Editorial Muttering

ITIS Travelers is the best

Dec 31 - New Years Eve
Goodbye to the Year of the Tiger, hello to the Year of the Rabbit...
Just a quick note,
Please check out our New Years Greetings, this is a postcard made up of some of the photos taken by our researchers and friends. We hope that it will inspire your travel plans for 1999.

Tell us your travel plans
We'd love to hear where you are all heading off to next year. Already we've heard from a number of travellers who have arranged their travels for 99, others are undecided. ITIS member Sakamoto went to Thailand and Cambodia over Christmas so we'll hear about his trip when he returns. Another member Sudo was also heading for Cambodia for the New Year but was unable to get a confirmed flight so he decided to postpone that trip for later in the year and went to Hong Kong and maybe will go into South China.

Chris from Australia who has been emailing us since October with On The Road Reports from Europe, is now an ITIS researcher - he volunteered silly boy and we unashamedly took advantage of him. He is currently in Singapore, recovering from Bali Belly - chronic stomach problems caused by a visit to McDonald's in Kuta - he swears that's where he contracted the bug. This rendered him incapable of sitting for any length of time at a computer terminal and as a consequence we received 3 On The Roads in one session from Singapore. On The Road - Kuta is now ready for your perusal, please check out Chris's impression of this tourism mecca - no doubt coloured by his tummy troubles.

Ivo (On The Road - Thailand) is back in the Netherlands. A few days after returning he wrote us begging us for a job in Thailand, or anywhere else - a major dose of post travel blues. Unfortunately we were unable to offer him anything, anyone know of any kind of work paid or not (his words) in Thailand well, let us know and we'll tell Ivo.
Ariel is in Sikhim, India for the holidays we think, last report we had that was were he was heading to.

Big News!
I (Andrea) am going back to work - I have accepted an English teaching post in Kyoto. It will be kind of a 'home coming'for me as I worked for the same school 4 years ago, I will even be teaching some of my former students.
We're not quite sure what impact this will have on ITIS Travelers yet. Though I will definately still be running the English side of the site. (There isn't anyone else, only me, anyone who harbours the remotest sympathy for the huge workload I am undertaking please feel free to contact me and offer your services. Any kind of assistance would be very gratefully received - unfortunately there will be no financial remuneration, sorry about that. Yes, this is a begging note - Please help me!!!
My research input will be limited, though I hope to be going to Vietnam for research in the summer.

Taka will stay in Tokyo until the end of February then the base will be re-located to Kyoto. In March he will fly to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bangkok to research for the 1999 update of South East Asia he will meet up with Rares from Romania who we got acquainted with via email and Taka met up and travelled with in Romania during the Summer. Rares will be helping with the Thai research. As yet no plans have been made for the 1999 research for Central Europe. Speaking of which, unfortunately we STILL haven't finished updating Summer 1998 for that region. Poland is half finished, Slovakia and Czech are finished so hopefully we will be updating the other half of Poland, Hungary and Romania very soon.
More Big News!

We have been published, well a Guidebook - Travel Journals European Cultural Guide, Central Europe including our modest contribution (20 pages), has. We will receive 20yen, about US 15cents for every book sold.

New Site Section - Travellers Memories
is currently in development and is about to see the light of day. Yes, we have received several stories and travelogues and am currently finishing off the presentation/formatting. It will definately be ready early in the New Year, please look out for it, and if you have a travel story that you would like to have published in this section - send it in.
Well, Taka and I are heading off for the countryside to celebrate New Year with his family. We're fantasising about going skiing but probably that will all that it will be as we will have to prepare for my moving to Kyoto - aggh, think about that in the New Year.

So... this is all I have time for as we're frantically finishing off everything before we head off ....

Hope you had a great 98 and all the best for 99.

Happy New Year/Akemashite omedeto

back to Network Index

Greetings from Andrea & Taka in Tokyo

This is the first of what we hope will be a regular muttering, ranting, raving. Basically, what we want to do is let you know what ITIS Travelers is getting up to here at home in Tokyo and on our travels. It will include a review of our activities, future projects, etc.
Hope you'll let us know what you're up to too - maybe we should have a members muttering section.

So here we go (this first muttering is long, promise to keep the following ones shorter, much, much shorter):

ITIS Travelers - What we did in 1998

This year we went on research trips to South East Asia and Central Europe. Taka went to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Burma & Thailand, Kyoko went to Vietnam, Andrea went to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. In Central Europe Taka & Andrea went to Vienna & the Czech Republic, Hungary then Andrea went north to Slovakia and Poland whilst Taka headed East to Romania and South down to Greece. The South East Asian destinations have been updated, we are still finishing off updating Central Europe, hopefully it will all be on before Christmas (We are trying).

Highlights of our trips - the good the bad and the downright ugly.

Andrea: The good: so many. It was my first visit to Laos and Cambodia and, like everyone who goes there, I fell in love with these countries and people. Superlatives don't do them justice so I won't try. Wonderful, magical places, the friendliest people, I'll stop there. I got to sample for the first time one of those insect on a stick delicacies - the young women I was sitting with on the truck between Pakxe and Don Khone were so keen for me to try that I couldn't decline. Actually, it was quite delicious - it tasted like gourmet pate, at least the insects insides did, can't say I enjoyed the crunchy outer body parts much though - photo coming soon.

In Central Europe it was the first time that we visited friends who we've made through ITIS Travelers - Csaba, Mali, Szuszi, Tomas & Dani in Budapest. I also met up with Szarbolcs - a guy I met on the overnight train from KL to Penang in Malaysia Last year. He was so shocked when I phoned. He took a few days off from work and he and Taka drove around Hungary together researching (still in the process of being updated). Taka found out a lot about Hungarian history from Szarbolcs. Came in useful as we've been writing a section of an (upmarket) Japanese travel guide to Central Europe - more about that below, maybe.
Taka and I also actually managed to spend a whole month together in the Czech Republic, which was great however it wasn't very productive research wise so we had to split up otherwise we would never have finished.

The bad: Not everything went as smoothly as one could hope, but sometimes (only when you get to look back on it not when it's actually happening) those turn out to be highlights too. I've described one of those experiences below.

This is an email I sent to Taka from Chiang Mai, Thailand - the morning after a bus trip from hell, attempted during Phi Mai -Thai New Year
Hi Taka
I'm in Chiang Mai, arrived this morning after a horrendous 20hr trip from Nong Khai. It was a series of disasters, buses were full, people were fighting over the chance to sit on the floor all the way to Chiangmai, I got as far as Udon Thani and was told that I wouldn't be able to get to Chiang Mai as all the buses were full. I decided to take a bus to a place called Loei - thinking that I would get as close to Chiang Mai as I could. about 10km out of town everyone got off, the bus driver told me to transfer to another bus, well the 2nd bus wouldn't let me on because they weren't going to Loei and obviously didn't want to get landed with a lost, pathetic farang, so I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, I had no idea where I was and it was late afternoon. Finally I gave up trying to get to Loei and headed back into Udon Thani.
On the return journey I met somebody who spoke English (he'd worked as a mechanic in Europe for 3 years) and we did a tour of bus stations (there seem to be many in this town), this wasn't successful though and finally I ended up, 3hrs later, back at the bus station I started from. Magically a bus was leaving for Phitsanalouk, about 6-7 hours away from Chiang Mai. All the guys at the bus station remembered me from my efforts to get a ride to Chiang Mai earlier and managed to convince the bus driver to take me despite the bus being completely full. I sat squashed on the floor for 6 hours.
A little boy vomited on my feet I'm amazed I didn't return the honour and vomit on his. I gave my bottle of water to the mother - so she could use it to clean up the boy, instead she poured it over the floor and started scrubbing it with a newspaper. This didn't really achieve much except liquidify the vomit which, with the motion of the bus seemed to come towards me like a wave. Still managed to control the urge to contribute, a first as I'm a chronic motion sickness sufferer.

I got to Phitsanalouk which was packed with Thais wanting to do
exactly the same as me, get to Chiang Mai. Fortunately this bus
station is the stopover point for every bus heading for Chiang Mai so
finally at 2:00am managed to get a seat on a VIP bus and arrived this
morning in Chiangmai at about 8;00.

Why did this experience turn out to be a highlight - for the usual reason in this kind of situation, the helpfullness and friendliness of the locals - the vomiting boy, me and his mum, became best of friends for the duration of the journey, a bonding experience.

The downright Ugly: Both Taka and I were almost victims of train robbers - Taka on an overnight train between Praha and Breclev-Bratislava, me on a Praha-Warsaw overnight train. Fortunately neither of us lost anything as we awoke and surprised the thieves who fled, we were very lucky Taka even acquired a souvenir - a watch of f one of the thieves. That was the worst experience on this trip.

I'm almost afraid to ask but I will - WHAT IS YOUR JOURNEY FROM HELL?

ITIS Travelers members:
This year we received reports from Mike from S Africa (Mike is working on a travel report from his latest trip which, hopefully will be a feature in a new section we're developing - Travelers Memories) and Michel from Netherlands, both of whom Andrea met in Laos. Andrea and Mike managed to meet up again in London briefly during the summer, Mike is now back for a short visit to South Africa, Michel is in Australia, hopefully we will hear from both soon.

Currently Chris from Australia is travelling in Europe sending emails on the way - check out his On The Road Reports. He's contemplating heading off to South East Asia, the weather in Central Europe may decide it for him - he saw snow at the German/Czech border.

Kobayashi from Japan got a little off his original route, not sure where he is at the moment but hope he'll be in touch soon, we're beginning to worry about him.
Both Taka and I are now back in Tokyo and have lots of ideas and, hopefully a little more time, for developing the site. hope you'll visit soon and check out what is happening-

Sudo sent us an update from his summer trip to Laos - in the SE Asia network section, he is heading to Cambodia for New Year, we're looking forward to hearing about that trip.

ITIS Travelers Finances

We also received a research commission from a Corporate Client. An upmarket travel guide asked us to write a small section of it's shortly to be published guide to Central Europe (in Japanese). We're quite excited because this work was PAID, the first money ITIS Travelers has seen since it started, well if you discount the 5 pounds we got from TNT magazine for a travellers tip that is. Not that we intend to be a commercial site but we need some money to keep it ticking over. Taka is going to start seriously looking for sponsorship from tomorrow (he's been saying that for about 3 months). Anyone has any ideas about how we can finance ITIS Travelers, other than from our rapidly emptying pockets, tell us now.
Fortunately our expenses are minimal, at least as minimal as they can be living in Japan. We receive food parcels regularly from Taka's mum - a lovely woman who also half-filled our pockets with Yen the last time they were empty. We live -work, eat, sleep and play the occasional game of freecell in a one-room virtual rabbit cage, one 3rd the size of Kirk's garage - a friend from my trip to Cambodia - see his lovely photo from a trip in Cambodia
if you don't believe us about living in a rabbit cage well, we've got the photos to prove it so we'll let you view our humble abode, not now though, we have to tidy up first, hopefully they be in the next muttering episode - coming soon!

ITIS Travelers activities - the future

We are looking to do:
Hanaoka, a young Japanese lady, kindly sent us her photos of the hill tribe people in Kalow, Burma - if you haven't seen these yet take a look, they are very special. We will be adding more of her photos taken on a recent trip to India, Nepal, Bhutan.
Abe San was in Indonesia in late 1997 and has sent us many of his photos.

Future travel/research. Unfortunately we haven't been unable to update Indonesia this year so we are making that a priority for next year. Certainly, we will be researching in South East Asia early next year and Central Europe in the Summer in order to keep IT IS Travelers information the most up-to-date information on the web.
We also plan to improve the Club section, as we've been On The Road, travelling for most of this year we haven't had time to really develop the club, hope to put this to rights. We welcome your involvement, please let us know if you are interested in becoming a member and participating in developing this site. Share your ideas with us.

If you would like to get more involved well, here are a few ideas...

That's all for now, promise it will be shorter from now on.
Happy Travels - send us a postcard/email we LOVE to hear from you -

Andy & Taka:

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