Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Travel Movies - Shinjuku

Tokyo, Japan

Shinjuku is where the metropolitan government of Tokyo is located.
Also the busiest train station in Japan and a major shopping district.
It has the most vibrant entertainment area in Tokyo.

I'll be posting snippet of various places in Japan, starting with this one of Shinjuku, Tokyo.
My Sydney videos attracted comments that they preferred to see the location instead of my friends, so I am cutting out the personal stuff and just showing you the places.
Travel videos can be quite boring for viewers, especially if you can't relate to the people in it, I guess. Anyway, enjoy the coming series. Drop me a comment if you wish.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking the mickey out of your guided tour

I have never been on a guided tour.

More precisely, I have never been on a packaged group tour before.
With all the negatives you hear over the years about group packages, I still wonder why people would want to join those.

I guess it could be the worry of being in an unfamiliar place, of not knowing what to do or where to proceed that makes a lot of people join these tours. Then of course, there are those who prefer everything to be arranged for them without the hassle of doing it themselves. Convenience, I guess, is the word. That's the trade off for losing a lot on your tour.

All of my travels have been as a Free and Independent Traveller (FIT), or as we say here, Free & Easy. (Just for your info, the term F&E may not be understood by people outside Singapore)

Being free to plan my own itinerary gives me the freedom to do what I want, when I want it and for how long. As opposed to being with a group tour, where you are constantly herded and sent to places where they want to take you and where they get the best commissions from the retailers.

Let's face it, the tour guides are all part of the same circle in the tour trade. I scratch your back, you scratch my back. Of course, they will take you to those itinerised places as promised, but notice how the focus is a lot on taking you places to make purchases? bargain shopping? You are really left with minimal time to sightsee those places on the itinerary.

For example, a lot of my friends who have been to Disneyland have not stayed there beyond sundown. That's usually because of their tight program, they are rushed to another place, or to check into another hotel for the night, or for dinner, et cetra, etc. Sad to say, places like Disneyland do offer a lot of spectacular events at night, like laser light shows, fireworks and floats, which a lot of group tours may not get to see. You have to follow their schedule, alas.

For those of you who may have had the experience of the above, here's a short clip on Disneyland's night parade called Disney Electrical Parade Dreamlights. If you missed that at Disneyland, I am sure you would have also missed a lot on your guided packaged tour too.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

I have many Australian friends and all the time they revel in telling me that Australia is the Lucky Country, with its laid back attitude and their belief that nobody should work on weekends. Weekends are for family, friends and the BBQ.

The 1st time I travelled to Sydney was about 15 years ago. And so, with that in mind, I really had such a shock when I first arrived early one Sunday morning.
On the taxi ride to my hotel at Darling Harbour, I saw people drunk and literally lying all over the roadside and in the public spaces. Groups of young people, older folks, guys and girls decked out in costumes and loitering all over the city. My first thought was "Oh my god! the sydneysiders do really take their Saturday nights seriously!" They were everywhere, smashed and plastered, with tons of Fosters and XXXX beer cans littered everywhere!

When I told my business partners later that morning, they had a huge laugh and said that I had just missed the greatest party that Sydney celebrates every year. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras started off in the late 70's as a gay pride protest movement which has since developed into the biggest gay & lesbian event in the world. Held each year in Feb or March, the event gives a significant boost to the economy of Sydney each year. People from all over the world, straight or otherwise, travel there to be part of the event. I'm told Sydneysiders make a beeline in the opposite direction during Mardi Gras weekend!

It is a time for the gay community to show off. Closet gays and lesbians come out in droves and are all socially accepted. The aim seems to be "let yourself go, be who you really are and enjoy life"

Thus, it was that, when my friends wanted to visit Sydney, I made sure that we travelled during the time when the Mardi Gras was on. It is a party not to be missed. In fact, you can describe it as the Mother of all Parties. Google it and see what you have been missing.

With all that said, I now present the 4th part of my Sydney Trilogy. See! I so clever, know how to squeeze 4 episodes into a trilogy, ha ha. (By the way, I managed to do it in 4 parts not 5, so I'll spare you some pain from watching my boring home movies.)

In this last part, we took a cruise around beautiful Sydney Harbour, watched a cultural show and, of course, became part of the Mardi Gras event. Enjoy

Travel Movies - Sydney Part 3

Part 3 takes us to the Bay areas. Rose Bay, Double Bay & Watson's Bay are the more well known shores in Sydney Harbour. Sydney does possess one of the most beautiful harbour anywhere and it was formed eons ago when the Pacific Ocean broke through what is know today as The Gap. You may remember The Gap from Mission Impossible III which was filmed there.

From The Gap, we proceed to Bondi Beach. Famous for being the beach 5 minutes from the city. You can go for a swim during your lunch hour! Bondi is filled with sun-worshippers daily. Movie clip has fleeting scenes of nudity and if you are a minor, please skip the movie.

Here is Part 3.

The clip ends at The Rocks, the area first settled by the English settlers. This is now a conservation area and the best place to buy Australian native products, especially opals.