Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category.

Hello From Tokyo!

Nelson's in Shibuya, Tokyo
I’m in my second of two weeks here in Tokyo. Japan has more than lived up to my expectations, which, for those that know me, means a lot. A few of the highlights so far include eating a bowl of ramen at the Ebisu branch of Ippudo, exploring multiple six-story toy stores, and visiting the Ghibli museum.

The Google team here is incredibly helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I hope to eventually repay their kindness when they visit Mountain View. I just returned from dinner with some friends from the office and currently have a bellyful of ramen to energize me to blog for the first time in, wow, almost six months!

In the tradition of my Indian movie theater tips post, and along with Charlene’s tips, here are some things to keep in mind if you visit Tokyo:

  • Visit the Ghibli museum! If you plan ahead, that’s best, since the available tickets each day run out quickly and you have to buy them in advance. I could write a whole post about the museum and the experience, but I couldn’t do it justice, as every detail of it was carefully thought out. This video tour of the museum hints at the fun to be had!
  • If you’re approaching someone in a narrow hallway and intend to walk by them, stay to the left. This might sound obvious since cars here drive on the left side of the road, but I’ve created a few awkward problems by relying on my bad instinct to stay on the right in these situations.
  • Take the subway or trains, not the taxis. There are multiple, interoperating systems running around the city, so you can usually get where you want really quickly and easily by public transit. You can also walk most places, which you might not realize at first. The stations aren’t actually that far apart.
  • Along with the previous tip, be sure to get a Pasmo or Suica card and load it up with a few thousand yen to get you around for a week or two. They’re basically the same within Tokyo, except you buy the Suica at the train stations and the Pasmo at the metro. For travel outside of the Tokyo area, the Suica might be a bit better, since the trains operate over a larger area, but I got the Pasmo.
  • As of 2010, don’t expect wifi coverage in many places, since Japan is still very much wired.
  • Carry cash. A lot of places don’t take credit cards, especially if you want to visit the smaller restaurants and shops. ATMs might not take your cards, but I had good luck with the Citibank, despite their annoying fees. Get a lot at once, since you don’t have to worry much about theft.
  • Walk across the Shibuya crossing as many times as you can. It is an amazing sea of people crossing the road from all directions. I first saw it in Lost in Translation and have been consistently amazed at how crowded it gets.

Young Lake

Weekend in Hyderabad

I tried to see all of the famous sites of Hyderabad this weekend. On Saturday, I went to the seven Qutb Shahi Tombs and Golkunda Fort. My first stop was the tombs. From what I understand, they are tombs for seven Qutb kings, who ruled the area about 500 years ago. Someone also told me the fifth king is the one who built Charminar, which is where I went the next day. Anyway, the tombs are now mostly falling apart, but they are still pretty impressive. While I was walking around the seven tombs, I could see a big fort up on a hill about a kilometer away (functioning on the metric system these days), so that’s where I decided to go next.

Golkunda Fort ticket

The neatest thing about the Golkunda fort is the acoustics — you can clap at a spot near the entrance gate and hear it at the very top of the citadel, and the other way around works too. This would seem to be handy to help ward off invaders, but apparently not handy enough; emperor Aurangzeb conquested the fort in 1687.

Climbing the 380 steps to the top of the fort (and back down) sure worked up my appetite. Hyderabad is famous for its biryani, so I decided to go get some at a place near the fort. Most people eat it with their fingers, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Here’s a picture of a spoonful of my chicken biryani:

Spoonful of Chicken Biryani

On Sunday, I visited Charminar. Here’s how it looks from below:

I really like the combination of square and curvilinear forms in the structure, but the best part about it is they let you climb up to the top. Upon hearing this, I went straight to buy my ticket:
Charminar ticket

There are really narrow, spiraling staircases in two of the towers. When you get to the top, you have a really great view of the streets below. It’s pretty scary because there are no railings, but luckily nobody pushed me.

I posted a lot of pictures here already, and I plan to keep updating that album during my trip. I must say that India is beating my expectations so far. Keep the Palak Paneer coming.

First Impressions of Hyderabad

Hyderabad at night

They are good. My memory, however, is not. Anyone have a good technique for remembering names? I already have pictures of everyone with his/her name posted on my cube wall, and even though I don’t like it so much when people repeat your name when you meet them, I tried that too. These tactics don’t seem to be working for me. I called one guy by another’s name today. Upon realizing this a couple minutes later (he didn’t correct me!), I emailed to assure him it would not happen again. When he came past my cube to say goodnight, I called him yet another person’s name. I’m horrible.


I just made it to Hyderabad. Here’s a picture of where I am right now:

Nelson's bed

It has been raining constantly here for the past day or two, so a lot of the streets are flooded and our internet is down. (Thanks to WLAN for letting me steal their signal!)

I’ll try to post all of the exciting news here. Also, thanks to everyone for all of the tweets.

Preparing for India

Today, my passport with visa was shipped back to me from the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. (Interestingly, FedEx shipped it from San Francisco to Memphis, Tennessee(!), and then back to Cupertino.) Tomorrow, I have the first of two doctors’ appointments to get me all vaccinated up. I’m already starting to miss Henri.

Backpacking to Rancheria Falls

Nelson backpacking to Rancheria Falls
From Camping

The adventure has already been heavily blogged about, so there’s not much more to write. Even though we might never again want to do something similar, I think we are all happy we went this time, while some might not yet admit it. The pictures are amazing (see: Koklynn’s, Michael’s, and mine) and I’m sure we’ll all have lasting memories from the trip, even of parts that we weren’t able to photograph.

Much thanks to Reid for organizing everything, including arranging a night’s stay at his overwhelmingly friendly relatives’ house. Also, thank you to Koklynn and Michael for putting up with my current Japanese music phase. Sorry to Charlene for losing your SIGG cap to the river. Finally, thank you to Jenny’s shoe for putting my Leatherman Skeletool™ CX to good use.