Thursday, 20 April 2017
The moment you touchdown in the inspired Incheon Airport (boasting high-end boutiques and facilities. Ranging from a cinema to a mini-orchestra...and a shower), you really get a beat of this beautiful place. Even if you are on a long layover to another part of Asia or Australia you can catch a quick break here provided you're not red eyed. And all it will cost you is the time you want to pass too. Nothing is wasted here as the Free Korea Transit Tours offer you a different view and guide of the city for you frequent fliers depending on the time of day. And the coach will get you back in time for your connection...don't even worry. But from temple to skyscrapers take it from us, you're going to want to visit this place properly.
Because there's so much in Seoul. From the steps of a place steeped in history to the illuminating future as bright as the neon that shines like the windows of every office block as sky scraping day turns to night. And then that's where you can get your fill of all the food that this classic city has to offer in every corner you turn. And so what if your eyes are bigger than your belly...lets eat. And make sure you look out for some Korean BBQ, because nothing is hotter than that.
Unless your after the latest fashion. Because Seouls trading shopping district is a grand design. So if you're part of the clothes horse race then you can keep running through the sales until the day pales. As 24 hour opening times mean you can shop until the clock drops. And you can find it all here in this extended mall of a town. Fendi, coach...boyfriends with no free hands.
But if you're part of the, 'why buy what you can online crowd' than Seoul's sites are where it's at. And no landmark takes you higher than the N Seoul Tower planted like a skytree in the heart of Seoul's downtown district, offering you an outstanding view of the whole city it captures from it's tallest point and peak.
And there's a lot to take in that shines from sunrise to sunset like the beer tower like gold of the 63 Building. Many travellers spend their whole lives seeking out the wonders of this world for their Instagram memories and scrapbooks, but Seoul provides a formidable, famous five world heritage sites. Including the Changdeok Palace, the Hwaseong Fortress, the Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tomb of the Joseon Dynasty. That's a lot to cross off your list by the bucketload.
An arsonist may have burned down the iconic, traditional Namdaemun gate in the middle of this cities roads, but the people of this town that restores you built it back up, brick by brick. Even in the shadow of terrorism or the tyranny of the north, South Korea's Seoul still finds the light like seeing the iconic Mt Bukhan in the beautiful background of anywhere you stand.
There's so much history here no matter who or what tries to take that away and fron the ashes of fire Seoul rises again and again like phoenix. Now a pillar in this modern world and the cultures it connects like the bountiful Banpo Bridge and the majestic Moonlight Rainbow Fountain thay comes alive in the nightime. This city keeps growing street to skyscraper, sidewalk to stadium. Like the Dongdaemun Design Plaza that's modern art architecture and the Asian giant eatery Lotte World sponsered area where you can do more than just grab a bite.
But our place to pick and make a pilgramage to our the sensational Sevit Floating Islands which was the stream that lead to the changing tide of the Korean Wave culture reaching the wide world. This another highlight in a history making place that's about to hold and host the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympic Games, two years before Japan neighbour Tokyo hosts the biggest five ring flame event for the first time since 1964. But why wait? Right now it's time to make memories in a city that won't just have a place in your heart, but a home in your soul. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Planted at the best vantage point in central Tokyo. The Tokyo Skytree offers the most vivid view of this magnificent metropolis.
Like a pin point dropped on a real world version of Google Maps, the white and grey structure that comes alive in the night time in a hue of blue (or the traditional Japanese color aijiro), shows that this capital of Japan is sprawling and seemingly never-ending.
Standing at some 2,080 feet, 32 floors above the ground, this broadcast and observation tower also offers you a place to eat, or at least stop for coffee. Eating at the 345 meters high 634 Musashi restaurant offers Japanese cuisine with a French twist. Boasting masterchef Naoya Makimura's Paris/Tokyo culinary skills and techniques, giving this romantic restaurant a Michellin Star. What better way to see this sensational city change from night to day, eating it all up? Because you just have to stay here for a little while. Maybe start your ascension at around 3 to 4pm and stay until nightfall. Sure this wonder of Japan is worth two trips. And the city also does have the Paris Eiffel like, red and white Tokyo Tower. But dusk 'till dawn nothing is like this. And there isn't anything that comes close to actually watching the city turn from glorious day to neon night, moment to moment and all the natural and sky-scraping light in between. As you will dream in neon from the chic Iki sky blue, to the refined elegance of the Miyabi purple, depending on the mood of the night.
The Tokyo Skytree has only been standing since 2012 but it looks made to last forever. Around 1.6 million people came out for it's Skywalk ribbon cutting opening week in May 2012 and the numbers of visitors have hit stratasphoric heights since. This neofuturistic, timeless piece of architecture still honors the traditions of the city and countries cultural past and was heralded as something that revitalized the city of Tokyo for the future, all for the better. Being a beacon and revolution of both safety and security. At any time at capacity, around 2000 people can walk the panoramic floors of this spiral Skywalk, some made of glass. Offering a street view like no other that's not for the feint of heart, but those with the strength of nerve. Don't crack under the pressure though...because the floors at your feet won't.
But never fear for the Skytree isn't looking to get chopped down anytime to soon no matter how sharp mother natures wielding axe is. Thanks to some seismic proofing this tower is structurally sound when it comes to earthquake resistance. The central shaft is reinforced with concrete as this tree takes great root and the internal pillar is connected to the Skytrees outer structure for the first 125 meters above ground level. And oil dampers inside the tower provide assistance in absorbing up to 50% of an earthquakes impact and the ensuing damage it causes. These cushions and a tuned mass damper helps keep this towers center of gravity central to the towers base should the worst happen. So feel free to walk without worry and climb with confidence. That all sounds like this iconic landmark of the modern generaion is worth every last penny of the 65 million yen it cost to erect.
This tripod that provides the majority of the television and radio broadcast to the Kanto region of the city, replacing the Tokyo Tower in this digital age, is more than just a landmark of Japan or even Asia. Second only in size to the Burj Khalifa structure in the ever developing in domination of the skies, Dubai, the Skytree located in the Sumida ward is a sight to behold. And is still the worlds tallest tower proceeding the Canton Tower of China which shadowed Canada's CN Tower of Toronto. Just like this city itself from this spot, standing neighbour to the in comparison pint-sized Asahi Breweries 'Beer Tower' and the countdown Olympic flame to the 2020 games set to be held in this town in four years time, this sought after location and just how vast it appears is incredible. From temple to todays newest structure reaching for the same stars its tallest tower touches. Every expectation is exceeded.
Witness all the wards. From Taito to Chiyoda. Or the famous square of Shibuya (that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson danced around and made even more famous to the West in Sofia Coppola's classic movie 'Lost In Translation'. Like the car chase/crash scene in 'The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift') to the electric corridors of Shinjuku at midnight, both giving off a core like glow that literally highlights them as places of interest in live, living color like the Rainbow Bridge. But between all the souvenirs you will take and selfies you will make, nothing compares to what you will capture with your own two eyes.
Like the Skytree's lattice work design itself. Epic and endless grey and blue...and green. In this concrete city that is still steeped in as much nature as it is innovation and let's not forget history. But as far as you can see after all the beautiful buildings and straight streets you just may see on a clear day a true wonder of the world. On the horizon that hill like image beyond the clouds is no illusion. It's the iconic Mount Fuji. Your next stop in making your Japanese dream come true.
When it's so clear you can almost see the heavens from here...or what looks like them. So be sure to pack your binoculars or change for the telescope. There's so much more to see in this city of temples and neon. But you should start with this compelling capital cities exclamation point. Inviting and inspiring. Innovative and influential. There's not much in the world that climbs higher. No matter how far you look. Time to see the roots of the future of Tokyo. So old. So new.
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
Just north of New York and before Boston if you ride a Greyhound from the worlds most famous city to the state of Massachusetts' New England you will see the real beauty of this country on the highways of the United States. And you won't even need to take a left turn to America's Cadillac iconic road of Route 66 to get there. But as you venture to Beantown from the Knicks one and after you pass all the Costco's and roadside Starbucks' you'll drive through a classic city of churches, traditional buildings and stilted skylines that almost looks and feels like your in Boston already. Besides it's only an hour away and this town is a part of greater New England too, but it's in a whole other state all together.
This is Providence and the next time you take that four hour, 14 dollar journey from Port Authority to Back Bay you'll make a brief stop for a day in a place you could easily spend the rest of your life from the moment you get there. Providence is a calm, collected city that's beyond the big lights and shines much brighter from the towns theatre to the street art murals that almost illuminate on their own at night. Whereas most leaps and bounds cities of the future look to sell out for profit, Providence keeps it pure as it is traditonal. We told you it was divine. It's full of heart and soulful too. Hell, Providence is poetry...if only we could write it better.
Just walk around and see it for yourself. Where should you go? Where your two soles take you! Where should you stay? Wherever you lay your hat to call home! What should you eat? Anything you can get your hands on and teeth into from the weekend food festival markets to the brilliant bars and resturants that line every street corner that is worth your camera and eyes experience. Sure this is a travel guide, but this is just talk and Providence is not that cheap a city. Besides just like coffee and donut shops, Providence has the most restaurants per capita than any city in America (no wonder the college basketball Friars play in a place called the Dunkin Donuts Center...Homer Simpson's dream). When we urge you to just go we mean exactly that. Living it is being it and the only way to see Providence is to find it for yourself.
Because there really is a buzz about this beehive of industry. This creative capital. From the Federal Hall across the Point Street Bridge all the way to Roger Williams Park. All as beautiful as they are traditional just like the grand Rhode Island State House and the holy First Baptist Church of America. This city really is a renaissance beyond the nickname in a time of men about town trying to reach for the stars by scraping the sky faster than the uninterested scroll through their phones. There's a good ole days, old school feel to this place that beyond the Autumn falls in line with a classic John Hughes or Tom Cruise coming of age 80's movie. It really is just that transcendent and any other synoymn of this places name painted perfectly precise on its iconic magnificent mural. And as for the cities official motto; "What cheer"? Well...right here people! No question. We'd say just you wait, but don't. Go!
Monday, 30 May 2016
All this city has to offer isn't for one trip...it's for a lifetime. All the concrete jungle is paved in. From being steeped in the history of beautiful temples by day, to being drenched in the electricty of a neon nightfall like no other.
That's as one of the international mottos says, 'So Old, So New...So Tokyo'!
As you enter this city after your red eye like Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola's classic 'Lost In Translation' (but for the love of God please don't get one of those green, automatic back door opening Taxis to the city from Narita. No matter how cooler they look than NYC classic yellow cabs. That is unless you want to part with around, 20,000 Yen. Or converted to your currency, about half of your trips spends), greet yourself with an eye rubbing of disbelief, not 15 hour haul across Europe to Asia flight view even more amazingly beautiful than the first frame of that Bill meets Scarlett film...if you know what I mean.
That would be the sensationally watt charged area of Shinjuku that has as many shops for your bag drops and places to conceive your next food baby as it does power outlets. And boy are all those (yes) advertising hoardings something to behold, especially in cool cariactures you can't understand...or see flogging you the latest piece of tech..or ahem power saving service.
As you walk through a kalidescope of colour that you'll only see as bright back home if you catch the pyrotecnics of a Coldplay tour in town, your eyes really will evoke the high definition feel of this hub. Still the only thing more effervescent than Shinjuku is it's neighbouring district of Shubuya and that famous crossing that Murray and Johannson ran and danced through...but you better wait for the green man.
Shubuya Crossing and all the Tokyo neon and digital white noise that surrounds it is like New York's Times Square on super serum steroids. Do they do New Year here? Because this place is ignited like fourth of July fireworks. The lightworks of this electric circus take your every sense away...forget the breath you've already lost. But yet just like the electro core of the Big Apple there's an eerie calm here, even at rush hour that's just as exhilirating. Especially if you take it in with a coffee (or an English Breakfast Tea Latte...it's not a language barrier mistake...don't ask, just get) at the Shubuya Starbucks that offers birds eye window view of the crossing below...if you're lucky or quick enough to get yourself a front row seat.
And in the day the different view like the developing skyline of Shinjuku is some beauty to behold in itself. Just keep your eyes on the road ahead as well as all the video game like hoardings above. You may just miss some live action Mario Kart going on in the concrete track below. Being run over by Donkey Kong...now that's a first.
Still if you wanted more bright lights in this big city (as if you needed them) than just walk. Take in this terrific place. From the more Sega than Sonic depths of Ueno and its perfect, picteresque park, to the boys and girls shopping in the harem of boutiques and areas that if caught on a good day feels like something out of Santa Monica or San Francisco, California dreaming U.S.A. But nothing is like the vivid view you get of this modern chic and forever young district atop the middle of the sky scraping Tokyo Plaza Omotesando between it's rooftop terrace trees and its dim lights from the neon calm chill. And all it'll cost you up there is again another Starbucks...but don't worry you can ask for cold milk this time.
A Westernised world that is only getting digitally and commercially smaller may leave you confused here. But not for the reasons you think. Culture shock? Nah get out of that shell. Whether you've been cautious about the local cuisine or language here you needn't be. There's plenty of worldwide choice here even if Japanese food is the taste beyond your classic Ramen and staying in the Miso Soup that you can get anywhere. And the bowing, beautiful people of this cultural city are so graceful when it comes to politeness and patience they've all Rosetta Stoned the whole worldwide English language and Americanised slang. But load a few Podcasts on to your iPod for the plane between 'Star Wars' and the latest Marvel because these incredible locals deserve the same kindness.
You kind of forget your in the Far East sometimes this place is so warm, welcoming and world influencing. After all what is travel these days in a world where you can hop on a plane like a bus, watch a couple of latest movies before they hit DVD shelves, catch up on Z's to combat the lag that's about to hit you when you least expect and wake up jetted to a whole new land in the same day? It's all as efficient as the on point Subway service here, sister only to the white glove shoved quickness of the bullet time trains in this matrix.
Still after waking up from that jet lag in one of those morgue door, cheap but claustraphobic hotels and taking in every street and side one of a city so full of places to eat, shop and camera phone capture that just when you thought you'd walked to the end of your last beautiful block there's more like presents under the tree if you want to see the real Tokyo, look out for all the temples. That's Japan. That's real beauty. And that's what will make you realise and remind you where you actually are. The best being the magnificent Meiji Shrine and the stu...no sen...no, just see Senso-Ji for yourself day and night. It's beyond words or any way you could try and do it justice. You just have to be there.
There's so much to do in Japan's premier city and like NYC you wouldn't do it all in one trip, whether it was a year or just a week. So you'll always have to go back. So when you're about done roaming the pavement you foot and keeping yourself hydrated from the refreshing vending machines on every corner with Hollywood's Tommy Lee Jones' signature smile staring back at you maybe it's time to look up to all you have done.
Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree? No it's not the same thing, even if a fellow tourist will lead you to the same place. If you've done one you have to do the other...day to beautiful turning night. Dusk till dawn this is definitive as you dare to look down. The red and white, flag waving Eiffel like Tokyo Tower offers a more classic, close-up look of the cities skyline you forget is so stunning for all you look ahead to when you join the rest of the ants. But the CN Tower looking Skytree, flanked by the gold and plenty of froth beer tower and the 2020 Olympic slug...I mean flame really is epic. All encompassing just how wide the world of this endless city really is.
Just how much more you have to see. Like taking a trip out of the city to the Cherry Blossom beautiful Mount Fuji or Japan's other great cities like the Tokyo anagram Kyoto and the fashioned Osaka...and let's not forget histories Hiroshima or the views of Nagasaki where you can almost see the while Eastern world from. That's next on the itinerary. Still if you want to see this world on a string, whether you've traversed Tokyo before. Or its your first time in the life changing Japan, it's now or never to book your next trip before the next rising sun. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 22 March 2015
How about starting at the tippy top? Because not much beats Seattle's Space-Needle. Even if this writer keeps calling it the Sky-Needle as confusingly so as he he misnames Chicago's Willis Tower! Although we all know that will always be the Sears. Only Canada's CN Tower in Toronto can scale and top this needle point that like a Google map pointer is instantly iconic and recognisable to the city it calls home. Search for any picture of downtown Seattle and you're more than likely to see it like the stamp of a postcard, standing picture proudly, front and centre in the middle of Seattle's stunning skyline. Still taking an elevator up to the epic epicenter of this place and having a drink and bite to eat there will offer you the best view of the concrete canvas city that can be seen without this white toothpick holding its place in the enamel of this town. Still, going up all the other sky scrapings can afford you that view of the landmark pin point and its building to majestic mountain background too. But nothing threads through the city quite like the needle and with a two-a-day offer you can see how equally beautiful your next profile picture and phone background looks from dusk 'till dawn. Yet I can't recommend staying for some calm, above the city, tranquil hours here so you can witness the sun to electric light change from day to night yourselves. Take a look around from Space and there's a lot to take in from the sea to see. Even surrounding the needle are plenty of amusements and tourist stops and shops that can keep you entertained....and even educated. Just like that amalgamation of chrome and colours crumpled together. It kind of looks like a smashed up guitar.
It kind of is too. As this EMP museum and magnificent landmark was crafted and inspired by the smashed up Jimi Hendrix guitar that he sacrificed to the flames of purple haze. You can find the smaller, real one inside, along with some of his flyest on stage looks in the Hendrix in London exhibition, celebrating the man that grew up in Seattle's breakout and experience in England. These mementos take you even closer to the Emerald City son than the stunning statue of the rock God amongst his people in the city. If you thought that was good then just wait until you see all the mementos in the rock, heaven sent Nirvana exhibit for a band and town that gave us grunge music. From Kurt Cobain's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' guitar and some hand-written notes this is the closest you'll get to the iconic frontman and the legendary, lasting legacy he left. The music doesn't stop there, with all sorts of exhibits and exhibitions. You can even try on some 'Thrift Shop' clothes from Sea's latest, proudest son of music, Macklemore and you don't have to have that many dollars in your pocket. Still not much beats the music room and the drum to string sounds you can interact with and create in this studio. The only thing topping all that in a museum where you can find everything from 'Lord Of The Rings' swords to 'Star Trek' blue Spock tunics in loving memory of Leonard Nimoy (LLAP, R.I.P.) is their new force of an exhibition. Yep its a Star Wars one, featuring all the costumes from all the episodes, from Anakin to Darth Vader himself. It doesn't get much closer to something iconic than this. You're going to love it! We know! Museums don't get cooler or better than this super charged EMP. The Jet City of flower and goodwill has more generous, great things taking off in bloom however.
Look down at that 'Jurassic Park' visitors centre looking Key Arena and you'll see where that iconic NBA franchise the Seattle Supersonics used to play before they got unfairly packaged and shipped to OKC. Now a real basketball team still plays here in the face of the Thunder in the WNBA champion Seattle Storm women's team, representing the green and white with legends like Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. Still if you want to get a little closer to the Sonics than just a tourist store, terrific, throwback tee than you could always hit the Queen Anne district a few blocks round for the classic sports bar Oskar's Kitchen, owned by dunking, NBA 'Reignman' legend Shawn Kemp. Still from baseballs Mariners to soccer's Sounders there's still plenty of Seattle sport to see in stratospheric stadiums that welcome you on your hallmark, highway drive to this city like the open arms of fans at victory. Just like some football team you may have heard of called the Seahawks. We hear they're pretty good. Still as you take a magnificent Monorail ride back into the heart of the city that offers plenty of shops and hot spots for food and drink there's much more to see in the "gateway to Alaska" like the perfect bayside view of Pier 57 and all the beauty the Great Wheel had to offer in and out from day to night. Yet downtowns soul resides in all the individual stalls and sections of the iconic Public Market, from the red welcoming sign to the Pike Place Market that will have you dodging plaice like Niles Crane. This town of culture within a city of such has so much, all the way round to the landmark first ever Starbucks coffee house, traditional to the testament like writing your name on the side of a takeout cup. It seems like you can't walk a block in this world without seemingly finding a Starbucks on each corner...and to say that about this town is, well as obvious to the answer of whether you're able to find anything other than Seattle's Best Coffee here. This is where it all started in a city that's given us so much from the grinder to the groundbreaking. There's more than one type of emerald you can find in this city that's more Washington than D.C. I'm listening...and its calling you too. Goodnight Seattle, we love you! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Friday, 20 March 2015
You won't be stumped for stuff to do in Stumptown, whether you're coming here for a few days or the rest of your life. Even if you're checking into the welcome mat opening hotel district, or grabbing a cup of coffee or bite to eat at many of the self owned businesses' that make the individual identity of these establishments that so much representational of this city and country. From pillows to mints there's also a laundry list of places to call home during your stay, just like there is to wine and dine like only you can on vacation. This land and Port is also close to water (Willamette and Columbia rivers to be exact) like its Northwest neighbour via Greyhound, Seattle. So you just know seafood is on the menu...and this place is famous for it. Just like it is for fishing for a bargain from all the thrift shops of vintage clothes, comic-books and vinyl. Still one of the best establishments down the whole spine of the body of this town is the famous and storied Powell's Books, in the emerald heart of the perfect Pearl District, where you'll always find shining gems when you shop. A beautiful and hallmark place that claims to be the largest, new and used, independent bookstore in the world. One you need to bookmark in your itinerary. Love books? Then you'll be hard pressed to not find even the most rarest of scribes. About to crack open your first page turner? Then this is the perfect place to start. This isn't a bookstore...its a library. They don't need bricks for these shelving units that make up this mansion of stories that act like a museum to reading. They could build it with books. In a place built off the inspiration of iconic places of influence that are landmarks into themselves, what more hallmark a place than the incredible Voodoo Donuts? The only thing bigger than the treats themselves is the line for them out the door. This writers verdict on how they taste? I had only two days in this town, I have no idea how they taste...but I'm told...worth the wait. So line them up!
Like the opposition that comes to visit like tourists to this sports town, that's still EA in the game, even without featuring any franchise in the NFL, MLB and NHL holy trinity of American sports. Still even without any American football, baseball and ice hockey teams there's still a school of Ducks and Beavers in Oregon's college alumni. Twin soccer teams also take to the field in the Timbers and Thorns. Still, take a trip and terrific view through the city to the Moda Center and you can see more than just big concerts and shows in this amazing arena, no matter how good Taylor Swift or the Cirque Du Soleil is! You can't blaze a trail to Portland without watching the Portland Trail Blazers represent Rip City on a tear and basketball in the NBA. From legends like Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler to the unfortunate 'Jailblazer' days this Western Conference contending franchise has had its fair share of highlights and turn offs, but after the recent injury end to what could have been in Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, a new perfect partnership in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard looks to take this team to new heights that would even make Michael Jordan shrug. Still you can find plenty of Rose Gardens all over this city of perfect parks, whimsical walks and formidable forests. Not to mention beautiful bridges built off the iron and stone of blue collar stars and stripes. All you have to do is take a compass and map for a picturesque place that the experience before your eyes will take the best pictures of. Back in town to keep your culture nurtured like nature, Old Town, Portland is full of museums, musical halls (to go alongside concert venues for a spot famous for hip bands like Everclear and The Decemberists) and theatres like the iconic 'Portland' one that serves as a 'Chicago Theatre' esque, Broadway billboard. Still nothing captures quite a symbolic picture, than the iconic White Deer Stag logo. So when you see those neon lights after that high hitting, highway drive up road to downtown that magically matches your entrances to most of America's biggest and best cities, you've made it. Welcome to the heart of Oregon in a city that beats with so much soul. Just remember to keep Portland weird. Keep Portland wonderful! TIM DAVID HARVEY.