Tokyo Disneyland – Halloween 2014 – Own Video

I finally can start to publish some of my footage from my Asian trip to Japan and Singapore. And to start things off, any visitor to Tokyo will most likely be making their way to Disneyland and also neighbouring Disneysea. I must say it was pretty packed and from reports, the parks can be notorious for being overcrowded. Think long queues and time waiting around. So my thinking arriving after 5pm on Halloween, was that things would be more settled. But as you can guess, being Halloween it was chock-a-block. Being Japan, I didn’t mind and soon realised that any hope of going on one of the major rides was not going to happen. So wandering the park was pretty epic, to see the amazing Halloween sets and also even the stores, with their styling.

What I was fortunate enough to experience was the nighttime shows – the light parade where there were floats all in Disney characters in LED lighting, which went on for over 20 minutes. Followed by the Cinderella projection show on the main Disney castle – which is this video snippet. Being there for Halloween brought a new dimension to the already carnival like atmosphere to the park. Patrons were asked to dress up as their favourite Disney characters and I noticed a warning to guests (especially the female ones) for modest dressing. It would appear that the Japanese female youth like to dress with very high hemlined skirts and bordering risqué Disney attire – and of course Disney saw this coming. Apparently to maintain the ‘child friendliness of the park’ which is understandable. But anyway, with the little time I had there, it totally blew my mind into pieces and after the trip to Japan these pieces are still being put back together. A bit of Disney makes everything better it seems.

– Anth

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Motor scooter riding in Chiang Mai – Thailand

I had the opportunity to visit Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand during my 2011 trip (which covered Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore. This was my second visit to this great city – where on my first visit I was lured by its relaxed city vibe and natural wonders which surrounded the picturesque city. Within the most recent visit I couldn’t resist the chance to hire a motorised moped / scooter and travel around the city. Risky business (I know), as you often hear in the news cases where tourists are injured and vendors taking advantage of the tourists (knowing that they are cash cows for their business). Knowing the risks, I decided to proceed as the chance as rising around and feeling a sense of freedom is too great to deny.

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Near my hotel (which was close to the old gate in inner western Chiang Mai city and near the night market district), I stumbled across what appeared to be a well organised rental business. As a surety they required me to surrender my passport (I was definitely hesitant at first, but I figured this was a consequence of being in a foreign country where you passport is the only main thing of value). After tentatively handing over my passport, I was given the keys to a well maintained and shiny motor scooter. The vendor asked me “have you ever ridden a motorcycle before”. Naturally knowing that if I said no, that I would face resistance to the vendor allowing me to proceed with the rental of their prized mode of transport – so I said ‘yes’. The funny thing is the vendor was not quite convinced and in a certain way tested me as to how I would manage.

Then afterwards after some false starts and accidently gripping back the accelerator, I was on my way to start my journey around this great city. The only condition of was that I had to return the motorised scooter in one piece and with a full tank of fuel (which was the way that the mode of transport was presented to me).

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I had no set plan on my travels around the city. This was the last day of my time in Chiang Mai, as my flight to Bangkok was around 6pm that evening. So being carefree and in a way naive, set out with the Nancy Chandler Chiang Mai map and just went out to see what caught my eye. I tried to ensure that I did not wander too far from the squared boundaries and the moat parameters of the city, so I would not end up in a foreign country in a compromised position (without fuel).

In saying this, i seemed to have immediately broke this pledge and soon found my way at a McDonalds in what appeared to be a Thai factory outlet on the outskirts of the city. After indulging in some fast food, I soon found out that I was headed away from Chiang Mai and was heading to Lampang (which is located heading south towards Bangkok). Lucky I stopped, or I could have found myself riding through the Thai country side, not knowing where or how long the fuel could last me – a very scary prospect indeed. After discovering the error of my ways, I made my way back towards the heart of the city and reoriented myself. Navigating the Thai traffic can be a challenge not for the faint hearted or those who are not comfortable riding on two wheeled modes of transport (which was my case for sure!). It is especially the case when you edge you way through the stalled cars at the lights, within the cramped spaces between. I soon learnt that in Thailand, space is a luxury and that applies to the road as well – where you won’t see any empty spaces at the front. This is why safety can often be compromised, with the cares and other modes of transport being within centimetres of each other and within a setting where infrastructure is not quite established as many nations have it.

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My travels continued through the city taking in many of the Thai temples, Buddhist centres, markets and other things that caught my eye. The feeling of having a mode of transport where you can simply wander around and whenever you feel like stop and have a look is highly rewarding. Not being restricted by public transport, 3rd party taxi drivers or other normal ways of travel makes you engage more with the locals and have a greater, more authentic experience. When riding around I would often see foreign tourists who also were compelled by wanderlust to explore the city by motorised scooter. Along my travels, some locals would giggle as they witnessed a ‘Farang’ (foreigner) trying to play it cool in their nation and trying to learn the ways of the locals. Riding around the locals are all too happy to provide guidance and assistance where needed and are more than friendly.

During my 4 hours riding around the city I must have circled the city 7 times and visited more places than my fingers could account for. The pictures below give a glimpse of the journey. With some disappointment, I returned back to the vendor to return the source of my freedom and exhilaration. Nothing compares to the experience had rising around Chiang Mai by motorised scooter. Enjoying the moment and having the wind lapping around as I ride is just magical – there is nothing like it in the world (well on that budget anyway). You only live once and whilst I don’t recommend rising a motor scooter without having prior experience, I would urge you to leave the comfortable confides that you put yourself in and do something that your future self will thank you later on for. Something as simple as rising around Chiang Mai on a motorised scooter is one of the moments that will echo in my mind for years to come. The world beckons to be discovered – so get out there whilst you can!

– Anth

The heavens atop Mt Pilatus – Switzerland

Any visitor to Switzerland will know that the mountainous Alps beckon to be seen. On our visit to the country in 2012, we too were enticed by the image of Switzerland being a nirvana of lush greenery and purity in the heart of Europe. And we were not disappointed at all.

Specifically during our time in Switzerland we travelled one of the days to Lucerne (to the east of Zurich, one hour away by fast train). Within this fascinating and picturesque city, we decided to pay a visit to Mount Pilatus (which is only a 20 minute public bus trip from the main SBB station). The amazing thing is how the locals live in such close proximity to the mountainous areas. The bus leaves us in a shopping strip in a relatively sub-area of the city and then it’s only a short 15 minute walk up the road to the entrance of the mount Pilatus cable car. The cable car is three tiered and leads you right up to the summit of the mountain. The first leg is the mountain takes in the first two tiers from the ground level to 2/3 of the way up. This modern craft effortlessly floats above the pine trees, lush green fields below and the many cattle which roaming below in the farms (you can hear the bells ringing – which are tied around their neck). This is authentic Switzerland at its best and really your breath is taken by the beauty and purity of this land. As we went up we could see the panorama of Lucerne across and with each meter you go up, it feels like you are inclining to heaven.

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Sometime afterwards we arrived at the 2/3 point of the mountain. You arrive at a transitional point where the main cable car ends and a smaller cable car starts to take you up the last 1/3 to the summit. At this level you are reminded how high up above ground level you are with the many signs and maps strategically located around. We took the time to take in the scenery and brace ourselves with our anticipating growing.

A short time later we were ushered onto the smaller cable car and were elevated through the lower lying cloud masses which surround the mountain. The feeling is beyond surreal – thick cloud masses like chunks of cotton wool lapped the cable car we were in so effortlessly. I was more adventurous and opened up the window in the cable car and put my arms out, challenging what my eyes were seeing and the wonder I was witnessing.

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Upon arriving to the summit, we arrived to a modern and well developed building with tinted windows, cultural displays and the history of this majestic mountain. We were joined by other tourists from faraway lands like China, the United States and Singapore, who like us were in awe at the spectacular setting we were in. The open promenade setting outside invites the visitors to explore further. We were there in early June and you could still see remnants of the winter season that had just passed – large iceberg like chunks of ice around and scattered areas of snow around. As far as you look the crisp white snow areas contrast starkly against the lush greenery of the emerging plains, with the cloud cover steadily making its way around the summit. It was truly a sight to see and I had a moment of reflection that this might be the closest thing to heaven on earth (from the stereotypical appearance as society knows of).

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I was standing there gazing out to the scenery that unfolded before me and just listened to the whistling of lapping winds across the summit. I was joined by the native mountain birds who (like a jet steam lap pool does) were flying on the spot with their wings out, suspended in the air without a care in the world. I then noticed that further up at the very peak of the mountain there was a cross and a gathering of tourists, taking the opportunity for happy snaps. I couldn’t resist and climbed the steep steps, with admittedly many moments of vertigo and clasping at the rustic wooden hand rails (too many to count). Standing at the peak, makes you appreciate the natural resources we have in our world and how amazing our world truly is. At this very peak was where i had taken some of my images. I must mention that the temperature at the ground level was 20 degrees and at the summit it must have been 5 degrees – yet here I was with just a thin t-shirt (Not the best choice I know). So don’t let the images deceive you into thinking it was warm weather at the summit (The elevation of 1,128m above sea level).

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The summit also has a hotel and restaurant, built i believe back in the 1940’s and is situated precariously between the summit rock face and the promenade. It’s extraordinary that such a building exists at this location (let along thinking how the materials have been brought up to the summit). There is even a souvenir shop and other amenities too. It may sound kitsch and well within the tourist trail, even if it is so, it does not diminish the specialness of this place – and having the sense of aloneness in enjoying the scenery.

After taking the time to explore the entire summit, by walking through the many walking trails and lookouts, we took our leave. You could spend all day at the summit just standing there in awe (it is just that spectacular). We left with a heavy heart, wanting more but realising that there was more of Lucerne to see. The images taken on Mount Pilatus reflect my unique experience I had and the amazing scenery which I was fortunate to have seen. The images of ascending through the thick cloud masses and also at the summit with the clouds caressing the mountain will always stay with me as life changing experience. If you are ever in Switzerland (or specifically in Lucerne), I highly recommend visiting Mount Pilatus (or at least one of the other mountainous peaks that line the country).

– Anth

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