Friday, February 25, 2011

Give a Hand for Japan

List of things originating in Japan or distinctly Japanese:

sushi, fortune cookies, sashimi, ramen noodles, wasabi, edamame, ninjas, samurai, kimono robes, crystal meth, airsoft guns, Pokemon, leaf blowers, rock-paper-scissors, geisha, katana swords, competitive car-drifting, origami, haiku poetry, karaoke, sake, judo, karate, sumo wrestling, Nikkei stock index

Well-known Japanese Brands:

Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Bridgestone, Sony, Nintendo, Bandai, Sega, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Epson, Kenwood, Pioneer

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interesting Facts about Japan

Thought I would share some interesting facts I have learned about Japan:

It is considered inappropriate behavior to blow your nose in public and to eat when walking.
- Women often cut their hair after breaking up with their boyfriend.
- Japan`s literacy rate is almost 100%.
- Each year about 15,000 earthquakes are recorded in Japan.
- People often 'slurp' their food when eating.  It is a sign that the person is enjoying their meal, and if it is not done, the host may be very offended.
- Many businesses offer alcohol to their employees after 6 PM.
- Toilets with bidets and heated seats are very common.
- Japan is about the size of California but has almost half the population of the entire United States.
Fruits are forbiddingly expensive in Japan. You could pay up to $2 for a single apple or peach.
- On Japanese stock tickers, the meaning of the colors red and green is the opposite of that on our tickers: red means an increase and green means a decrease. (Check out the pictures)
- Newspaper editors make their headlines so as not to attract attention.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Foreign Fast Food

This is kind of random but I found it interesting and maybe some of you will too.  American fast food companies sometimes change their menus and use different ingredients in order to better cater to local tastes and cooking practices in foreign countries:

KFC in India:  special crispy chicken-look-a-like veggie sandwich, rizo rice meal
McDonalds in Egypt and Dubai:  McArabia sandwich
McDonalds in India:  no beef products, Maharaja Mac, Paneer Salsa Wrap, McCurry Pan
Burger King in Netherlands:  Nacho Sandwich
McDonalds in Germany:  Beer, NuernBurger in the city of Nuremberg
McDonalds in Peru:  special "aji" hot pepper sauce, Inca Kola beverages
McDonalds in Japan:  McPork instead of McChicken, special "Big American" series of burgers like the Manhattan and Miami Burgers, Apple Pies are crispy and fried-like instead of flaky and baked, Nintendo Gaming Zone seats

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Konnichiha (pronounced konnichiwa and means hello) from Japan! I arrived in Tokyo safe and sound.  The adventure begins in the world's most populated city.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everest, Nepal, India

All pictures and videos have been uploaded.

Friday, February 4, 2011

EBC Trek: Lessons Learned

Funny Lessons Learned

1. A Nalgene bottle filled with boiling water is equivalent to having a spa inside your sleeping bag.
2. Though they can be nibble, yaks will run into you if you don't move out of their way.
3. Just because the airplane has an open cockpit does not mean you can stick your video camera in between the pilots as the plane lands.
4. When a guide or guidebook gives you a fast and slow approximate journey time, plan on the latter.
5. Thoroughly enjoy your last hot shower in Kathmandu.
6. Brand names mean nothing in Nepal. There is so much knock-off merchandise that a farmer's toddler-aged child in the mountains will own more North Face and Mountain Hard Wear than you.
8. Not only water has a freezing point.

Serious Lessons Learned

1. Camping in the winter can not be done alone. The tempetures are too low and the winds are too strong. An entire group of trekkers, porters and sherpas are required to help carry and set up the equipment.
2. If camping in the winter, your schedule should allow for the trekking-day to start after the sun is out and end well before the sun goes down.
3. The lighter your backpack the more you will enjoy the trek and the views along the way.
4. A personal guide is a luxury, a good guidebook is sufficient.
5. The slightest bit of rushing can ruin a trip. Giving yourself extra time allows your body to adapt better to the high attitudes and gives you more opportunities to interact with the local people and fellow trekkers.
6. Spare no cost on good-quality, warm clothing.

Top of the World Video

Just finished uploading the best video I have ever made in my life. Let it load all the way first and make sure your speakers are turned on and up.

Here is a direct link to the video:

Close Call in Cairo

I have just read up on all the recent happenings in Cairo.  It is hard to believe I was just there. As a matter of fact, I spent 90% of my time in the exact locations where the chaos is now ensuing.  If you want before and after pictures of Tahrir and Liberation Square, just compare my pictures to the ones in the news.

EBC Trek: Summary

I stopped to look back and admire a mountain that I had just passed. I had never seen anything so breathtaking in my life. Its terrain seemed unbeatable, its size seemed incalculable... I then turned back forward, and saw three mountains towering twice as high above me as that which I had first admired.

This was the Himalaya and the Everest Base Camp Trek.

The flight into Lukla to start the trek is an unforgettable experience on its own: a 15-person plane landing on a tiny runway somehow built into the side of a mountain. You know you're not on your average flight when everyone applauds after a successful landing.

Mountain life starts immediately once in Lukla. Proper showers, toilets and sinks are now rare luxuries. The majority of food and drinks are either flown in or carried in on the backs of porters or yaks over several days. The sun is strong and warming during the day but once it goes away anything that can freeze will.

The scenery changes dramatically over the weeks that you spend trekking to Base Camp and back. At first you're surrounded by a lush evergreen forest. But as you rise in altitude day by day this slowly changes into sparse patches of vegetation, and then finally disappears altogether. During your final days before Base Camp and at Base Camp, you are walking on rocks, sand and ice. The scene is a glorious mixture of glaciers and snow-covered mountains.

The people and culture of the region are uniquely interesting as well. The Sherpa people are always eager to tell you about their history, traditions and general way of life, whether it's during a long conversation by the fire at night or a short chat while passing on the trail.

The climax and piece de resistance of the journey is of course reaching Mt. Everest. This is an experience that lives up to every bit of its hype. The tallest point on Earth's surface, the absolute top of the world. The ultimate, natural battleground of adventure-seekers and the unfortunate resting place of many of them. As you look around you it sinks in that you are in the middle of the Himalaya, snow-covered mountains and glaciers of ice and rock as far as the eye can see.

Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek: Camping Failure

I tried my very best. I tried harder than I have ever physically tried at anything in my life. But I failed.

I reached Everest, but not in the way I originally planned. My plan was to camp the entire way by myself, including spending one night in my tent actually at Everest Base Camp. I had everything I needed for the whole trip, including food and cooking equipment. All was well until day 6, when my back became sore because of the weight of my backpacks and the altitude began to slow down my pace and put me off schedule. At the next village I tried to hire a porter but no one would agree to the job because I was not staying in lodges or tea houses and therefore they would not get free accommodation along the way. So I tried my best to shed some weight and continued by myself, adjusting for my slower pace.

Failure came on the morning of day 8. The previous day I had set up my tent at just over 5,000 meters (16,400 ft), about a hour and a half before the last village before Base Camp. I stopped at this spot because the temperature was dropping quickly and it was beginning to snow. These factors matter greatly when you have to set up a tent and then still put together a stove to cook dinner. Like I said though, the next morning was the real tragedy here. I woke up covered in snow and ice. The wind had blown the snow up under the outer layer of my tent, where it melted, fell through the inside mesh-layer and then refreezed. Fortunately, my sleeping bag, which was made to withstand extremely low temperatures, kept me warm through the night. After removing as much snow as I could from my stuff, I began to pack up my bag in 10 second spurts, in between which I tried to warm my hands back up. Now came time to go outside the tent and begin taking it down...
But as soon as I removed myself and my bag, the tent was gone. The wind immediately took my tent down the valley, stakes and rocks in all. I caught up to the tent but could do nothing, the wind was too strong. I stood there for maybe two whole minutes trying to accept the fact that my tent was now destroyed and I had no other choice but to let go and let the wind carry it away. Just before I was about to let the tent go, four Sherpa men came into view from around the side of closest mountain. I signaled to them, and long story short, they put down the loads they were carrying and helped me take apart the tent and stuff it in my bag. I could not thank these men enough for their help. All was finally settled, and my bags lied there in the snow waiting for me to put them on, but now I could not feel my hands!

I eventually made it to the next closest village, where I checked in to a lodge and my hands were brought back to life through the magic of fire. For the rest of the trek to Base Camp, like 99% of the other people doing the trek at the time, I carried only a small backpack and stayed in tea houses and lodges.

The trek overall was still outstanding, and the negative experience I just shared with you does not compare to the many positive ones I will share with you soon.

Pictures and videos also soon to come. Back from the mountains,

J Bradley