Today I arrive in Manila, my head full of questions as to what a three-year stint here is going to look like. It seems that since I accepted my job offer in December the Philippines has rapidly become once of the most unstable democracies in Asia.
The burgers are cold and chewy and don’t really taste of anything. So I'm told. I just take photos of mine. And it’s a really bumpy ride. The plane judders- it’s an old Tupolev, one of only two that are allowed into China. They aren’t allowed into Europe at all. It's explained that they are designed for flying rather than comfort – I wish I hadn’t packed my rescue remedy in the hold. The rest of Air Koryo doesn’t seem to do much except sit on the tarmac, swathed in bibs, giving the illusion of a fleet.
The nine million bicycles has dwindled to about three. There are at least nine million cars instead, probably more, as it has a population of 22 million. Whilst we are on numbers it is one of the oldest established capital cities in the world and it has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, and Zhoukoudian, as well as parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal.
I'm in Ishigakijima, one of the Yaeyama islands, Okinawa prefecture. Basically, this is about as far south as Japan goes. Japan here doesn’t seem to be as high tech as I remember it to be but that was 15 years ago. Yes, everyone is toting their gadgets but the stores are utilitarian and piled high with oddments, plastic toys and confectionery, which is annoying, as I've already lost all my electronic chargers.