Asia’s Busiest Airport at a Glance

beijing check-in terminals
Beijing airport, busiest in Asia!

For the second year in a row, Beijing Capital International Airport ranked number two in the list of the world’s busiest airports, handling 83.7 million passengers last year and securing its position as the airport with the highest level of flight activity in Asia. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport remains on top with 94.4 million travellers due to it being a major port for domestic flights and a popular connection to destinations in Europe and South America.

Beijing Capital International Airport charges ahead of Tokyo-Haneda (68.9 million) and London Heathrow (72.3 million), UK’s busiest airport and third busiest in Europe overall. Europe’s busy airports list also consists of London’s Gatwick Airport as it continues to expand in various areas from parking options to possibly building a second runway in the near future.

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Mt. Aso and Fukuoka – The Final Leg

Mt. Aso from Aso City
Mt. Aso from Aso City

After a nice relaxing visit at the Omata’s we had one last big stop on our list – hike an active volcano. Mt. Aso, or Aso San, is known for being a temperamental hot spot that has been smoking for years. At its peak, Nakadake crater, there are about 8 inner craters and a small lake of boiling hot, blue water. The crater is off limits but there are zones outside the most toxic spot with a cable car taking visitors to its edge. Unluckily for us, Nakadake was misbehaving as recently as March, causing the closest safe zone (1 KM around the crater) to be closed off. That, combined with super foggy conditions, made our visit to Aso a somewhat disappointing one.

But before leaving the town of Aso however, we got a chance to ride a classical scenic train that wraps around the southern valley of the mountain. Between the quaint towns of Tateno and Takamori, this hour-long “tour” gave us a glimpse at the communities that live so close to this active volcano.

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Onsen and Hells in Oita

Me and the Sea Hell
Me at the Sea Hell

The Omatas welcomed us into their home as guests and showed us the most amazing hospitality. Having known Jun and Rika for years in China, and also tutored their kids, I had always promised I would visit their neck of the woods in South-Western Japan. Since this was an opportunity to do that I made sure that our itinerary included a visit to Oita and Beppu, the hot springs capital of Japan.

Across Beppu you’ll find white plumes of steam rising from cracks in the Earth. On our only full day together, Jun and Rika brought us to various jigoku or “hells” in Japanese. These hells were far too hot to swim in but we’re beautiful occurrences in nature. The sea hell was blue and the bloody hell was red. Other hells were different colors, including a white one.

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72 KM on a Ma Ma Chai in 2 Days in Japan

Shimanami Kaido Bike Path
Shimanami Kaido Bike Path

72 kilometers by bike, in 10 hours. This was the middle point of our journey through Japan. Actually, Jake and I had planned on more hiking and biking than we actually did, but this ride was almost more than we had bargained for!

The bike path starts in Hiroshima prefecture, spanning 6 tiny islands and massive suspension bridges, ending in Imabari city on the island of Shikoku. In order to do it all, we rented 2 bikes for 2 days and stayed at a hot spring beach hostel. Covered by orange and lemon groves, Innoshima was probably the most remote of our entire trip. And we sampled the oranges too as we rode through the little towns nestled in these islands. (See a pic below for the entire route.)

With heavy packs on our backs, we still managed to locate the hostel on day one and get a well-deserved hot spring bath to soothe our aching muscles. I honestly don’t know if we could have finished cycling the other 3 islands the next day if we didn’t have that chance for some deep relaxation.

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That Guilty Feeling in Hiroshima

A-Bomb Dome in Spring
A-Bomb Dome in Spring

We all have learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki at some point in History class. But nothing prepares you for what we were about to experience in this city. As I got off the train in downtown Hiroshima I was a little overcome with sorrow. I had never felt a sense of national guilt before. It must be similar to how Germans recall World War II. And you only know what that’s like when you ’round the corner….. and see it – the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This singular structure, with rubble and bricks left in tact, is a visceral reminder of the devastation the Japanese people suffered at the end of World War II. It represents how hundreds of thousands of lives were changed in an instant. The museum, which was packed on a Tuesday, is raw and very emotional. Tattered clothes, melted skin, fused panes of glass, and stories from survivors made the experience all the more heartbreaking.

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