The List: Number 117 – Jumping shot with the Laputa Robot at the Ghibli Museum

By | RL | 4 Comments

I’ve loved Hayao Miyazaki since I first saw My Neighbour Totoro. Miyazaki is an amazing anime animator who co-founded the infamous Studio Ghibli, and has produced a number of delightful, ever so slightly off beat anime movies.

Anime really was never my thing, I once watched Sailor Moon when it was the at the height of popularity at my primary school (we’re talking a good 20 years ago now) and it was kind of amusing but not my thing. I completely blanked Pokemon and that was my full exposure to the world of anime right up until I sat down to watch My Neighbour Totoro.

SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS! It has a cat bus! And cute little soot sprites! And May, the cute little thing, she is is hilarious! I loved it, and devoured a million movies there after (highlights: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howls Moving Castle, Kikis Deliver Service… okay, I’m just naming them all right now. They’re ALL amazing). They’re quite old (some were released in the 80s old) but they’ve aged wonderfully well.

One of those movies was Castle in the Sky who has these amazing robot guardians who take care of the gardens.

I know it’s not a great shot of the Laputa Guardian, but how pretty is that shot? Love it.

Studio Ghibli has a museum on the outskirts of Tokyo. I think I saw something on my twitter feed when I was writing The List and I added it without a second thought. I knew there was a life size amazing Laputa Guardian somewhere in Japan and I was 100% going to go see it.

I bought tickets in the UK (which requires booking months in advance, just a heads up. You can’t rock up on the day to visit) and then, when we were finally in Japan we went. There was a really long train ride, and then a short little bus. From the bus stop everything is styled Ghibli, so it’s pretty easy to figure out where you need to be and how to get to the museum.

It. Was. GLORIOUS!

The Museum is small and oh so charming. You’re not allowed to take photos, so I didn’t. It was well good, though. As you moved through the rooms you were walked through their animation process. Every detail was exquisite, even if I couldn’t read most the signs. There was so much art, I loved it.

On the roof is where the Laputa Guardian was, and we waited in line again and again to get photos.

He was amazing.

The jumping shot required for The List:

Love. So yes. #117 on The List – done. Boom!

Have any of you been out to the Studio Ghibli Museum? What did you think?

Japan – Tsukiji Market + Ueno Park + DiverCity

By | RL | 2 Comments

Today was a pack-as-much-as-you-can-in kind of day. Seriously. We had a vague list of things we wanted to do this week, mostly taken from Trip Advisors Top 10 and recommendations from friends who had visited before us. We didn’t expect to do so much, but after lots of just hanging out in Thailand it was great to be active and moving again.

Tsukiji Fish Market

It’s a big draw, apparently. It’s biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. I’m sure it’s wonderful, but we didn’t get to see it. We saw a super lovely little fish market NEXT to it (the outer market, I think it’s called), cause it turns out that you have to be up at 6am to see the fish market proper.

That’s not to say that it was all wonderful sushi and tuna or anything (though the tuna was AMAZING). I was fighting with Zee over I can’t even remember what. I suspect it’s just because there is no space – we were cooped up in that horrible tiny, minuscule little room. In a room like that everyone is reduced to the worst versions of themselves. I do remember that I refused to follow him around the fish market and just went wherever I wanted to go (which was a bit rubbish really, because mostly it was just alleys and alleys of fish. Fish and knives).

Problem is that I haven’t got any sense of direction and had no idea where we were, or how to get anyway so ended up having to follow Zee anyway. Ahhhh, fail.

Ueno Park

By the time we got over to the park to see the Cherry Blossoms we had it all out. Deep and meaningfuls by the river where the ferry came in. I remember it being actually quite a lovely day. It was cold! There was no humidity! Cool enough for a cardi. I hadn’t worn sleeves since I left England. And you guys? Ueno Park is AMAZING! The cherry blossoms were pretty phenomenal. I took a stupid amount of photos, I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was. It was a massive park with lots of little manicured ponds, lovely walks and traditional little tea houses everywhere. Love!

I took a stupid number of photos too. This is a much, much reduced set.

Diver City

We even adventured out to this ridiculous mall that this massive Gundam robot outside (Gundam, as far as I can tell are part of some kind of space opera anime show with robots. They sell a whole bunch of Gundam stuff that was basically everywhere). Inside was more fun. I bought a stupid amount of things (teal high tops ftw!), we ate at another sushi place that had a mini bullet train AND a carousel to deliver food.

We also discovered a super fun arcade on the top floor, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying out all the games. Zee was horrified that I beat him at Mario Cart (twice. I beat him twice. Zee is well competitive and is all about cars/driving/rally races so I did feel a tinsy bit smug about it).

We also discovered this great drum game (super satisfying) and this ridiculously engaging/addictive Mario game… that was all about putting more coins through in the hope that more coins come out. Most addictive game ever. We spent a lot of time money here (good thing the exchange rates are so lenient!

Game arcades? Good job Japan. This is much more like what I thought things would be like.

Japan – Woah buddy, we’re in Tokyo.

By | RL | No Comments

Tuesday (Nihombashi) – Arrival.

After the chaos of Bangkok, arriving in Tokyo seemed calm, almost soothing. The airport was airy, lots of natural light and calm background music. The train smooth and swift, and Tokyo Central? Organised and calm with its blue skies and tall sky scrapers. The air! There is something to be said about a city that isn’t drenched in soup like humidity. It’s like stepping out of the rain. So far Tokyo is infinitely easier to navigate than Bangkok. What a great city!

Tuesday (Nihombashi) – Post Dinner.

I’m really really beginning to regret tacking on Japan to an already overloaded trip. I was unprepared for the culture shock of Tokyo and the dinky-ness of it all. The room is minuscule. Almost no one speaks English (unlike in Bangkok where every second person does). I’m exhausted, already enquired about a refund on a tiny tiny room, but back pedalled because literally there’s no where to stay apart from the Sheraton (who wants 100s of £s a night).

The lobby smells of smoke, and I realised it’s because you can still smoke inside in Japan. That’s a thing still. We hit up a sushi place which dun dun, smokers smoked at. Still, the sushi was amazing. The knowing what the deal is much less so. Turns out English isn’t as widely spoken in Tokyo as it was in Bangkok, and we spent ages matching the text under the pictures to the little order menu card. I still wasn’t 100% what we’d ordered until food arrived (and even then I wasn’t always exactly sure what it was). Sigh.

Ahhh. Overwhelmed and exhausted. Being this clueless is such a mind fuck. I knew that Japan has it’s own culture, but this polite stand-offishness is really difficult. I miss Thailand and it’s overwhelming chaos and friendliness.

Thailand – Songkran

By | RL | 8 Comments

We really lucked out with timing our trips. Songkran is a celebration of the lunar New Year, celebrated in (among other places) India, Singapore and Thailand. Woah buddy, I knew that New Years was going to be a thing, but I had no idea how MUCH of a thing.

Outside the hotel while we were out and about there were people politely squirting everyone with water from water pistols. Some people had buckets, and some were piled on vehicles in a way you’d never see in the western world (safety concerns, what?) and were squirting people with water as you went past. It all seemed very good humoured and polite.

We found out later that throwing of water is a very traditional thing, and is meant as a symbolic washing the bad away.

Well. All of the bad was well and truly washed away that day! We ourselves wandered down Si Lom Road which had been closed off from traffic that day. Traffic wouldn’t have been able to get down there anyway, because of ALL THE PEOPLE. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people down that road. We wandered down not even a quarter of the road and it was PACKED all the way down.

There were stalls of people selling all sorts (food – how I love 10 Baht Pad Thai!! Chalk, so you can be marked with a blessing, water pistols, ice water for your water pistols, clean water for drinking). There were firetrucks blaring music and water into the crowds. And then there was the people. All of the amazing, wonderful, incredibly polite people.

I’ve never been in such a huge crowd where everyone was sober. If this had happened in New Zealand or in London or wherever, at least half the crowd would have been off their faces and rude, or arrogant or belligerent. This crowd? SO LOVELY!

It was actually phenomenal. I’ve never experienced such a well behaved crowd before in my entire life. Everyone was sober, everyone was happy and dancing and smiling. You moved slowly along with the crowd (cause there wasn’t anywhere else to go or any other speed to get there at) and as you went people would squirt away with their water pistol at you, and you would squirt back. People would politely touch your face or arms or whatever with a smile and a handful of chalk as they walked by and you’d be blessed. Two seconds later someone else would dump ice water over the crowd and your face would be clean again. The day was warm, so you’d shiver with the ice water but after a moment it would be fine.

It really was wonderful. At one point there was a troop of marching boys, shirtless with whistles and batons moving through the crowd. Everyone stopped and moved out of the way so there was a path in front of the troop. We all stopped to watch them go by. No one jeered, or sent insults or anything. Instead everyone was delighted, and cheered as they moved off into the crowd. Loved it.

After a good few hours we were positively soaked to the bone, happy and tired. It was impossible to get home via the metro, and there were no taxi’s because they couldn’t get through the crowd. So instead we hired a scooter, me and Zee sat behind the driver. It was positively the most dangerous and ridiculous ride I’ve ever been on. Neither Zee nor I had helmets, Zee didn’t have anywhere to place his feet and so was holding them up (in which his feet hit both the exhaust pipe and the spokes of the back wheel). We even went on the motorway for a bit!! It was well insane. Still, all the blessings of the day paid off and we got back to the hotel safe and sound.

The whole experience was almost unbelievable. I’m stoked that we timed our trip perfectly so we could go.

Next up… Japan.

Thailand – Muay Thai Boxing in Bangkok

By | RL | No Comments

We had a few extra days after Krabi and went to see a Muay Thai boxing night in Bangkok. It felt ridiculous walking in. There were children in the ring, and they were tiny! Little kids! A second look, though revealed they weren’t happy go lucky children. They were lean. Very very lean. And if the weight column of my pamphlet was to be believed, they were all 100kg+ of muscle. That’s a lot of muscle for 13 year olds. Still, watching them wave their arms about as the bell dinged in an old school parody of boxing still felt ridiculous. Is this what Muay Thai is?

We sat ringside, in blue plastic bucket seats. There was a live band playing over the PA system to add to the ridiculous, some kind of spiritual-esque tune with bells, a bongo and a recorder. They upped the pace, and it got more urgent the longer the fight went on.

There were men sitting in the stands, and every time the kid in red smashed the kid in blue, they cheered. They were loud, and the cheering frequent. I felt terrible, the poor kid in the blue was hugging the ropes, he got one good kick in before the kid in red had him close and held him down as he brought his knee up. It was hard to watch. I was uncomfortable. Bang, another knee into the stomach. I cringed at the flash of pain from Blue, before the umpire pulled them apart. It was hard to watch Blues head flick back as it’s punched by Red.

I look away. This was brutal. People were cheering, the recorder and bongo were still playing, and poor Blue was being pommeled. It go so bad that eventually I pulled out Zee’s phone as a distraction, to have something else to look at.

The bell rang, match over. Everyone settled down a bit while the new fighters set in. I discovered flappy bird and aimed for a score other than ’0′.

I could still hear though. The cheering from the men in the stands, shouting out their odds. The bell dinged, match on. The ridiculous music started up. I heard Zee next to me, with an empathetic ‘oo’. I heard a glove hit flesh over and over. The crowd collectively gasped and I looked up.

Blue was on the ground, lying very very still. Before the replay is even up there’s a stretcher out, and Blue is strapped in, carted off. Red’s arm is held in the air in victory.

The replay was shown in big screens over the ring. It was one jab by Red to the temple, and Blue was down. I felt sick. Jaipetch vs Petchmongkol was only event #3. The main event (Ambas vs Jak) is event number #8. A good two hours away at this point.

As each fight went on the boys got older and heavier. The fighting more brutal. Punches caused groans. I never got used to sound of glove hitting flesh over and over. It was horrible, I hated it and I felt like I was the only one. Everyone else was drinking beer and buying crisps like it was good entertainment. For as long as I could, I kept my head down and flapped a little flappy bird away.

In the end I watched the big boys fight. Grown ups who had trained themselves to hit hard and cause damage. I can’t remember who won, but I know my flappy bird personal best was 12.