (深川) is the city between Takikawa and Asahikawa) And sarcastically, the route leades right into a field of tall grass right after the sign: this is truly the end of it, although Fukagawa, where it was supposed to lead to, is still miles away and nowhere in sight.

Forced off the river side route, we cut accross some farms and finally got back on Route 12. We soon got to the Fukagawa station of the road, the only one we know of that has a 7-eleven. Later on, we came to a tunnel that said bike and pedestrians not allowed, and there's a bypass route for us next to it. This is where we saw the first "Caution: Bears around" (注意:熊出没) sign. Fun and exciting as it is, no one really hoped to run into one.

Getting closer to our goal of the day: Asahikawa(旭川), we encountered another tunnel, also with a bypass for bikes. Yet, it's part of the "Asahikawa city bike route". As we had to make a turn before entering the city to get to our camping site(カムイの杜公園), I was afraid that the path might lead directly into the city with no exits to the camping site, thus I made the decision to ride through the tunnel. Bad mistake. The tunnel was narrow. If you ride on the road, you block traffic, and my friends practically made a traffic jam. I, who was riding on the sidewalk, told them to get on the sidewalk and let the traffic go. But the sidewalk is also narrow, with sand on the ground, and "emergency phones"(非常電話) sticking out of the wall now and then, forcing us to walk by the phones to avoid falling off the sidewalk. Worst of all, it turned out to be more then 1.2km long, you could immagine the bad air inside...

Taking deep breaths outside, we finally got out, and noticed that the bike path had many exits to the main road. Great. Next on, we still missed that small turn to the campsite, and rode directly into the city dispite sticking to route 12. Well, on the good side we found a great big supermarket to get food for dinner in the city. And we could get to the campsite very fast from the city. It's only a 1km climb, 1km downhill, and 1km flat road. There's also hotsprings(高砂温泉) on top of the hill.

The campsite (カムイの杜公園, something like "park of the stomach of the devil"? I'm not sure how to translate the name), is neatly arranged, another beautiful park in a valley, and best of all, free. The manager is very nice, helpful and likes to chat, always saying "you really should see the flowers in Biei(美瑛, our next stop)". With hotspings in 2km, and a supermarket in 5km, it was one of the best stays we had. We even had sashimi(刺身) and beer after the bath in the hotspings. Sashimi is always half price in supermarkets by the end of the day, to clear off the old ones and sell fresh ones the next day. The half price ones are our favorite. Oh, yeah, the hotspings bath place guy also gave us Japanese Cherries, which are the sweetest I'd ever had.

We were the only ones camping in the park that night. Very nice to have a valley all to our selves.
July 4th: 滝川 / 滝川 live report << | >> July 6th: 旭川

Eww... Hot and sweaty

After only 4 nights of sleep on my bed which was just cleaned before I returned from Hokkaido. It already has a bad smell of sweat.

I guess I should not save on AC power consumption.

Also, that's one more minus point for living in Taiwan in the future: the hot and humid weather. I hope it doesn't get worse in the future, or I might be forced to settle down in a cooler country...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

北海道自転車旅行:Jul, 4: 滝川へ

We woke up to bright sunlight, birds chirping and insects flying around lively in the morning, in a beautifully green valley in Iwamizawa (岩見沢). Well, it was actually the Iwamizawa city park, next to the "Green land amusment park" that we thought was closed. Well, we woke up and found out that the Farris wheel of "Green land" was moving again... Great, that must mean that they closed 5pm yesterday, no wonder we can't get into the camping grounds at 5:30. As we were having breakfast, someone came and told us that we should camp in the camping grounds, not camp in the park grounds. Well, we made our apologies got packed and get going before any other officials came.

Sunshine, lush trees, clean streets, and music playing in the city, a morning in Iwamizawa feels like a typical impression you would expect from "wonderland" in cartoons. Only thing is that the music, played from a city PA system, also plays local info and ads; not wonderland-ish,
yet still interesting. There are city people and students of the near by education university walking on the streets. Factor in all the beauty of the city, and the abundance of shopping places just out of town makes this my favorite city of all the cities that I will pass through during this trip.

We went on north on route 12 and made a brief stop at the Mikasa (三笠) "station of the road (道の駅)", a roadside rest station. Our friend Hisaishi had told us about these spots, which were places where you could find restrooms, public phones, and local agricultural goods, typically places for people on the road to take a rest. As "station of the road (道の駅)" suggests, these are to roads what train stations are to railways. Will this is the first "station of the road (道の駅)" that we stopped at, and also the first one ever built in Hokkaido. Yet, other then a stand alone bathroom, some phones, and a water mill to make the picture look better, this is practically a bazaar of vegetables and fruits. Not quite what we immagined. Turns out this is the only "station of the road" that we'll ever see that doesn't have a AC'd main building.

We then went on the the longest straight route in Japan: a segment of route 12 that spans 29.2km without and turns, directly leading to our goal of the day: Takikawa(滝川). The thought of riding on the longest straight road in Japan is sure cool, and I could imagine my self going full speed on this road to my heart's content, never having to slow down for a curve. Yet, turns out that no curves is too boring for the mind, and I was soon riding half asleep, at a high speed of 35 km/hr. I managed to collect enough consciousness, pull up by the road and catch a nap till my friends arrived. (I was riding in the front, faster then the others.) Later on, I rode slower, sticking with friends and kept talking to avoid the previous horror story of the "high speed nap".

The little cities en route are pretty much similar to what we saw yesterday. Tiny cute towns building around little train stations.

We got to Takikawa relatively early in the afternoon. Before we got to Hokkaido, we had contact with a nice photographer: Ryan, who also travels on bikes and was kind enough to offer us a free homestay at his home in Takikawa. And so we called him from the train station, and he came for us on bike soon after. He was Californian and it's kind of strange to suddenly switch to English in Japan. Yet, it was still nice to suddenly be able to communicate in a more familiar language. He came on a folding bike with inner gears and outer derailers, which he said are like double gears that changes speeds faster then normal bikes, and he rides this folding bike almost everywhere he wants. Amazing. I always thought folding bikes would be harder to ride, but, maybe I'll figure out the real answer when I have money to get one for my self.

He lives in a little house where he shares a rent with someone else. Here we were astonished by how safe it is in a Japanese community: he came to fetch us while leaving door and windows open. Talk about burglar free... Yeah, over the days, we have grown to be comfortable with leaving our bikes in the Japanese public unlocked; but leaving your home unlocked? I can't help but be surprised of how safe it is in Japan and can now better relate to the idea of the use of "paper doors" in the old times of Japan. Will, we unpacked, took baths and did our laundry. And Ryan introduced us to the beautiful photos of his, mostly of the highest mountain of Hokkaido: Daisetuzan (大雪山), where we plained to go later on. I can try to find all the fancy words that I know to describe his works, yet I don't think it's possible to communicate the breathtaking beauty of the photos in words. Better go to Ryan's site and take a look your self. Despite the great photos, a life of a freelance photographer still seems hard as he is really busy and the pay isn't high. We have always thought it's nice to have a life of a freelance worker, to work at home and set your own hours; yet now it seems that, freelance means work is part of every minute of your life.

So why a Californian living in a small town like Takikawa? Ryan said he likes to peacefulness of small towns, and Takikawa is a small town near enough to Sapporo so it's convenient to go into town get anything he needs done and not have to live in the busy city. Plus, it's close to Daisetuzan, the beautiful mountains that are the theme of many of his photos.

Ryan took us to a steak house for a "cheep all you can eat" dinner, which is the salad bar only, minus the steak. A radical way to save and have lots of salad, maybe something I could be doing in the future before I find a job. I have never been so creative in cutting corners, and after a whole day's ride, I can't help but still order the cheapest chicken steak and share it with a friend, to apase my hunger that needs more then salad. Later on, while at the supermarket shopping for tomorrow's breakfast, he told us that he never bought anything that's not 50% off. Wow...! (Although we later on figured that that particular supermarket had some of the most expensive prices we've seen in our whole trip.)
July 3rd: 岩見沢 << | July 4th: 滝川 live report | >> July 5th: 旭川

Saturday, July 28, 2007



Thursday, July 26, 2007




Wednesday, July 25, 2007

北海道旅行live report: Jul 26 @ 札幌

Finally, the last day of the trip. Packing and trying to find ways to make the best use of my last hours here before we take the train to the airport. Maybe I should get some Japan only food that I haven't tried...
I will really be missing the nice, cool and dry weather of Hokkaido's summer, and the strange life style of wandering around on bikes in a foreign place, wondering where we are on the map.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

北海道旅行live report: Jul 21 @ 釧路

今日は釧路に到着します。中標津から釧路まて98km。雨降り続きさすで、氣温も低い、でも速い走りますから、寒くない。均速19.8km/hr とても楽しいですね。

Got to Kushiro today, 98km south of Nakashibetu, where I started this morning. It was raining the whole way and temperature was low, yet as I was going at my own full speed today (the girls went by bus because of the distance, boring road, and rain), and fast moving legs don't feel cold. Really nice riding at an average speed of 19.8km/hr though, expecially when I was riding the last part at 31km/hr :)

Half way on the road, a police car passed us and suddenly shouted in a strange low voice with a load speaker: がんばで! (Go!) What a scare!

北海道自転車旅行:Jul, 3: 岩見沢へ

After camping in Hokkaido university, we are finally fully prepared, left Sapporo and hit the road. Really feels strange that as we are leaving the city, we go pass all these roads that we have gotten familiar with in the past few days. As we are finally getting used to life in this city, we must leave the city and move on to the next.

The city subsided to the suburbs, which then quickly subsided to grasslands, hills and farms. Now and then a little town shows up, with a train station in the center. We spotted a beautiful little train station at Toyohoro, a white wooden building that looks as if it came out of some fairy tale. Mid-size stations, though, are more dule, just some concrete bypass structure over the rail.
We made more kilometers then planned, and got to the city of Iwamizawa (岩見沢) in the afternoon. After some questions about the camping place in Iwamizawa in the info desk at the train station, we located it and called the number to ask if we needed to check-in. The guy at the city office who answered the phone told us to call another number at the park, which told us to call yet another number, which turned out to be a nonexistant number. Well, we just went there anyway.

It was a park next to an amusment park: "Green land". The camping site was aranged by the amusment park, yet, it was just 6pm, and the amusment park already looks closed and haunted. Nice. As we have no where else to go, we camped in the park anyways. The park was big, clean and beautiful. Little hills with lively trees and green grass. Only problem was that there was nowhere to take a shower. Well, I get a cold bath in the huge disabled toilet with water from the faucet. Dinner was very nice though, the 2 girls of us made beef tomato noodles with wholesome sweet soup, thanks to a great big supermarket close by. It was named "Big House", and indeed huge even by American standards, selling a big variety of foods, a large portion on sell.

Iwamizawa is a beautiful little town. Straight streets with wide sidewalks and roadside flowers, many parks, clean and pretty houses, light music playing in the town's main streets, and all kinds of shopping complexs in the surroundings.
July 2nd: 札幌 << | >> July 4th: 滝川 / 滝川 live report

Monday, July 16, 2007

北海道旅行live report:Jul, 16: 網走

今晩、網走の民宿に住んでいます。I am staying in a B&B in Abashiri(網走). Well, actually, the host had an real old house next door, as a "rider house", where we can stay for a much cheeper price.

Abashiri(網走) is a small sea side harbor town, which really reminds me of home, also a fishing harbor town. They've got a great big resident hall which houses a nice library. Flipping through the bio-medical related books really made me think, why I'm not studying more, but killing time in this far away town. I get tired of studying papers and text books when I am at school and it's all that I need to do. Yet when I'm traveling, I start to think of the good things of being a student.

Great thanks to the owner of lamp B&B (民宿ランプ) for the great price and wireless internet.

北海道自転車旅行:Jul, 2nd

We originally planned to goto Otaru (小樽) by bus or train on this day. Yet, our British roommate told us there's nothing interesting except sashimi (さしみ) there. I don't know if that's true, but we got up too late that morning, and feel that the price and time required isn't worth it if we set out late. Thus we didn't go, and got a free day looking around Sapporo, and buying clothes. From a day in Sapporo yesterday, many friends find the wind in this northern city freezing cold, and was already wearing thick coats; while the people find it a nice and cool summer day and are wearing shorts. I am some where in between, also mostly wearing shorts, occasionally putting on a shirt. Yet, as we will be goting to the highest mountain in Hokkaido: Daisetsuzan (大雪山), we are anticipating low temperatures and thus decided that we haven't brought enough clothes, and set out to buy more.

We went to Moriwayama (藻岩山) in the afternoon. A short ride to the edge of the city, brought us to the high point that is famous for a great night view of Sapporo. Yet we've got a date to have dinner with the friend from Hokkaido university, thus we could not go in the night. The road up the mountain is far away, long and steep; yet the other option, cable car is quite expensive. We decided to take the cable car one way up (600\), and walk down through a natural reserve forest pathway.
The cable car ride is fun and smooth with a great view all the way. A free shuttle bus then takes us from the cable car station, which is half way up the hill, to the oberservery on the top. The view there is wide and spectacular, we could even see the suburbes and citys next to Sapporo. As all tourist spots, there is a shop selling related stuff, expecially merchendise of the cute mountain mascot: も〜りす(mo~ris). The walk down hill took us through a forest full of wild life. I expecially love all the birds I saw along the way. Yet some of my friends rather sing, talk, and laugh loudly as they walk, scaring away everything in the way. Thus I walked faster, keeping a distance ahead, to enjoy the sound and air of great mother nature.

Dinner with the friend from Hokkaido university, was the most famous dish of Sapporo: ジンギスカン (gingiskan BBQ), which seems to be lambchop Mongolian BBQ. Of course it tastes great, not only the meat, but also griled eggplant and konyaku. Yet everything is so expensive, in tiny dishes, except the huge bowls of rice.

As the price of youth hostels are still a little high, we camped in some corner of the beautiful campus of Hokkaido university (excitingly, we are not sure what people might think when seeing tents in a campus). A start of our vegabond-like camping life in this unfamilier foreign country.

In the night as we went to the Hokkaido university hospital to find a toilet, I was reminded of research life in a lab in a university hospital: all the exciting discoveries and fun experiments that I was doing just days ago, and all the great friendly mentors and lab mates. Here I am, tempararily giving up a lifestyle that I love so much, in exchange for a less stressful life wandering in another country.
July 1st: 札幌 << | >> July 3rd: 岩見沢

Saturday, July 07, 2007

北海道自転車旅行:Jul, 1st: Preperation

This is the day that we look around Sapporo and see if there is anything we need to buy before getting on the road. We went to look for supermarkets, drugstores and 100\ stores to get all our stuff. We went to the area around Otori part (大通公園), and a political party (公明党) has a election campaign car going around town, broadcasting all sorts of stuff about the party. We didn't understand much of the content, just the party of the name...bla, bla, bla...; and their people are ...bla, bla, bla...(公明党は..., 公明党の人は). We thought it was fun, and read along, 公明党は..., 公明党は.... Then, as we were walking in the park, an old lady asked us: "How much do you know about politics?" We answered: "Nothing, we're not Japanese." Then she muttered sarcasticly: "公明党万歳、公明党万歳!" (Long live koume party!)

We also went to the big clock(時計台), which was previously a part of the agricultural school that would come to be Hokkaido university. It was a beautiful old European style mansion with a clock on a tower. It is now a historical exibition place, with tickets so high in price that we considered it not worth it. So we didn't go in.

We also went to the Sapporo beer garden, which is an old beer factory turned museum, built beautifuly of brick. They also have a little garden of wheat and a pile of wooden beer barrels out side to add to the feeling. There is an exibition of how beer is brewed, with cute little models of the procedures, step by step; and even wheat samples to taste. Although the admission is free, with beautiful tasting bars and the aroma of beer, you just can't help but buy a cup of beer. Sapporo beer is thick and sweet, yet I prefer the light flaver of Asahi. The beer also comes with a snack of choice: cheese, onion cheese, or

We meet friends from the Hokkaido university cycling club in the afternoon, who so kindly lent us 2 tents of great quality. They also took us around town looking for stuff we didn't know where to find, such as fuel for cooking while camping. I also got a "bear bell", to keep bears away in the mountains. One important advice they gave us is that riding on the road or sidewalk are both OK.

This night, we went to the train station to get our 4th member, who came one day late, and took a train from the airport. With yesterday's experiance, we got her bike assembled in no time.

We went to Ramen alley, which our british room mate recomendened. Although in downtown, and clearly marked on the map, it's really hard to find. Yet, once we found the enterence, we saw a large panal of all shops in the alley, complete with photos of the most popular ramen and a taste meter(thick/clear or salty soop) of each shop. Yet, many shops are on vacation or closed, others packed. We ended up choosing the shop that has the least people, yet not empty.

June 30th /2: 札幌 << | >> Jul 2nd: 札幌

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

北海道自転車旅行:live report 1

We are now in 滝川(takikawa), about 100km north of 札幌(sapporo), staying at a nice homestay of Mr. Ryan Libre, a great cycling photographer who loves 大雪山(daisetusan) here in Hokkaido.

For more info about our host Ryan, please visit www.idioimagers.org

This is just a short live report, the full story would be posted if I can find the time to do it.

July 3rd: 岩見沢 << | >> July 5th: 旭川

北海道自転車旅行:Jun 30, 2st half: 札幌へ

New Chitose Airport(CTS) was astonishingly small that we came to the customs right after we left the plane. Security seemed to be tighter as everything on our passports were checked throughly, yet we passed just fine. As a 737 was small, and not much flights land at CTS, the line was short, compensating for the long times per person. Our bikes were already at one side of the baggage clam when we got there: the big boxes were the last to go into the plane, thus the first out. As people see our bikes, everyone was so friendly, either offering to help with moving the box or bidding us good luck.

Taking the bike out of the box and assembily was a breeze: at least for me... Mine was packed the smallest box, thus with the most taken apart parts, yet I was familiar with what I took apart. I also kept everything that required fine tuning in tack while packing, thus minimal tuning while reassembily. The steps that took the most time were cleaning up the mess of packaging material and repacking all the stuff onto my bike.

After all the work, 2hrs after we started, we set off. Unfamiliar with the road rules of Japan it was a little hard to decide where to ride at first. For example, they keep to the left side of the road, something we constantly forgot; and we weren't sure wither it's better to ride on the side of the road or on the sidewalks. The road sides were smooth and paveded smoothly& the sidewalks were very wide, just right for riding, yet paved poorly with holes and bumps. There are many people commuting on bikes in the cities, mostly on sidewalks. So we decided we should take the sidewalks. (later on, our friend at Hokkaido told as that it's OK either way, unless marked otherwise.

Chitose, the first city we saw, was a simple, quite little town. Clean and beautiful, as most Japanese cities. There was a river flowing through the city, so clear that you could see the bottom: something we haven't seen in Taiwan before, unless deep in the mountains; bringing us a big surprise and getting us all excited.

The meal on the plane was tiny, thus we were all hungry, and went to "Seico mart", a conveniant store. Expecting high prices in Japan, we were surprised to find cheep yakisoba(Japanese fried noodles) for 100yen, and milk cheaper then in Taiwan. Hokkaido milk was sweat, smooth and creamy. Very delicious when compared with the oil lacking Taiwanese milk. So good to have thick and smooth Hokkaido milk as our first snack here.

The road to Sapporo was bumpy and tiring, climing hill after hill, and against the wind all the way. Also, after the plane ride, we were tired already. Making things worse, there were too many traffic lights. Adding it all up, we covered the 40km in 4 hours. Worst of all, I rode too fast, first leaving friends in other "lows" of the hills, unseen; then losing them in downtown Sapporo. As the 9:30pm check-in timelimit of our youth hostel(YH, closes in, I was forced to give up waiting for them and go to the YH myself. They showed up later at the YH, reveling that they took a different turn.

The YH was a cozy place with rooms of 6 bunkbeds, boys & girls in different rooms. There was also a dining room with people from around the world chating with each other: really reminds me of the Co-Op at UCLA. The dining room is also equipted with free WIFI connection, which is how I posted part 1 of this story. A bathroom (open till 10:30pm only) for showers for many people at each time and a large bath. I have 2 roommates for the first night, Koreans that greated me once and minded their own business there after, and another a British named Dan, who lived in Japan for a year, now attending law school in the UK. He also is biking around Hokkaido. We talked a lot.

Our first dinner was at a ramen shop near Sapporo train station. We all say it's too salty, yet I got a free egg by showing my student ID, nice.

max speed 46 km/hr
distance 47.78 km
riding time 2:57
average speed 16.1km/hr

June 30th /1: The Flight << | >> July 1st: 札幌