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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Hill tribe village experience – Chiang mai, Thailand

In November 2011, as part of my Thailand trip, I travelled to Chiang Mai (located in Northern Thailand). The northern part of Thailand is regarded as very lush, culturally diverse and very chilled out.

On one of the days we ventured outside the city proper and travelled to the Maesa Region – Located just west of the city, past doi suthep lookout. We hired a driver for the whole day and visited an assortment of sights and other off the tourist trail places.

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I’ve visited the the Maesa area of the countryside twice (2009 and again on this trip in 2011). It’s very picturesque and includes well known attractions like Queen Sirikit Royal Botanical gardens, Orchid farms and also the Baan Hmong Maesa agricultural village.

We arrived at the village and as it was my second time I felt like the place was very familiar to me. The village hadn’t changed drastically and I recall some familiar faces, whilst I was strolling through. Entry to the village is allowed by paying the entrance fee – with the proceeds mentioned to help the villagers’ infrastructure (although many would argue that a large chunk of it ends up in wealthy pockets). The village is run as an initiative by the Thai government (part of plan to make the people self reliant and self empowered to create their own successes) and is well visited by tourists to Chiang Mai. Forgive me if the name is incorrect (my research and remembering the name is a bit sketchy), but the Baan Hmong Maesa Agricultural village although is not really off the tourist trail, but gives an interesting insight into the lives of the many different village minorities that make up the Northern Thailand area. Even though it is not regarded as 100% authentic or genuine, the people i met whilst strolling through the village are captivating and friendly, to say the least.

As you wander around the village, you pass through the areas of different ethnicities, represented by signage. At first it’s a bit awkward strolling through the villagers homes and feeling like you are intruding in their lives, but they seem to be well accommodating of the tourists that pass by each day. The villagers vary according to their cultural background and this is reflected in their clothing attire and goods they have to sell. This ranges from hand woven goods textiles, hand woven plant ware and also other trinkets and gifts – your purchase helps them to make a living.

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Passing each house in the village bring about an greater appreciation of living simply and living authentically. The villagers aren’t hindered by the temptations of the fast paced modern lifestyles and instead vary from growing their own crop to spending quality time with their family. How do they make a living you ask? When we were there we noticed a lack of male villagers and we were told that they had gone out to work, away from the village. It was mentioned that they return each day, bringing back the earnings of the day to their loved ones. Obviously they may have challenges to make a living, but really it comes down to what we need, rather than what we want. That’s’ the pitfall of our modern lives and what I admire most about my experience to the village.

With camera in hand, I went around and politely requested some photographs of the local villagers and their unique landscape. I was greeted with happy smiles and a ‘Linga Franca’ like understanding of the body language that was shared in our communication. No words were said, only some apprehension and the sense of respect.

The village is like a haven, where the kids walk around confidently and without fear. On our visit in 2009, we came across a young toddler who was roaming around by the rice paddies with a can of soft drink. The mother was nearby watching from a distance and as we approached the little toddler greeted us with a wai (Thai hand greeting) and we politely returned the same. We couldn’t resist a picture with the young toddler, as they were wearing the most elaborate attire in the village and they were fearless in their approach to us.

At the very same spot in our 2011 visit, we encountered grazing buffalo wandering the rice paddies, where they seem indifferent to the tourists that were passing close by them. For such a beast of an animal, it was surprising how placid and gentle they were. We wandered into the Karen tribe area – most notable for their metal coils around their neck. We were shown an example of the weight of the coils and they were definitely heavy! In their culture the long necks are a sign of immense beauty, so the coils act like a vice stretching the womens necks. We were told that young girls start this when they are very young and each year the coils are replaced and refitted to meeting the growth needs.

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We were shocked to find out that if the women suddenly decide not to wear the coils, that their necks are so reliant on the coils, it would make the necks collapse – creating major health issues and even death. So once the coiling process starts, they are pretty much held to at least maintain the lifestyle. It’s a very unique look (similar to how the African tribes have the giant earlobes) and very challenging for the ‘long neck’ women to have some sense of conformity if they are to go out to the bigger cities, in amongst the Thai locals.

At one of the Karen villagers’ huts, I was beyond surprised when they responded back in clear English to my greeting of hello. The mother of three proceeded to engage in a conversation with me so effortlessly and with such poise. Her children were around the hut and the youngest in a tub in front of her. I asked to the lady how she learnt to speak this excellent level of English and she responded in detail explaining that it was learnt by listening to the tourists (who would speak in English) who would visit. The lady didn’t know how to write in English but could read, and gained the skills by reading some English development books which were given as a gift. The resourcefulness and initiative of the lady was so inspiring and really makes you feel motivated to achieve more in life. With the little resources she had, they made the most of the opportunities that was presented in front of them to try and create a better life.

I felt compelled to have a lasting photo with this amazing lady, to remember this unique experience I had. Still to this day I feel compelled to help her by providing English language books – and I still look forward to making this possible by contacting the appropriate channels. I left giving her a hug and the gratitude of being in her presence – it’s one of those memories that will always remain with me.

Proceeding through the village, I then came across a busy female villager tending to their corn crop in the fields in close proximity to the path. They didn’t speak any English but again the body language was more than enough to build rapport and a connection. They showed me their flourishing fields of varying crops – helping to support their aim at being self reliant and maintain some level of food security in the village. The lady was very poised in her manner and encouraged me to take a picture of her lovely fields and what she has grown. They were not fussed at all and even offered some of their vegetable crop to me – ever so generous in their nature. I left them to tend to their fields and proceeded along.

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After this encounter, walking through the rest of the villages there were happy people relaxing in hammocks underneath their homes – taking retreat from the scorching heat. Many saw my camera and immediately knew that I was keen on capturing the moments within the village. They were all too happy to smile and show off their quaint homes and surroundings.

My experience at the village was very rewarding to say the least and there were definitely many memories from my visit there to inspire me into the future. My appreciation of living simply and especially to grow crops has grown immensely, and also seeing the rewards. Many life lessons which can be transferred into modern lifestyles – including mine for sure.

– Anth

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