The Datai, Langkawi

Finally getting around to uploading some photos from our brief trip to Malaysia. We stayed at The Datai on the island of Langkawi for three nights. The resort hotel is surrounded by rainforest, and the lobby is completely open to the outdoors, which made for an otherworldy impression when we arrived at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night. As we sat on a sofa and sipped our welcome drinks, we listened to the sound of frogs croaking in lobby's lotus-filled pond. It's pretty impossible to capture the vibe of the place in photographs, but for anyone looking to do a romantic, relaxing beach holiday, and willing to spend the extra bucks, I recommend it. We got chased by monkeys. . . I touched a huge iguana that I thought would bite my hand off. . . flipped our rental kayak . . . got sunburned. . . got oil massages. . . took an open-air flower bath. . . had a private dinner on a secluded beach. . . ate starfruit. . . drank planter's punch. . . and all-in-all had a great time.


Street View

Today I was playing with Google Maps, which recently launched its Street View feature for Tokyo. To protect people's privacy, people that appear in the Street View have their faces blurred out. Overall, the possibility of being captured in the Street View image while you were randomly out on the street seems rather slim. But taking a virtual walk around where I work, I found something interesting. The guy who sells fruit and vegetables in the alley near my office building is right there in the Street View. You can see him in the screen grab above, with a white cap on, standing in front of an electric pole . It's like he's a permanent fixture on the street. I plan on doing some more virtual walking to find other people that have been immortalized in Street View.


Travel TV

Now that I've gotten on the subject of travel programs, I might as well come clean. The majority of TV programs that I watch in Japan are travelogues of some sort. In my previous post, I wrote about my fondness for "Weekend Cinderella." In fact, there are three other shows that I try to catch every week -- all of which involve travel, but are thematically very different. The best is "Sekai Ururun Taizaiki," which has been on TV for the last 13 years. The show has different celebrities go on a homestay for about a week in another country. Most of the time they have a goal to accomplish by the end of their stay, maybe walking a tightrope in a Korean acrobatic act or learning how sing to make a camel cry in Mongolia. Unfortunately, "Ururun" is going off the air this fall. That means I will have to be satisfied with the remaining travel programs.

"Sekai Fureai Aruki" is a really unusual show on NHK that features no visible host. Alternatively featuring a male or female narrator, the show is a virtual walk through various towns all over the globe. Most of the walk is shot in real time, and includes face-to-face exchanges with people randomly encountered on the streets and alleyways.
"AiNori" is the closest to US-style reality TV. It's similar to MTV's "Road Rules," where a small group of girls and guys travels in a van through different countries. The twist here is that they are trying to make a love connection, and they can only return to Japan once they successfully partner with someone of the opposite sex. Or until they "retire" from the show. I find the show odd in the sense that if I had a choice, I would choose to travel the world for as long as I could for free. To me, going home to Japan seems like losing rather than winning.


Cinderella Man

Every Saturday night I make sure to watch "Shuumatsu no Shinderera Sekai! Dangan Torabera." Loosely translated, it means "Weekend World Cinderella! Bullet Traveller." Each episode has a female celebrity go on a seriously short and speedy trip. Originally, the show was supposed to be the kinds of trips most women could either afford the time and money for, but recently the destinations are pretty far from Japan. This has resulted in odd, three-day, one-night itineraries, meaning the travellers spend most of their time on the airplane. Regardless, they make the most of their time once on the ground. Usually they have a specific site they wish to see, like the jelly-fish lake in Palau or the Aurora Borealis in Canada, or a bit of foreign culture they want to experience, like being a "bride" at a wedding in the Greek islands or drinking tequila in Mexico. I've always enjoyed travel shows (yes, I even used to watch Rick Steves on PBS), and this one makes you realize that you don't need that much time to have a mini-adventure (although, you probably do need a lot of money).



Originally uploaded by Braincell Jupiter
A snack bar that once was. This building in Gotanda is no more. Snapped the photo just two weeks before it was torn down.

Embassy Dog

The dog at the back entrance gate to the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo.