Thursday, 20 April 2017

GUIDE TO: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

South Korea's soul lies right in the heart of its capital city. Seoul is right there with Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in leading Asian cities of the future that rival its western New York, London and Paris counterparts in modern day culture. Take one of your favourites out of the two countries of Japan and China and add some Seoul and there you have the holy trinity of this continents cities.

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

Time To Climb The Tokyo Skytree

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.