Archive for July, 2006

Another travel day, another all-nighter

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Ok, we’re leaving Kyoto today, in about 90 minutes.  It’s past 5.30am right now, and I’ve recently gotten back from a lovely night out in Kyoto (my only night out in this city, in fact).  Some other Dins met some lovely American/Japanese-American girls at the hot springs they visited today, and these girls in turn took us out on the town and we had a marvellous time clubbing the night away.

As usual, there is really too much to say, and I also need to go pack, shower and potentially take a half hour nap before we leave our very nice hotel here (the Takaragaike Prince Hotel), which somehow has surprisingly few facilities – in particular, no pool, gym or fitness facilities of any kind.  So I will instead leave a bunch of impressions I’ve been meaning to share:

– I love how the Japanese taxicab drivers all have neat, livery-style uniforms, and also that they can open the cab door with the touch of a botton (that even controls how far the door swings open).

– I’ve noticed that the Japanese all use full-sized (ie not compact/collapsible) umbrellas, which are often very fancy, and that every store will have an umbrella rack outside the door.

– I love how the Japanese can often be spotted wearing hats.  Yay headgear!

– I *love*love*love* Japanese supermarkets, which are filled with nothing but cool Japanese products and foodstuffs.  Kawaii!! 🙂

– I’m amused by how much aural stimulation occurs here – almost everything talks to you (bus stops, toilets, vending machines) and prattles on constantly.  This also includes any kind of service/hospitality-related transaction; for instance a cashier ringing you up will give an uninterrupted running commentary which I can only guess (since I don’t speak Japanese) goes something like: “Good morning, I see you are buying a bag of chips.  Let me scan that and tell you the price, which is 200 yen.  As you hand me two hundred yen in cash let me put the chips in a carrier for you, together with your receipt. Thank you very much for your purchase, have a nice day and please shop again with us soon.  Goodbye!”

– I’m very impressed with the French restaurant in the hotel, which has served us our (free!) dinners at place settings of Noritake bone china, Christofle silverware and Schott Zweisel stemware.  Very classy.

Kyoto dreaming…

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Sorry for the hiatus in blog posts…  For the past couple of weeks practically every free moment I have has been spent trying to arrange details for the Dins’ stop in Singapore from Aug 5-8.  It’s going to be an exciting, performance-packed stop, I think.

The Dins will perform two concerts at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 8 Aug 2006 (Tuesday) at 7pm and 9pm.  Tickets will go on sale via Sistic on 26 July, and are quite limited, so be sure to book early!  One night only!!  🙂

Anyway, greetings from Kyoto, Japan, the 13th stop on the Dins World Tour 2006.  I’ve only been here about 12 hours, but already I absolutely *love* Japan.  The culture of such exacting manners and neatness, technology-fuelled efficiency and convenience, as well as a passion for high-quality fashion all appeal strongly to my sensibilities.

Incidentally, in Prague I managed to get my lugagge replaced with very little hassle, curtesy of Lufthansa.  I brought in my ruined suitcase to an authorised repair shop, the woman there looked at it and then gave me a brand new Samsonite bag that was approximately the same as my original (though a touch smaller).  Problem solved.  Praise God!

I liked Prague a lot.  Such a charming, romantic city.  And such beautiful people and postcards too.

We just arrived today in Kyoto from Shanghai, China.  I’d never been to Shanghai before, and boy was that an eye-opener.  The city was truly a marvel of frenzied construction and booming prosperity.  Yet everything seemed so incredibly cheap to our Zurich-jaded wallets (where a small bottle of water was 4 CHF, about 3 USD).  A fair number in the group caught the men’s fashion bug (I’m so proud! :)) and were ecstatic over the pretty fine tailoring that was available for so little…  I had two shirts made just to try it out, and they both turned out really well.  Especially considering that they cost less than US$9 each.  I also went to the tailor Uncle Soon Lee recommended (also named “Jason”, which was confusing), and ordered a piped jacket (in the style of a boating-jacket).  I have to say that I was quite impressed overall at the quality of the work (although I had to push a little, which is normal, to get exactly what I wanted, finicky details and all).  And the price was unbeatable, truly.  In all, the other Dins who went to the same tailor on my recommendation bought something like 2 overcoats, 4 sportscoats and 6 suits made.  It was fun to watch other Dins be excited about shopping, for once 🙂

A big special thank you to Uncle Soon Lee who fed me (and other Dins) well and pointed the way to good, cheap shopping and tailoring.  Thank you!

It was also a hugely happy revelation to myself that I can actually speak Mandarin quite decently, at least enough to communicate fairly efficiently, and to even write stuff down.  Looks like those years and years of slogging over Chinese (which was really the only subject I recall always studying for) have actually resulted in a useful skill.  Yay!!

Have I mentioned that the Europe-leg of the tour has piqued (for the first time, ever) my interest in learning German?  I’m actually quite excited at the prospect.

Again, I’m currently blogging both here and also on the Dins’ World Tour 2006 blog which can be accessed online at  Go check out the handful of pictures I’ve posted there, which are also on my regular Flickr photostream.

Alright, time to venture out into Kyoto in search of contact lens solution…  at 12.30am.  In the rain.  (Life is so hard!)

PS:  I’ll explain the “Life is so hard” Din-game some other time

One month in…

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Today is the one month mark on the Dins’ World Tour.

While we were chatting late one Monday night at the really wonderful Taj Mahal club in Athens, I pointed out to Evan that our conversations with people we meet must sound so horribly obnoxious, since they all go along the lines of: “And then when we were chauffered to the castle in Belgium we were taken to the all-night party in Luxembourg by the Swiss It girls who drove us to a fabulous free, five-star meal at the museum where there was a private party hosted by the ambassador in the nightclub by the pool at the summer villa with the huge Warhol canvasses…”  and we can keep going like this for several hours.

It’s been pretty amazing, truly.  I should load pictures!  🙂

But for those people who would prefer to hear about how the trip isn’t perfect, you may like to know that when I got off the plane in Prague this afternoon I was quickly alerted by other Dins to the fact that my almost-new Samsonite luggage had been violently smashed in transit, probably somewhere between our layover in Munich and our arrival.  And this after I was somehow mistakenly left behind at our residence in Rome and had to make my own way to the airport.  On the upside, it seems possible that Lufthansa will make good on the damage with either free repairs or a replacement bag, although I wish my luggage (which I bought at Selfridges in London last summer!) could have made it through Tour unscathed.  Right now it’s entirely missing a wheel structure (making the other wheel fairly useless), and has serious looking rips up the side.  I’m not terribly hopeful that it can be repaired economically.

Ok, time to go do other things now, like try and make some progress on the first and shamefully still first book I’m reading for the summer, as well as maybe watch the DVD Ming gave me just before tour started.


 PS:  Seriously, anyone who wants postcards should email me their mailing address.  My email is on this blog under “contact details” on the sidebar.  I’ve already posted possibly two to three dozen postacards so don’t feel like it would be any kind of bother for me – I love sending them!  🙂