Day J6: Recharged and Fit - Caucasian - CycleBlaze

July 1, 2024

Day J6: Recharged and Fit

After a solid night's sleep I awoke refreshed and realized that Japan had worked its magic.  This was the transition that I needed.  While soaking up the peaceful vibes in the area and grabbing snacks at the Family Mart, for some reason I felt like this was Thailand.  Then I began to observe my surroundings and started to wonder:   could it be that you can find physical and mental, even spiritual rejuvination in Japan as well as Thailand? 

Very curious about this, I went online and did some research.  My hunch proved to be entirely correct:  Japan and Thailand have enjoyed exceptionally good bilateral relations and they have done so for centuries.  All the pieces started fitting together.  Of course it had to be like this!  You see all this reflected in the cultural similarities of which there are a ton.  Many of my Thai friends travel to Japan for business or holiday, and they comment on how much they learn from and model their own behavior after the Japanese.  It could also be vice versa.  Trade, economic, and personal exchanges between the two countries are rock solid.  If you want flights back and forth from Tokyo to Bangkok they are abundant and cheap.  Given how positive my experience has been in Japan, I now do believe it deserves 3rd place on my ranking system.

With that key insight acquired, I then spent a few hours doing more rounds of packing and trying to get organized for the flight.  It was meticulous yet exhausting work but it got done.  For whatever stupid reason, I had to take yet one more fitness class at Orange Theory and rode the train out.  The Airbnb helped me do late checkout which of course would cost extra.  The class started about 5 hours before my flight.  It was an excellent class as they always are, but now a weekday it was not so packed.  No matter, the coaches and members were full of energy and it was worth it.  

Unfortunately that "delay" meant I now had less than 4 hours before the flight with the airport nearly 2 hours out of the city and not a fucking clue how to get there.  Nothing else to do but get on the bike and start riding to a place where I might be able to catch the airport bus.  In the ensuing rush, I forgot some electronics in the Airbnb and went back to grab them.  The cleaning guy was super nice and said, "Sorry you forgot these things".  This gesture was very much appreciated.  Would they do the same thing in Thailand?  Yes, without a doubt but it's not an excuse to rely too much on that.

Even so, I was having doubts if my plan was going to work or not.  I typed in "Shinjuku Station" onto the app and rode the bike.  It was easy riding on Tokyo streets and this was becoming quite an enjoyable city tour.  At some point I rode through a famous section of small streets with lots of tourists.  I also rode through the party area of Shinjuku during the day.  This is where my colleage at work told me about.  Now seeing it, damnit, I should have gone there on Friday or Saturday night and not Roppongi.   But that will have to wait for another trip.

While the 30 minute bike ride to Shinjuku Station was successful, I couldn't find out where the airport buses were leaving from.  And now it was less than 3 hours before the flight.  The only thing I could think of was to fold the bike on the spot and call a taxi.  There were apps for this, but none were compatible with my Chinese phone number.  This same problem had dogged me the other other day while my sister tried to help me rent scooters with an app.  Apparently an OTP text verification from overseas won't get sent to a Chinese mainland number.  

Giving up on this I just said fuck it and flagged down any taxi that was passing by on the street.  A very polite and older gentleman driver saw me right away and helped carry all the heavy bags inside the taxi.  It was a very long drive and it cost an absolute fortune, over $200 US.  But it had to be done.  If I missed this flight, then everything else on the trip would be affected.  It is also peak season, and judging from what my sister said the flights now are insanely expensive.  A rebook would be unthinkable.  She decided not to travel this season because of this.  Now I began to wonder how I was able to get a flight for so cheap.  

As the gentleman dropped me off at the airport, it was just like that classic movie scene:  he bows multiple times and you bow a little in return, he bows more deeply, and then we all wonder why we're doing this.

Thankfully the airport wasn't busy but the airline was set on giving me a hard time.  It was a budget flight and it only cost $300 so I couldn't complain if they were going to try and ding me for extra charges.  They insisted I put all the carry on bags first on the scale which threw me for a big loop.  No other airline does this.  Then they said my checked baggage allowance didn't include the bike.  In the end I did a bunch of reshuffling at the counter.  Thankfully my packing system had all the clothes in one pannier which was light so I could use that as the carry on.   One heavy bag got checked as part of my free allowance, then a second pannier had to be checked as extra.  The bike itself was another charge.  Put all this together it cost another $150.  In the end I kept my cool as, just like Thailand, you never yell or get upset in situations like this.  There was free wifi on the flight so the way I see it this somewhat as compensation.  Plus if you consider when adding the taxi and these baggage charges the whole thing is still a cheap flight at $650.  Not bad.

With all this talk about money, I couldn't help but recall the time spent playing with my nephew last night.  For his age, he not only demonstrated an understanding of politics but also economics.  He invented a game where he was selling stuff and using a pile of Japanese change.  I played the customer and started negotiating.  Then I realized he was being too nice and charging way too cheap prices.  He beamed and said, "I can be very good at business because so many customers want to come and buy stuff at my store for cheap prices."  I told him, "Buddy, you should be charging more.  Don't forget to cover your costs!"  He didn't quite understand this and I tried to explain.  I then went back as a "customer" again.  Over time, I saw that he started to increase his prices and told him, "Now your prices are better.  You want to be nice to the customers but if you sell too cheap then you'll go out of business."

There were many other times when he showed that he understood the value of money and saving for things.  He even gave me shit and said, "Why did you book an Airbnb when you could have stayed for cheaper?  You just wasted a bunch of yen."  He had to say this in front of everyone which made me embarrassed but I laughed it off.  What he didn't know is that I was making a shitload more yen by trading stocks so I could afford this.  

At the airport, there was just enough time to grab a quick meal.  The convenience stores and Starbucks were rammed packed, but for whatever reason a restaurant was empty and the prices were even cheaper.  A delicious bowl of Udon noodles was on the menu and then two drinks.  I didn't realize they were alcoholic until the cashier said, "This is alcohol."  I said, "Oh it is?  Then I'll buy three"  She had a laugh at that.  This also helped get rid more coins and anything remaining was dumped into the tip jar.

Once on the flight they said you're not allowed to drink outside alcohol and this meant I had to be discreet about it.  I was stuck with a middle seat but struck up some conversations with both the people beside me.  At least this way we could all help each other out and take turns walking around the plane etc...  They didn't strike me as the drinking type, but if they were I wouldn't hesitate to offer them a drink and say cheers.  In the end I was able to update my blog and budget and start planning some logistics for the next part of the trip.

Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 12 km (7 miles)

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