Oh how times have changed!

One of the challenge of trying to travel around the world is that you never really do. With 510 million km², that’s surely a lot of ground to cover. Granted much of it you cannot really travel to, or rather not want to, or better yet not practical to. You get the picture no?

Ok surely by this point you would be a little frazzled by the first paragraph.

Yep, this style of writing is called “frazzlegraphing”. The intent is to either: get you to roll your eyes, OR make you curious. LOL. If you came to this point, guess you are the second lot. Thanks.

So what’s up? Comparing photos of the places we took from the same spot years apart. And we are not talking about how much we have changed, because we surely did. Plus we don’t mean a gap of just a few years… here we cite the following exhibits.

Changed? Wow…

What do’ya think? On the right is the photo first taken in May of 2000 when we visited Japan for the first time. Yes that’s the streets of Ginza and it was already a pedestrian-only street during the weekends 17 years ago (and well before that). Ok not exactly at the same spot but the point was to convey : Tokyo’s landscape is ever changing even as we speak!

NO change? Hmmm…

Yeah. And this is a decades’ gap. But there we were at 461 Fifth Avenue just opposite the New York City public library. Almost a month’s difference and 20 years to the day, Suan was checking out the shops along the busy shopping belt at that time. But she’s gone a long way, having since ‘graduated’ to forensics examination of premium outlet malls…

Where in the world have you been more than once? Your hometown does not count.  Ok it does. Does this touch of nostalgia bring back any memories for you?

This is not just a ‘Bearen’ place

Just leafing through one of the editions of NatGeo travel magazine some months back, we came across the ‘expeditions‘ planned to the polar region. One in particular caught our eye : the one that covers Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland’s East Coast.

Coming in at US$14,950pp for the lowest category (of cabin), these journeys are led by a NatGeo expert who Svalbard NatGeo Expeditionworks with the ship’s experienced captain to chart a course for the voyage. You will be in safe hands!

In particular, our interest was piqued by the stop at Svalbard, kingdom of the polar bears. There you can seek an audience with the monarch of the bears provided they are not in hibernation… Seriously, in the capital Longyearbyen, one never venture out of town without your guide who has a loaded rifle cocked at all times for use.

Because in a “Bearen” place like that, one could become bear fodder in an instant. It would be an ignominious way to add to the statistic of chewed up tourists. Ponder that.

We plucked the following from the website:

  • Explore Arctic Svalbard, the polar bear capital of the planet, to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, on the sea ice. Got that.
  • Navigate the arctic wilderness of the Greenland Sea to Iceland’s wild western coast, with expert naturalists and a fully equipped expedition ship—making multiple stops en route completely dependent on ice, wildlife and weather conditions. Ok sounds like fun.
  • Watch for huge walruses, whales, and reindeer, and spot rich birdlife. Woah… Wunderbar!
  • Glide between soaring ice floes, exploring via ship, Zodiac, and kayak. Now that’s super!

Sounds so exciting. Time to save up for it.

Nope, not the average expedition ship where you pay to work… heheh. But no dancers performing evening shows either. Now you know why we categorize this post under “Sweet Dreams are made of these”. Aside from the fact it’s the title of an Eurythmics song.

Obvious question, will you go on this journey if you have the means to do so?

Unusual Hotels

Have you stayed in an unusual hotel before? Some of the pictures in this article make one wonder how is it like to stay in one. Did you see the picture of the hotel in the link? That one’s along the southern edges of Taihu (太湖), a freshwater lake about 100km from Shanghai. We wrote about traipsing about the lake recently (here).

It was strange for us to observe that of the polled millenials, ‘only’ 42% have stayed in house or apartment rentals (the equivalent AirBnBs of the world), which would imply a large segment. And it appears to be in the west. Because it also seems such unusual hotels seem to be the rage more in Asia. At least this is what the article seems to be driving at. No details, so can’t dissect it… the trouble with statistics. Depends on who the ‘barber’ is presenting it.

The theme though of this post is : innovation.

In a competitive world vying for a share of the hearts and minds of consumers, it is key to stand out from your competition. It is also critical to have brand / value proposition that appeals to a targeted segment, group, whatever. Sure we said AirBnB is revolutionizing travel (here), but there probably will be limits to where they can reach. And hotel chains around the world are attempting to respond, sometimes in ways that amazes. So nothing remains static.

And it is not only in Asia that one finds such innovative and bold attempts to offer differntiated travel experience. One will find them all over the world. Indeed, as we hurtle towards the 2020s, we may yet witness even more innovation when it comes to having a night’s stay while on your journey(s).

We might not be staying in these unusual hotels, but we sure would like to see them. Wouldn’t you?

Dance your way to your next journey

There are so many ways to live up your travel journey experiences. Some opt for the opulent and overtly luxurious, while other revel in the joy of being “one of the locals”. Some might consider cultural and artistic pursuits to be paramount yet others yearn to have a taste of the places they journey to.

How about adding dancing at a formal ball to your journeying experience? One where you will be waltzing away in an ornate ballroom. One where you can be combining culture (the dance) with a tour (the location of the ball). Unlike sitting passively listening to an orchestra, here you would have some liberty to express yourself and enjoy it. Try swaying too much on your seat the next time you attend a symphony and you’ll see how the people around you respond. LOL.

Of course you can also tap dance your way across town, if without the taps on the heels of your shoes… Singing (in the rain?), ok humming as you traipse along the streets taking photos and saying hi to the folks. Absorbing the sun shine (on a rainy day?), makes my soul, makes my soul trip trip away…. so an old song from the 90s went.

Seriously, does music and dance figure in your mind when you are exploring a new destination? We think it is one element that should not be missing when you travel. Just like missing out on Jazz when you are in NOLA, it would be truly the sound of silence if one ignores the iconic music each city/town or even rural countryside brings.

Will you take a dance to the street or in the ballroom in your next journey?

Traveling by Drone

We take it back.

We might even have to eat our words.

For what we hear you ask. Some might have read that we asserted that drone photography have its limitations (read our ‘critique’ here). We asserted that while drones may take wonderful photos and videos from up high, one cannot take a selfie like Suan did flashing the V sign. LOL…

Well we might just be proven wrong. At least when the concept shared by this article comes to fruition some time down the pike (no pun intended). If you did read the link, one is said to be able to ‘hail’ a pickup from almost any open area by a drone the size of a car. You will then be deposited on the chassis (with the wheels) and it will drive to your intended destination. Imagine having no traffic to contend with! This would solve one of the biggest bug bear of commuters on the roads… best of all they claim that this can be done with zero emissions (yeah right). Yes – talk about a fly drive!

And because if one can use an app to call up a drone car, then one can as easily take selfies from them too.

Think this may be ‘something down the road’ into the future? Our little red dot is said to be considering the use of such flying taxis (read here). And Dubai will steal a march on that by summer this year (here), which is like – now! At least the drones will be delivered in July. But with the ever increasing pace of advancement being churned out by labs around the world, it could surprise everyone with a debut very soon. Just like how SpaceX wants to sling two astronaut passengers to the moon and back by 2018.

When the time comes for this technology to become commercially viable, will you jump on it?

Slow planes or was it slow coach?

It’s sure interesting to know that perhaps our aircraft journeys have lengthened. If this article is to be believed, we now take a longer time to get to our destinations. Did you notice that too? Or is this just a figment of imagination?

Actually we noticed something too.

HND to NRT.jpg
Would it take 30 minutes to fly 73km? LOL

A few years ago, the company that Mel worked for had a corporate policy of flying coach for flights 7 hours or less. Scouring the flight schedules, it was found that a SIN/NRT flight takes 7 hours and 5 minutes. The alternative SIN/HND flight on the other hand was 6 hours 30 minutes. Having to visit Japan rather frequently, he chose the Narita flight…heheh. But a difference of 30 minutes between the two airports?

Now either the plane to Narita was much slooower, or the one to Haneda flew faster. Or perhaps they both were slower? If you had read the article above, you would have realize that the reason for ‘slower’ flights could stem from the urge by airlines to save on fuel costs. Recall that oil prices spiked up close to US$150/barrel in July 2008?

Like driving a car, it does not mean that getting into the top speed will mean the maximal use of the gearbox. If one were to google for fuel efficiency, you’d find that 55mph (90kmh) is prescribed as the optimal. In fact driving faster leads to a drop in fuel efficiency. Guess this applies to airplanes too right? Afterall, airlines are for profit organizations. They’d do anything to fill up the plane and drive fly it more economically.

A funny story

Some years ago, Mel & Suan went on a journey to Hokkaido. We were waiting at the boarding gate for a domestic flight to Sapporo from Tokyo. Boarding annoucement (first in Japanese, then later in English): “Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to start boarding. Prior to boarding, may we ask that you take use of the airport’s restroom facilities.” – weight, that could be what they are trying to reduce! Saves fuel you know if the airplane is lighter you know…heheh.

Anyway. Mel’s mom used to call out to him ‘hey slow coach, catch up!’ (Mel’s not a tomato btw), while on hikes when he was little. Was Mel a slow coach? No. He was just walking at the optimal speed using the least amount of effort and energy.

Did you notice your plane turning into a slow coach? Tell us!