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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Ryugyong Hotel: The World’s Biggest Haikyo

In North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, is located one of the most grotesque buildings in the world, the Ryugyong Hotel. Its pyramidal shape, along with its 105 storeys and 330 meters high, makes it worthy of any retro-futuristic mega-metropolis. But its most bizarre aspect is the fact that it is a colossal ruin, since 1992, when its construction stopped. Since then, in the middle of the urban landscape of Pyongyang, it rises in the morning dew, like a scary ghost.

Construction started in 1987. It is thought that this megalomaniac project was just another propaganda stunt from North Korea’s regime, because, had it been finished in the expected time, it would have been the highest hotel in the world. Among other amazing characteristics, it would have 360 000 m2 of area, 3000 bedrooms, 7 restaurants located on the top (rotating) storeys.

Conceived as a grandiose projection of emerging wealth, the hotel instead became a symbol of North Korea’s hubris and of the state’s failing financial system. At the time, it was estimated that about 750 million dollars would be needed to finish building the project, something along the lines of 2% of the country’s GDP. The North Korean government initially promised to pay for the most part of the expenses. In the meantime, there were some issues with the raw materials, with the energy supply and with the financing. The construction techniques used themselves raised several doubts, especially about the structure’s resistance. Construction ceased in 1992 and that’s how it has remained for the following 16 years.

In Spring 2008, however, construction was resumed. An Egyptian company started to refurbish the hotel’s top floors and glass paneling the facades. However, the doubts about the structure’s resistance remain, especially after 16 years of exposure to weathering, which has left several cracks and corrosions marks. The government’s idea is to have the building finished by 2012, year of the centennial of Kim Il Sung’s (founder of the country) birthday.

For sixteen years, the Ryugyong stood as an uninhabited shell, with a crane on its top levels to present the appearance of ongoing construction. The ongoing construction story was also conveyed by tour guides as an official response to the queries of visitors. Eventually, tour guides demurred or ignored questions about the immense, vacant structure.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

The Fujiyama Garden Hotel: Image Tour

Here are some photos taken at the very location of the former Yamanaka Lake Hotel and comments by our official Haikyo & Urban Explorer, Wye-Khe Kwok, who visited the area last weekend.

It was a strange sense of disappointment and awe that crept over me as I walked up the freshly-laid concrete driveway of what is now a former Haikyo site. As efficient as the Japanese machine is when it comes to cleanups (evident in their handling of train jumpers), the whole concrete shell had been wiped clean and renovated up into a pretty slick and grand resort hotel in less than a year.

It so happened to be the opening ceremony when I walked in through the glass archway entrance with cap and backpack, sticking out amongst the suits and Kimonos like a rusty nail in a pile of shiny tacks.

The bar was open, blue note jazz wafting about with the odor of new carpet and glue, and the gift shop displayed the usual generic assortment of overpriced but useless souvenirs and Hello Kitty trinkets.
So it is with great regret, that we commit what was once a great concrete skeleton Haikyo to the category of just-another-boring-hotel-by-the-lake hotel.

(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge image.)

As you could see, it’s no longer abandoned and they have high hopes to make it a one-stop-sightseeing for anyone wishing to visit glorious Mt. Fuji.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

MEETUP: The Tokyo & Urban Explorers

Now it’s even easier to follow our steps and participate in expeditions through our official page at The Tokyo & Urban Explorers MeetUp.

You will be able to find details about each expeditions, including costs and dates.

But if you’re not on Meetup, you can also find us on: Twitter, Digg and Facebook.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

First Expedition: Thank You!

Thank you everyone who joined us on this amazing trip to Aokigahara last Saturday! The trip was perfect not only because you made it possible and also because you behaved well! haha!

A special ‘Thank You’ goes out to Wye-Khe who was constantly watching over everyone and Keio for driving us to our destination and back home safely.

Please follow our blog for more information on upcoming events and expeditions.

Looking forward to seeing you all again!

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

Protected: First Expedition: Meeting Location

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First Expedition: Alternative Choices (aka Back Up Plan)

To all participants,

It seems like the Almighty is againt us and it is very likely it will rain this weekend.

In order to make your experience worth the cost, we would like to hear your opnion about what you would prefer to do in the event of rain on June 5.

Our friend YK has come up with a few choices. You will be able to see these choices and vote by accessing the link below.

Click here to cast your vote.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

First Expedition: Gearing Up For Some Serious Adrenaline

Hello everyone and apologies for the delay to send updates on our first expedition.

As we’re all aware of, preparation is an essential factor for any outdoor adventure (specially this one!) and having the necessary supplies and equipment can make a difference in our overall enjoyment and experience. Due to this reason I will introduce some new information and rephrase a few others previously mentioned in past articles.

— Read it carefully —

Picking-up The Car
The car, a 8-passenger van, will be picked up at 6am on June 5. The car rental*1 is located only a few minutes from Shinjuku Station.

Where We Will All Meet?
We will meet a couple of blocks away from Shinjuku Station*1 at 6.30am. If for reasonable circunstances you cannot make it on time please let us know well before the departure time. Please note that we will be able to wait only until 6.50am.

There’s an old saying that goes, “If you are five minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” I couldn’t agree more.

What You Should Bring
When heading out for a hiking trip there are some definite basic items you should bring along and the most important are definitely food and water.

01. Water: Bring at least 2 bottles (500ml) of water but don’t drink it just because you have it. Drink enough to stay hydrated and save what you can in case of an emergency. Remember anything can happen at anytime, don’t assume you won’t need it.

02. Food: We, of course, won’t be able to bring a three course meal with us but try to carry enough energy bars to not only satisfy you for the length of our hiking but also extra to keep you alive for at least a week.

03. Cell phone: Make sure the battery is 100% charged (It might be a good idea to also bring one battery pack that can be easily purchased at any convenience store in Japan. Make sure to check if the plug is compatible with your cell phone model) and if you don’t get a signal the first time, try moving to a different location if possible.

04. Compass: Why a compass? A compass can be very important not only if you get lost but also if you call for help you can then aid rescuers in figuring out where you might be. Remember that technology is dependant on power and can be unpredictable and unreliable but a compass will almost always work (Not sure if that applies for Aokigahara though!).

05. Blanket / Jacket: If you are constantly feeling cold in Tokyo then it might be a good suggestion to bring a small blanket or a very warm jacket. Inside the forest it can get quite cold in the afternoon (or because of the presence of some ghosts) even if it is extremely hot outside.

06. Change of Clothes: Bring at least one change of clothes in case you fall over, trip or slip. You don’t want to scare everybody away on the train with that Sadako (character from the movie ‘The Ring’) looks on you.

07. Hiking Shoes/Boots: This is totally optional and I am not saying that you should buy hiking shoes in case you don’t own one but the protection of your feet needs to be given top priority when hiking. Foot pain or discomfort can quickly take the fun out of hiking, and an injury could prevent you from walking at all. Hiking boots are designed to provide comfort and support for the feet and ankles while walking on rough and wet ground as in Aokigahara. Wearing them will significantly reduce the wear and tear on your feet and minimize the risk of an injury.

Costs
On this trip we will share costs for the car rent (incl. insurance), gasoline (round trip), toll (round trip) which must be paid by the end of the trip.

Car Rent ¥20,160 (1-day hire / insurance incl.)
Gas ¥10,000*2
Toll ¥ 6,400*2 (round trip)
Total ¥36,560*2
Total p/ Person
(with 8 participants)
¥ 4,570*2
Total p/ Person
(with 9 participants)
¥ 4,062*2
+ Personal Expenses ¥ 3,000

Please note that all spots were confirmed last week and if you cancel now or don’t show up on the day, you will still be liable to pay for your share.

Hiking can be fun and exciting but it can also be dangerous if we are ill prepared. A few rules we should hike by are to always tell someone where you are heading to and when they should expect you to return.

As for me, I am also gearing myself up with possibly every single thing to ensure the safety of every participant. Please mind yourselves that we will still head out to Aokigahara even if it rains.

If there is something you were not able to understand and/or wish to make a suggestion, please feel free to write it using the comment box below.

Looking forward to seeing you all next Saturday.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

*1 For security reasons, I will send the location details to each participant by e-mail.
*2 Estimated costs. The final cost might differ slightly.