Sunday, 31 October 2010

Kids With Knives

With so many kids classes I have this year, I was thinking about the "fun" Halloween craft lessons I'd have to do.

If you remember last year I bought my Spiderman outfit and put it to good use, so in a way I was kind of excited to get into my "Spidey" persona once again.

Most of the younger kids, (and their parents) really appreciated the effort that I got dressed up. Even mothers of kids I didn't teach asked me to pose for their children! The older ones were a little bit blasé about it. I swear I heard "baka" a few times.

With the activities I got real tired blowing and tying a whole lot of balloons. There was a Jack O' Lantern lesson with real pumpkins that because they didn't want the liability of kid's cutting themselves with knives, they first expected me to do it with a spoon, but later relented and gave only me a knife to cut 4 pumpkins up.

Finally I was really looking forward to the Halloween party, but because of a lame ass typhoon, it got cancelled. Instead I went to a bar. There was a free shot for people in costume. Because there were already two others in Spiderman costumes, I just settled comfortably into my Long Islands.

On Halloween day I went into Akihabara to look for an iPhone 4, and buy some accessories. I found one in good condition for 57,800 yen, but as much as I tried, the salespeople wouldn't bring it down a smidgeon to make me plonk down the cash.

I bought the accessories though, a 980 yen MicroSIM cutter, and a 380 yen bumper case. All I need is the phone now!

Being in geek central, I expected more people dressed up, but it was very low-key. I guess with last year having Halloween on a Saturday makes a huge difference.

As such, contrary to last year, I didn't wear my Spiderman costume like I did last year on the trains. The Japanese and law enforcement would just not understand.

Happyish Halloween!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Last Day In Hong Kong

Our plane would be leaving not long after lunch, so we checked out fairly early to have a nice breakfast at the Honolulu coffee shop at 33 Stanley St in Central. I had the satay beef and macaroni, coffee, and an egg tart.

Hong Kong feels like a place made to shop, the best sightseeing is the just wandering around the place, the harbour and Victoria Peak the obvious highlights. Although my phone search proved fruitless, I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong, and I can see myself coming here again. I'd probably stay in Causeway Bay on HK island next time. It's cleaner, and far away from those street hustlers. Can't beat the price on Kowloon though.

My last chance was at Hong Kong airport for the iPhone. Unfortunately even there they were sold out. Every time I see someone with a new phone, I want to shove it to the ground. I might have to succumb to the "dark side" again.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

This Is Shitty

In Mong Kok there is a centralised building with little shops selling all kinds of mobile phones.

I was hoping here I'd be getting a reasonable price for my hopeful purchase. Strangely enough they already have it in white. It's fairly obvious that it's not the real deal, but a good chance to see it in that colour before it's official. (I prefer black) The prices here weren't all that great, so the search continues.

For the first time today, we're finally getting a taste of the local Yum-Cha food at the London Restaurant in Mong Kok.

It's quite a big place. It was packed with locals, and by the looks of things we were the only tourists there. Ironically with a name like that no one spoke any English which made ordering quite difficult. Lots of delicious food though.

After here we went back to Tsim Sha Sui, to The Peninsula hotel for afternoon tea.

For two people it costs about $HK440, including a service charge. It is VERY sweet and filling. The Peninsula is a luxury hotel, so it's a good way to spoil yourself while you're here.

From here we walked along the Avenue of Stars along the waterfront. It's kind of a "Hollywood Walk of Fame" with famous HK stars handprints in the ground. I didn't know most of the names other than Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.

Finally we took the MTR to Kwun Tong. Here you'll find another mega mall, APM. Just so you know. No luck here either :(

Guess what I was thinking?

Once more in defeat, we went back to the hostel area, just in time before happy hour finished, I went to get my pint of Guinness, this time a little cheaper. It's been a long day. I needed this bad.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An Apple A Day

One strong reason for coming here was to seek out an iPhone 4. Damn, even the name of the hostel was a dead giveaway!

From what I read, it looks like Hong Kong is the cheapest place to get the phone outright and unlocked. I could get it through Softbank, but it will cost about the same, they'll lock me in for another two years, and lock the phone itself forever. Sure I could go through all the unlocking, jailbreaking, finger-snapping to have it my way, but I've had enough!

I had a chance already to get one, but at the time I made a wrong, wrong decision, and I'm still wandering the streets muttering, "the one that got away".

We started off in the morning at Maccas for a sausage McMuffin breakfast. I know, I know, I'm in another country. I should be sampling the local food, but there is a lot of reassuring comfort in ordering what I know, quickly and easily, and getting it.

After breakfast we thought it would be interesting to catch the Star Ferry across to Causeway Bay. It's reasonably nice to cross the harbour instead of going by subway, but it was all over all too quickly.

I intended to continue my "search". The stores weren't open until 10 am, most even later at 11 am. I saw a Tom Lee Music store which looks to be the major music instrument chain in Hong Kong. It wasn't open yet, so we kept a move on, passing a live fish market, and looking around Times Square.

Times Square, Causeway Bay.

This place is absolutely great if you're a shopaholic. Hong Kong does a LOT of malls. Great to blow your money. The customer service though is sadly lacking. One thing I noticed is that staff are often rude. I got told HK$6,000-6,400 with straight faces for iPhone 4's that were in stock. No surprise they were available. Probably because of these ***holes, it's so hard to get one from the legitimate sources. How about a smile, f******? It's easy to take for granted the best shopping "experiences" in Tokyo.
The Landmark, Central.

Not ALL bad though. We had a great sampling demonstration of Fook Ming Tong tea at Exquisivites in Central, which to me is kind of like Ginza, It feels very upmarket, and swanky 'round here.

From there we went up the "endless" hill-side escalator through SoHo. Lots of cool and funky cafes here. We came across a nice Italian deli, ilBelPaese, and shared a big, and very delicious grilled Focaccia sandwich (HK$56). Yum!

Next we rolled back down the hill and went to Admiralty. I wanted to take a picture of what I think is Hong Kong's most recognisable skyscraper, the Bank of China Tower. Some say it looks like a praying mantis. It definitely stands out among the other less "out there" buildings.

As it was getting late we caught the subway to Central again, to catch the tram to Victoria Peak. Coming out of the station, I face-palmed myself when I got just a good a view of the Bank of China building from this side. The HSBC building looks interesting around here too.

Victoria Peak is definitely a must-see place to come to here. We stayed from afternoon to dark where I did panorama photos of the day and night transition. Simply wonderful.
By Day.

At Night.

We started walking to the International Finance Centre near the harbour side, but u-turned shortly after as it was getting late, and I was hungry!

We saw the previous night that Delaney's, near our hostel has a two for one pizza night (HK$105-110). We missed happy hour by twenty minutes but a Guiness pint wasn't too expensive at HK$63. It's been ages since I had one, and it went down nicely.


The travel adapter I bought in Japan was the wrong one, which caused quite a bit of stress. We bought what I thought would work in the Japan Home Center today. Arriving back to my power-starved accessories, I first plugged in my expendable Nano to watch it go to charge mode happily.

Stupidly I then plugged in my laptop adapter to have the fuse blow immediately. You could hear my silent "NOOOooo!" scream on the inside, by the instant look of disappointment in my face. I was considering options such as unscrewing the fuse out of the useless adapter I had with a paper clip. Hey, I was getting desperate!

Finally, a light bulb lit up, and I tried my luck with asking reception if they had an adapter. They did! A savior of the Chungking Mansions. I am humbled.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Jimmy In Hong Kong


I needed to get out of Japan. Tickets to Australia have been quite pricey, so going home for a while has been out of the question. Even Christmas looks like not happening. It's going to cost me around AU$2000 round trip. Ouch.

I looked at a few airfares to Shanghai or Hong Kong, and the latter wasn't too bad. We checked with the local Japanese travel agent, HIS, and they were a rip-off. I just made reservations myself online. The Monday is a holiday, so taking two days off I had five days to do what I wanted. For the best price and time I wanted, I booked from Monday the 11th, to the 14th.

It took about five hours with a stopover in Taipei. From the plane window I could see the whole of Tokyo, Yokohama and even Mt Fuji!

Tokyo and Kawasaki.


Mt Fuji. There isn't any snow yet, so not as beautiful.

I'm quite lazy at making itineraries so booking a place to stay was done just about the day before. Probably the most (in)famous lodgings in Hong Kong is the Chungking Mansions.
It's located in Tsui Tsa Tsui on the Kowloon side. From the outside it looks like a slum, but to be fair, a lot of the nearby alternatives look pretty much the same. There are a LOT of hostels in the building, and the lifts are SLOW.

This is the place to come if you want to be immediately turned off about Hong Kong. As soon as you get close the hounds come out and attack you with, "Need a room?", "Wanna buy a rolex/hash"? I had second thoughts about coming here at that moment. Definitely a lot of "interesting" types for tenants too. Being a female by herself here, would be terrifying. I was!

We went up to the hostel, and it seemed like ages to check into our room. The room itself is actually pretty good. It looked newly renovated, and wasn't too bad space-wise. The only little detail is that the shower and toilet are the same space, so splashing water all over the place is unavoidable.

We had woken up at 4:30 am to be at Narita for our 9:40 flight, so that and the effort getting here, I was quite drained by early evening. We went to the waterside and it was then, that I changed my mind about Hong Kong. The view of the harbour at first sight is fantastic. Million dollar view. We watched the "Symphony of Light", the Hong Kong Island skyscrapers doing a cool light show.
The meal on China Airlines was so-so, but quite filling, so I didn't feel so hungry till much later. For dinner we had a HK$40 chicken Istanbul kebab in a parallel street from the hostel. I hadn't had one for SO long, back in the post-night out drunk days.

Hit the spot right there.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Bi King

For a quick and dirty translation of the current promotion by Burger King, this is basically all-you-can-eat Whoppers for 30 minutes!

I'm always up for a challenge. I wish I chose a better time to try it out though. I was in Shibuya for my usual Long Island Iced Tea Jumbos. I only had some peanut snacks, rather than the chicken and chips I usually get, so at the time I thought it was as good a time as any to put this, and my stomach, to the test.

To get it, you have to buy a set, a medium or a large. In my inebriation I heard "large", so my illogical thinking said of course large! So I had a large orange juice and onion rings to scoff through as well. 830 yen please.

Thirty minutes goes so quickly when you're trying to beat the clock. After getting through the first two, my stomach couldn't take any more so I just put the next two I got in my bag for a quick breakfast the next day.

While eating I had a nauseating flashback from the time I had the Windows 7 burger, so I'm glad I stopped when I did. The promotion is on till the 15th.

Monday, 4 October 2010

It's Automun!

While on the subject of food..

It seems like ages since I'd done yakiniku (ok, that is a lie, I went there after I went to Zushi). Gyu Kaku is a great place that's worth it to get an all-you-can-eat fill. Unfortunately tonight we didn't do it, so the bill was 7,000 yen which seemed a little steeper than usual.

I happened to be in Shinjuku today, so I brought along her laptop, and my SLR.

I fixed the old laptop, but I wanted to see if her better, and newer laptop had a real problem, or just needed a new AC adapter. I went to the Sofmap section of the Odakyu Bic Camera where they had a secondhand one to try the power.

At first the sales guy hesitated, but he connected it up, and it worked. So there's one longer than necessary, previously unresolved problem fixed. I was hoping I could get an adapter than would do double duty on my midi guitar, but this Toshiba needs 15V, and the multi adapters here were only up to 12V.

In a fix-it mood, I also bought a bathroom towel suction cup from a 100 yen shop to attempt to improve the home button on my iPhone using this Youtube video. The home button pins are incredibly tiny, so I didn't lift them much at all. I'm possibly getting a new iPhone soon, so I think I'll leave it for now to give this a second try. I got a belt in a temporary shop too. 600 yen, nice.

My bag was heavy from bringing my camera, so I felt I should take a few shots. You might recognise this from a background of my blog.

I can't resist a few "typical graphical" errors that I see everyday. "automun" (Autumn) collection, and Look AT (through) here!!

I don't know if she's meant to look fallen over, but it's funny all the same.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

On The Dole

Sunday in Japan is 30% off icecream day at a few supermarkets here in Tokyo. It's usually my opportunity to stock up on the Haagen Dazs, and "ice candy".

It brings the cups down to about 198 yen. Haagen Dazs have brought out a few interesting deviations in flavours. I often get the Cookies & Green Tea, but I've also sampled the Salty Butter Biscuit, which tastes like slightly salted vanilla icecream, with shortbread biscuit, and Cream Cheese Raspberry, which really has a cheesecake taste! I've yet to try the pumpkin flavour but I'll be onto that shortly.

At the top of my list for best icecream in the world, you can't beat a gelato. One of the many things Italians got right. Just like back home, Italian gelato commands a premium price.


I found an excellent substitute right here in Tokyo that won't break the bank. Quite by accident I found this 6 cup pack of fruit icecream sorbets. The apple just tastes like, well, apples, so it's not the best of the bunch, but the peach and mango taste great. All for less than 400 yen. Nice.

The name "Dole" is quite funny because in British English, the dole refers to government payments to the unemployed. Maybe it quite apt then for Italian-style icecream on the cheap.

It's also cheap eggs day before midday, so I have to drag myself off futon with often bad hangovers to make the trip. Also worth noting is that a lot of supermarkets have a 100 yen day on Mondays. Things we do to eat around here.