Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Canada, Alaska, Nagoya

May 24, 2004:

Some observations from the air on our trip back to Manila from Detroit last May 22.
(We first took a smaller plane from Dulles airport, DC to Detroit, then transferred to a B747-400 plane, a 400+ seater jumbo jet).

Detroit to Nagoya is about 11,440 kms. and 13 hours via the North Pole. I initially suspected that there's some engine problem with the plane because after about an hour or two on air, the plane was cruising only at an altitude of about 29,000 feet(about the same height as Mt. Everest), and not 39,000 ft. as usually taken by long-hauled planes. Also, the ground speed was only between 800-900 kph, instead of more or less 1,000 kph.

A. Canada and Alaska

The plane went north first towards Canada, near or around Ottawa-Toronto-Quebec-Ontario areas (as indicated in the plane's video). Later, the plane got out of North Canada airspace, crossed Alaska (US territory), in its northernmost part, about the same latitude as the northernmost portions ofNorway-Sweden-Finland triumvirate. It was already part ofthe north pole! So, I have seen the lower portion of the North Pole, alright! Cool man!
Here's what I observed there:
a) Huge rock formations (if not small rocky mountains) covered -- not totally though -- with ice and snow.
b) One huge mountain which rises above a wide carpet of clouds, snow-covered.
c) Roads in Alaska that are very long, straight, sometimes winding along the mouths of thousands of frozen small/mini-lakes, roads that seem to lead to nowhere.
I thought, how would it feel driving in this part of the Earth -- all ice around you, roads where you seem to be the only moving human soul, praying that your car won't encounter any engine trouble because the next car that will pass by maybe several hours away. Ahhhh, what an adventurous souls those people are who brave those roads! Well, observing those Alaskan rocks while listening to the plane's rock n roll music audio channel is cool! You shake and swing your head to the music of TheQueen, The Police, Led Zep, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Rollingstones, Aerosmith,The Who, The Doors, others -- yeah man, alright!

After Alaska, next scenes to see would have been Russia's westernmost lands (or ice). But by then, they started showing movies -- drama, again! So I opted to read or sleep.

B. Nagoya City, Japan

For some of us passengers who were not in a hurry to go home and haven't set foot on any Japanese city yet (like me), the plane having landed late is a "bonus". When we landed at Nagoya airport, the pilot announced that Manila-bound passengers will have to stay overnight in the city, fly the following day. So I was very excited! For one, my passport will have additional immigration stamps (he he, ang babaw ano ha) -- a shore pass entry, then a departure stamp the following day. Second, we'll bestaying in a 5 star hotel (Nagoya Tokyu Hotel), nice amenities, yummy-yummy food, and bus transfers to and from the hotel. And third, I'll be able to see some Japanese roads, buildings and other structures up close.

Nagoya is "small" compared to other cities like Tokyo, Osaka, etc., according to a friend who has worked and lived in Japan for several years. Tall buildings are scattered over a wide expanse of the city, there seems to be no big cluster of high structures, say a bunch of at least 50 tall bldgs. The roads are generally narrow, which partly explains perhaps why many cars are small, big cars and trucks are few. There's also bicycle culture, like in many European cities. Skyways are excellent, tollway system. Major streets have names in both Nihongo characters and the alphabet.Watching again the city from the air on our flight to Manila (finally!), my head is always on the window, as usual :-)

Very few trees in the city, though I saw one small forest park in the middle ofthe city, the area a bit smaller than Quezon memorial circle in QC. There arerice fields in some parts of the city(!), especially near river systems. More skyways are being constructed. There are plenty of wide reclaimed areas. Plenty of rivers and canals, though not Amsterdam-like canal system. There'sgreen/grass space between the roads and canals/rivers. Bridges criss-cross therivers, reducing traffic build-up in various road networks. More mini-forestparks as you go out of city centers.

Where the lands are generally flat, there are houses and farmlands, through the"edge", the feet of mountains. So I think that in terms of urban planning, this city's (and I would say, most Japanese cities) land use is optimized. The"division of function" between flatlands and forest lands are very clear. I did not see subdivisions or real estate projects on mountains. There are houses and farms though, on valleys and river deltas between mountains. The mountains are thick with forests, really dark-green view from the top. If Japan would continue its use of wooden chop-sticks, throw them away after a single use instead of many plastic, reusable chop-sticks, the country won't run out of wood.

And dams, man, I saw at least 8 dams on its river systems -- and that's only those that I have observed on the left side of the plane. I dont know how many dams there are on the right side of the plane. So, there, one of the "secrets"of Japan's prosperity -- optimal land use: agri lands, residential and commercial lands, forest lands, rivers and dams, etc.

Less than an hour on air, the plane was cruising at 35,000 ft. altitude, though at a slower speed of about 740 kph. Nagoya-Manila is about 2,870 kms. away, flying time 3:45 hours.

Arriving back home after a month of being away is refreshing. The country is not managed well by the government, but my good friends and family are here, so am staying here.

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