Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spittal of Glenshee: fun name for a pretty place

There are some place names which are completely forgettable.

And then there are places like Scotland's Spittal of Glenshee which demand attention.

One day I want my home address to read: Spittal of Glenshee
Not only because of the stunning Scottish Highlands' scenery, but also because "Spittal of Glenshee" sounds so lyrical.   And the word "spittal" is an unusual one which reminds me of "spittoon", which in turn make me think of the dentist.

The Spittal of Glenshee lies at the head of Glenshee where a number of streams flow south out of the Grampians.   The area around here is what I think of as quintessential Highlands with rolling, dramatic and treeless hills, occasional spots of purple heather, and a remote and timeless atmosphere.

Beautiful scenery through the Scottish Highlands
There's an historic hotel here (and not much else) apparently first run by monks in 900AD to provide shelter for passing travellers.

And that's what the word "spittal" means: a shelter or place of refuge.





Many streams converge at Spittal of Glenshee


Some heather at Glenshee

Beautiful barrenness

Friendly local
























Sunday, 24 February 2013

I take thee travel in sickness and in health

There are some places I've been in the world where I don't recall the breathtaking scenery, amazing architecture or tasty food.

Instead, the overpowering memory is that I was so horribly sick when I was there.

It's probably not the best holiday memory to have, but it is the first thing which comes to mind when recalling some destinations.

And I'm talking pretty sick.  Not just a common cold or headache.  In fact in some instances, I have to rely on photos to confirm that I was actually there as the memory of being sick seems to have erased all others.

Here are my top five destinations I'll always cherish for being... well... sick.

1. Jaipur, India
The Amber Palace here is amazing... apparently.  I can tell you that the entrance steps are fairly comfortable as well.   That's where I spent my time while my group was inside visiting the palace.   On the long road trip to the Jaipur I had begun to feel queasy so took an anti-nausea tablet.    Not long after, while climbing the steps to the ridgeline palace, I started feeling absolutely horrific and overpoweringly tired.  So while others went to explore the palace, I laid "gracefully" across the entrance steps - occasionally interrupted by security guards wondering if I was ok.   I wasn't.  However, after a prompt hotel visit from a doctor (something that was not only cheap, but also probably impossible to organise in Australia) and some antibiotics I was only down for about 24 hours.   I'll have to go back and visit the Amber Palace one day.  I can sit on the steps and reminisce.

Amber Palace: one of the few photos I took here while lying on the steps


2. Dubai, UAE
This was meant to be a restful stopover on the journey home from Europe.  But almost as soon as I boarded the plane to Dubai I could tell I was coming down with something.   By the time we had found our hotel in the middle of the night many hours later it was "game on" for the flu.   The heat of Dubai did little to assist the fever, though I discovered a range of cold and flu medication which not only contained pseudoephadrine, but also caffeine to "perk" you up (someone's thinking).    However even these magical blue tablets couldn't save me from forgetting much of my time in this city.  I vaguely remember seeing the skifield inside the Mall of the Emirates.   While looking through the glass I fantasied about rolling naked in the fake snow to reduce my temperature.  Probably not something some of the burqa-clad skiers would be au fait with.  It was probably just as well I was medicated, otherwise the shock of the $30 bourbon and coke while watching the sunset over the Burj Al Arab may have killed me.

Dubai: home of great cold and flu medication


3. Munich, Germany
Munich is known for its beer halls.  I remember it as a place where I spent considerable amounts of time lying down from the flu.   Lying down in Marienhof, the city's square.  Lying down in the city's famous English Gardens.  And lying down on the couch of the friend we were staying with.  However, the other powerful recollection I have of this city was the eye-opening Dachau Concentration Camp.  Clearly, the shock of visiting my first concentration camp was enough to embed it deep in my memory.
Munich's English Garden: I laid down here too


4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
I remember the restaurant's name.  It boasted the Angelina Jolie had dined there when she was in Cambodia filming the movie Tomb Raider.   I had a chicken curry which was beautifully presented in a scooped-out pumpkin.  The next morning I was rushing to bathrooms with all the nimble agility of Lara Croft herself.  Unfortunately, this was the same day our group was flying to Vietnam, so there were numerous wide-eyed moments of panic while in cars, planes and airports.

Siem Reap: I will always remember THAT restaurant


5. Big White, Canada
One moment I was skiing lovely powder in blue bird conditions.  The next I seemed to be ploughing face first down the slope.  My thumb had been violently yanked back during the process of falling and while I waited for my body to stop sliding down the slope I had a sickening feeling I had broken it.   Thankfully, I hadn't.    But the swelling and hand bruising was extremely convincing and pretty painful when trying to squeeze my hand into gloves for the rest of the holiday.
Big White: A spectacular place to have a spectacular fall

Now to be honest, I know I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed relatively good health overall when travelling, with just a few health transgressions.   In fact, looking back, I now fondly remember these incidents as some of my "travel war stories".

I'm also extremely grateful to the stomach and toilet gods that I DIDN'T get sick while:
  1. Sailing on a felucca on the Nile River, Egypt as there was no on-board toilet
  2. Taking an overnight bus ride from Cappadocia to Istambul in Turkey where there were very few stops
  3. Riding the Trans-Mongolian Express from Beijing to Moscow where attendants locked the train's toilets on approach to, while stationary at, and after each station (sometimes a period of several hours)
  4. Walking along the Great Wall of China as there are no toilets up there
  5. Riding a camel in the Sahara Desert, Morocco, as there are no toilets and no trees to run behind.
Morocco's Sahara Desert: no trees for pit stops here


Finally, I have a confession to make.

I have caused sickness in others.

While setting up a makeshift toilet at our camp beside the Nile River at sunset, I accidentally nicked our group leader's foot with a metal picket fence post.  Thankfully, it only caught the edge of her foot and did not skewer her foot completely.

The gracious and lovely group leader (who still talks to me today!) still managed to steer our group back to Cairo, albeit with a slight limp.

She showed me that even when illness hits, sometimes it is still possible to have a good time while travelling.



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Myoko Kogen: a Japanese ski delight

The shuttle bus driver stared longingly up at Mt Myoko, which had just emerged from behind the clouds after two days of snow.

"It's a bad day," he said in broken English and then smiled.

Actually, today was far from a bad day on the slopes and the driver knew it.

He would much prefer to be diving into the powdery conditions than driving around the skiers who would be doing it in his place.

Instead, today he would be driving the free shuttle bus which connects the four main ski resorts around the town of Myoko Kogen.  These are Myoko Suginohara, Ikenotaira Onsen, Shin-Akakura (also known as Akakura Kanko) and Akakakura Onsen (skiers able to ski between the last two if they hold a joint lift ticket).   

There are several other ski resorts in the vicinity, but a taxi or car would be needed to reach them.


Myoko Suginohara: one of the several ski resorts around Myoko Kogen
View over the lakes below from Myoko Suginohara

Perhaps it is the way the resorts are spread out, but it seems quieter and more "local" at Myoko Kogen compared to the nearby popular Hakuba ski fields.   

Not to say Myoko Kogen is some "secret" ski haven.  For starters, skiers must navigate their way around numerous Japanese school groups snaking their way down the slopes, and the groups of Japanese soldiers doing training drills.

But there does seem to be fewer Australians here compared to Hakuba and Niseko - or at the very least fewer Australians proudly boasting about their drunken escapades the night before.  While there are plenty of restaurants and bars across the area, this isn't a party town.   

The people who come here, are here for the snow.   The daily routine is beautifully simple - eat, sleep and ski.

Heading up the gondola at Akakura Kanko

And given the ski resorts which make up Myoko Kogen are close together, it's surprising how different they each are.   

Myoko Suginohara boasts Japan's longest ski run - a thigh-burning 8.5km.   Cruisy intermediate skiing on long ski runs is the main appeal here, as well as some shorter scenic black runs right at the top.

Nearby, Ikenotaira Onsen feels like the region's training school as newcomers to skiing and snowboarding take advantage of the predominantly beginner and intermediate slopes.

Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen combined offer the largest collection of runs with a variety of terrains across a decent-sized area.   

Snow covered trees around Akakura Onsen
When the snow is falling and the clouds hug the mountain, it feels as though you are in remote Japanese village far away from the rest of the world.  Hard to believe then, that Myoko Kogen is just a 50 minute train ride from the regional hub of Nagano (itself less than two hours by bullet train from Tokyo).

Like the other resorts north of Nagano, such as Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen, local skiers seem to outnumber the international fly-in, fly-out skiers, giving a more authentic Japanese on-piste and off-piste experience.



Myoko Kogen receives around 13 metres of snow each winter

Saturday, 16 February 2013

My journey after death: been there, done that

I've been on the journey after death.   

It feels suspiciously like a winding, pitch-black underground corridor with a low ceiling.


As Buddhist temple experiences go, this one at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, Japan, is something a little bit different.


Underneath the main hall's inner sanctuary is an underground passage, through which visitors walk in complete darkness in search of the "key to paradise".   This key is attached to the wall along the corridor and is believed to grant salvation to those who touch it.

The passage itself can be no more than 20 or 30 metres long and it only takes about three minutes to stumble blindly through.   Needless to say, in complete darkness it feels much longer.

Zenkoji Temple in Nagano; home of the "key of paradise"

One of the temple's monks explains to me that the passage mimics the one we experience after death when our souls go on a journey in search of paradise.

As instructed, I walked down the steps into the corridor holding my shoes in a plastic bag in my left hand (my "worldly goods") and fixed my right hand to the smooth wooden wall to act as my "eyes".

I have to bend forward to avoid hitting my head on the low ceiling beams.   Within metres of entering the corridor, it is pitch black.

I started to feel slightly claustrophobic as I was wedged between two large tour groups.   Apparently, up to eight million people visit here each year.  By the sounds of it, they all came today.

The temple is certainly popular, which is interesting given most Japanese don't exclusively adhere to one religion, but have incorporated aspects of several religions, particularly Buddhism and Shinto.

I kept my right hand on the wall and used it to navigate my path forward.  Unable to see, I repeatedly ran into the person in front of me (or at least what I thought was them) and the journey was complicated by twists and turns around several corners.

Delving into the bowels of the main temple, the third largest wooden structure in Japan, is an unusual way to appreciate it.   While the Zenkoji compound was founded in the seventh century when Buddhism arrived in Japan from India via Korea, the main temple itself was rebuilt in 1707.

Zenkoji is home to Japan's first Buddha image, brought here in the year 522 from Korea.   It is the temple's most revered object and is wrapped and stored in a box behind the main alter, somewhere close to where I was blindly wandering.   The temple's commandments prohibit it from being shown to anyone.   Apparently the last time someone laid eyes on it was in 1720.

Bodhisattva are enlightened beings who postpone Buddhahood to save others

My feet are a little numb.  It's about minus 2 degrees Celsius outside and it has started snowing.   If I had known I would be taking my shoes off and standing on cold timber floors I would have worn thicker socks.

I wonder if I will be thinking about clothing after I've died too.

Despite hearing the shrieks and chatter of others in the corridor, there are moments of peace from sensory deprivation.

There are also moments of panic.   It reminds me of the small,  dark Cho Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.  What if I take a wrong turn down here?  I reassured myself that I had my mobile with me and could always call for help.   At the very least, I was glad I had downloaded the flashlight iPhone app.   Even though the use of any lights down here was strictly forbidden, I was ready to deploy it should push come to shove.

As promised, but unseen, towards the end of the "journey" there was a metal door lock or key fixed to the wall.   This is the "key to paradise" I've been searching for in the darkness.

A little further on, after turning the final corner, there is a glimmer of light from the stairs which lead back up to the main hall.  

After only a few minutes down in the disorientating darkness, it was surely like seeing paradise itself.




Approaching the temple's main hall
A guardian at the temple's gates





Wednesday, 13 February 2013

My indecent international proposals

I think complete strangers in Asia have offered me their adult daughters' hands in marriage more often than pot or cocaine.

Just recently, while wandering along one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Tokyo's Ginza, an older Japanese lady asked if I had time to complete a short survey on tourist signage in the area.

Barely a minute into the survey and the inevitable question was asked: "Are you single?".

"Yes," I replied, causing a token amount of shock and disbelief, quickly followed by a ripple of excitement through the lady and her mature colleagues.

"I have a beautiful daughter," the lady replied with an knowing smile.

I wasn't quite sure how my relationship status related to the positioning of Ginza street signage, but I was reading this lady's message loud and clear.

This could have been me (the one standing)

Suddenly I wondered if this survey was legitimate at all.   Perhaps this was all just a well-orchestrated ruse by these desperate mothers to trap potential bachelors.  

Surely an E-harmony account or Gumtree ad would be simpler than standing on a windy street corner screening candidates?

Now, I don't think for a minute it was my phenomenal looks and gentlemanly charm which attracted the attention of this lady.   I pretty much think punch-happy Chris Brown could have run them over in his porsche and still be considered a worthy candidate for the role of "son-in-law".

From the Meekong Delta across to the markets of Beijing, I've had similar approaches.  I think desperate mothers think being single, tall and alive are particularly desirable characteristics for a husband.  (And they may have a point.)

Once identified as single, you're then subjected to additional screening in an attempt to isolate if there is an obvious defect.

"Why??" they plead with their head titled.   Placed on the spot with such impromptu, presumptuous and direct questioning I find it hard to cough up a response they would find suitable.   Foot odour?   Gingivitis?

I wonder what their daughters would think if they knew their mothers were out soliciting potential husbands for them?

Replace the time and place and it feels almost like scene from a Jane Austen novel.

After all this time, is a mother's work not done until the daughter is packed off to a husband?   Would this magically guarantee a life of health, happiness and prosperity for all?

Hurriedly, I complete this Japanese lady's survey and make my excuses for a speedy exit.

She looks slightly dejected.   Looks like today isn't going to be the day she finds a suitable candidate for her daughter.

But then I turn back and see she has she spotted another single gent to approach with her survey.

Hopefully he has all the right answers she's looking for.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Ode to Nagano Snow

An escape to the snow; the ultimate chill out.  

For someone coming from a hot Australian climate, there's something about the cold and the white which clears the mind and re-energises the body.

Transforming landscapes with every fall, snow can be both brutal and beautiful.

After 10 days recently spent skiing in Nagano, Japan, at Hakuba and Myoko Kogen resorts, here's some of my favourite scenes of snow.


video



Music:  Everloving Arms by Kristina Train


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Travelling alone? Or Travelling solo?

I prefer to think that I'm travelling solo.  

But judging how the two Japanese ladies on the chair lift recoiled in horror when I told them I was solo, they obviously thought I was travelling alone.

The two ladies were part of a group of 30 who had come on a tour to ski in Hakuba from Yokohama, about 300km away.  To them, coming all the way from Australia to ski here by yourself seemed incomprehensible. 

Can travelling by yourself actually be enjoyable?  Would someone actually choose to do that?

Absolutely!  It's all about attitude.



Being solo doesn't mean you can't go anywhere

I love travelling solo.  For starters there's the freedom and independence (some of the reasons we go travelling in the first place?) and of course the added bonus that when I'm ready, everyone's ready.

There are other benefits too.  My solo traveller status has had me upgraded to the last remaining first class plane seat, scored me the best seats in restaurants, and allowed me to jump ahead of the lift queue when skiing (using the dedicated single lane).

Not to say that I haven't found travelling with friends, family and small groups great too.   I've had wonderful European driving holidays with friends, ski trips with family, and made new friends on small group tours across Asia.

But I'm not as repulsed by the concept of solo travel as others seem to be.   And quite frankly I'm mystified why more people don't do it! 

I've had friends who've complained to me that they would love to go travelling, but don't have anyone to go with.  A lack of money or time are valid reasons for not travelling.   A lack of travelling companions?  Nope.  Sorry, you'll have to think of a better excuse than that.   If you think travelling solo is sad, I think it's sadder to want to go travelling, but never actually doing it because you're single.  Why does your happiness hinge so much on the whims of others?

Statistics say there is a growing number of single-person households; are they all planning on just sitting at home during their holidays?

Interestingly I think a growing number of hotels and other tourism operators are recognising this single market.  In Japan, for instance, I've found I've been paying for a hotel room on a per person, rather than per room, basis.

No doubt it is a matter of preference and taste, but perhaps don't discount solo travel until you've tried it.  

When in China on a small group tour of 12 people a few years ago, we came across a massive busload of Chinese tourists visiting Beijing.   They felt sorry for us travelling in such a small group, much preferring the company of at least 50 others when touring their own country.  However, for me, travelling with more than a dozen people would be a nightmare.  Can you imagine how long it would take them to get ready in the morning, taking into account the usual stragglers?   And just how authentic and impromptu would any local interaction be?  Would there ever be any opportunity to pop into a local cafe or restaurant to sit and relax, or just go for a wander by yourself to explore the neighbourhood?

Travelling solo often means you interact with others, whether they be locals or other travellers, much more than you would if you were travelling in a group.   And with email, Skype and Facebook, I seem to "talk" more with friends and family when I'm travelling than when I'm living in the same city as them - probably because I've actually got something to talk about.

"But what do you do about dinner?"

Hard to believe, but I actually eat dinner when I travel solo, just like I do at home.   A fear of eating dinner by themselves seems to be one of the core reasons why people don't travel solo.   They feel they can handle lunch, but dinner is a different story.   

I can understand this to some extent. I used to feel a little weird asking for a table for one.  But then I got over myself.  Who cares what a room of strangers think?   Is me walking into this restaurant solo rocking their world?   

If anything, I've felt solo diners are given special treatment by waiters (probably out of pity) and often score the table with the nicest view.  Just like at home, while waiting for my meal I read a magazine, catch up on some emails or plan the next day's adventures.

Dining by myself also means I've noticed a few things.   Like the couples who can't think of a single word to say to each other across the table and just stare in opposite directions.  And the parents of the screaming children who look like they wish they could sit by themselves for just one uninterrupted meal.  

At the end of the day, just as travelling with others has perks, so too does travelling solo.

So don't pity us solo travellers; we're probably having a much better time than you.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

You know you're skiing in Japan when...

There's no mistaking it, the Land of the Rising Sun also has a lot of snow!

Taking advantage of this winter wonderland, Japan has about 600 ski resorts - although some are very small and more geared towards snow-lovin' locals than the international market.

However, since the Winter Olympics were staged in Nagano in 1998, Japan's larger ski areas such as Hakuba and Niseko have attracted a growing international market.   

But just as with many other aspects of life in Japan, skiing here is just a little bit different to everywhere else.  

Here's 10 ways in which skiing in Japan is different:

1.  A bow from the "lifty"
Forget the surly, pot-head Gen Ys who grunt at you in Australia, US and Canada, here in Japan you are cheerfully greeted when you board a chair lift, while the "lifty" at the top gives you a bow when you arrive at your destination.  Arigato!

2.  Many lifts for the number of runs
Lift lines are a concern for every skier, but less so in Japan.   Part of this has to be the fact that some resorts have more lifts than actual runs.  For example, Tsugaike Kogen in Hakuba has 23 lifts for its 11 courses, while the larger Hakuba 47 and Goryu has 19 lifts for its 23 runs.  While the usefulness of some of these lifts is debatable, they certainly help spread any crowd.  They also keep the packs of school kids learning to ski and board down the bottom of the slope.


The dramatic Hakuba ski area in Japan



3.  Automated lift gates
Now they may have these elsewhere in the world, but I've yet to see automatic lift gates used with such gusto as in Japan, particularly in Hakuba and Niseko.  Instead of an attendant manually scanning your lift ticket, which is usually strung to your jacket and flapping away in the wind, your lift ticket is small credit card or chip kept in your pocket which is automatically scanned by sensors at the gate.   No fuss and you're on your way quicker.

4.  Hello Kitty snowmen
This fictional character is everywhere in Japan and even on the snowfields itself.   Kids, adults and even lift attendants seem to enjoy creating Hello Kitty from the snow.


Get used to saying "Hello Kitty"



5.  Slope-side vending machines
Another staple of urban Japan has made it onto the ski slopes offering water, soft drinks and beer.  Lunch ticket vending machines are also used in many of the on-piste restaurants making it easier to order and pay for your meal.  You simply take the your ticket to the kitchen counter to pick up your meal.

6.  A Japanese lunch
Speaking of meals, apart from western fare and even the odd KFC (see http://somekindofblissblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/finger-lickin-slopes.html), there's ramen, soba, curry, miso soup and other hearty Japanese dishes to enjoy on the slopes.  


Japanese and Western cuisine dished up on the slopes


7.  Heated toilet seats
Whoever thought of putting heated toilet seats on the mountain is a genius and a humanitarian.  (see http://somekindofblissblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/a-seat-at-future.html)

8.  Chair lift J-pop
So J-pop blaring from the chair lift speakers not be to everyone's tastes, but at least you know where the lifts are in a white-out!




9.  Apres ski onsens
There's hardly a better tonic for sore muscles and cold feet than relaxing in an onsen drawing on hot volcanic springs.   (see http://somekindofblissblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/the-naked-truth-about-onsens.html)

10.  Fashions of the field
Japanese fashion is distinctive to say the least and the snow gear is no exception.   Just as well you are wearing googles as "onesies", pants, jackets, boots and boards come in a neon rainbow of colours here.   It's safe to say there's a fair amount of "dress-ups" going on - from the young snowboarding girls who preen themselves to simply sit on the mountain beside their board all day, through to adults dressed as animals or cartoon characters.


The unique fashions of Japan's ski fields

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A seat at the future

A recent edition of The Economist hypothesised that the human race had failed to invent anything as useful or significant as the indoor toilet.

Maybe so,  but Japan has taken the humble loo and innovated it to a whole new level of ingenuity.

The toilets found in Japanese homes and hotels, usually the Toto Washlet, have been tricked out like a souped up Ferrari, making my humble home toilet look like a 1980s Chrysler Sigma.

Taking to these thrones is like sitting at the Captain's chair on the Starship Enterprise.   Beside you is an array of flashing lights and buttons which elevate the restroom experience.

A Toto Washlet: have humans ever invented anything better?


Like many others, upon first sighting these bewildering plinths I thought: "that's ridiculous!"

A seat warmer?   Deodouriser?   Music, including the option of different genres, which strikes up when I sit?

What about the automatic flush and cleaning functions?

And do i really need a bidet function with varying options for water temperature, angle and pressure?

After just a couple of days of being treated to this smorgasbord of lavatory delights, it seems the answer is "Yes! Yes I do!".

And let's just say that whoever thought of putting toilets with seat warmers on ski fields is not only a genius, but a great humanitarian as well. Instead of an experience which I imagine is only slightly less uncomfortable than having a prostate exam by Jack Frost himself, cold skiers in need of relief are embraced by a warm cocoon.

And clearly I'm not alone in this restroom revelry.  Others have seen the benefits of washing rather than smearing.

It's enough to make you have latrine envy.  Compared to the toilets Japan is flushed with, my home toilet feels like a pit in the ground which I throw sawdust down when I'm done.

But has water closet civilisation arrived in Australia?  On the flight over to Japan, the Jetstar magazine boasted that a number of these flashy toilets were now available in Australia. Not sure how Bruce the Plumber from Moorooka would go installing these triumphs of toilet technology in Australian homes, but you would soon know if he had done it correctly or not.

Even more bizarrely, I was at a meeting with a Japanese company in Brisbane the other week and in the corner of their boardroom was one of these toilets. Just sitting there. I have no idea why. More importantly, did it get there of its own accord? Do they now possess the power of flight?

Regardless, these toilet marvels are clearly the way of the future and I say I'm ready to be seated!

And when my Toto Washlet arrives, I'm going to program it to play Rhianna whenever I approach; she's been giving me the sh*ts for years.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Finger lickin' slopes

There's really nothing quite like skiing.

The great expanse of the outdoors, covered in a blanket of white.

The peace and quiet which makes you feel like you are miles from anywhere.

And after you've thrown yourself down the slopes a few times, a pitstop for a hearty meal.

Well... maybe not always in Japan.

A few of the ski fields I've visited this week have done away with that pesky peace and quiet by drowning it out with the latest J-pop songs.   As you can imagine, these tunes don't often sound their best when blaring from old, weather-worn speakers attached to each chair lift.

And who needs a hearty meal when there's a KFC mid mountain?

No drive-thru, but skiers and snowboarders welcome
Tsugaike Kogen resort, in Japan's Hakuba valley, "proudly" boasts having an outlet for "11 secret herbs and spices" halfway up the mountain.  No drive-thrus here as the only way to reach that bucket of chicken is via a set of skis or a snowboard.

While some of the bigger international snow resort towns like Whistler and Vail have fast food chain outlets down in the valley, having an outlet mid-mountain is something else.  Just when there was a danger of you actually burning a few calories, Colonel Sanders is there to replenish you with quite a few more.

It's almost as bewildering as watching the Australian KFC commercials with Joel and Benji Madden.

Not content with simply have a store on the mountain, KFC has taken it a step further to really leave their mark. Who else but Colonel Sanders himself watches over the resort from his own gondola.   No doubt for fast food aficionados it's akin to a vision of God sitting on a heavenly cloud.


Colonel Sanders riding high... with an offering of high calories

KFC makes its mark at Tsugaike Kogen

Thankfully, once you've downed your nuggets, Colonel Burger or other, there's also some really beautiful runs (away from the J-pop) to enjoy!