Tag Archives: shopping

Day 185 – Big spender(s)

Throughout the course of the trip we have managed to find pretty decent accommodation for the most part, Mendoza was a mistake and a couple of the places on organised tours left a little to be desired, but overall in 180+ days we have stayed in some great places.

Tokyo is never going to be a cheap city, but due a combination of a well timed use of a loyalty system, a sale and some good luck we have managed to bag a really good hotel for our last few days of the trip.

For the second time in succession we’ve received a free upgrade on arrival and have a wonderful room with a view of the Tokyo Tower and remote control curtains!  It is also located in a park so a morning stroll grabbing some breakfast along the way is a lovely way to start the day.

So what do you do in Tokyo?  It is not a city with a huge list of ‘must see’ attractions, but instead one that you should just spend time in its various districts and soak up the ultimate in Japanese urban culture.

With the end of our travels in site, a long haul luggage allowance with a good few kilos spare and a few bits and pieces we wanted to pick up we head out to the streets of Tokyo to do what, despite the economic slowdown, locals do best.  Shop.

An example of how well organised Tokyo is for shopping is the poshest second hand shop in the world.  It would look at home on Oxford Street and has all the designer clothes organised by brand, style and size!  Another close by example has a tag that gives a profile of the previous owners!

Our first stop is the Ginza area of the city full of some of the biggest brands and kooky shops.  We get lost for a hour or so in a 6 storey

toy shop selling all kinds of nonsense, visit the bewildering food hall of the Mitsukoshi department store to buy some lunch and then end up hiding from a thunder storm in Starbucks whilst and secretly eat our purchases.

Consultation with the guidebook highlights that round the corner is a 5 storey stationary store.  On reading this my wife is anything but, and I struggle to keep up as she head over there….thankfully it closes at 7pm so we still had enough of the evening left to enjoy dinner in a very cool Izakaya (an informal food/pub) and a grab a Japanese craft beer on the way home 😉

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Day 167 – Gangham style

In slightly comical fashion we manage to pick up our Japanese Rail Passes (we ended up in the office of a travel company call centre) and then explore more of this great city.

The orderliness and calm we saw yesterday in the more picturesque and tourist areas of the city appears to be present everywhere.  It’s busy, with cars and people, its just that they are fairly quiet…unless you account for the clothes.

Residents of Seoul are a fashion conscious bunch and wherever you walk you will see people that have spent a good deal of time, effort and money to look good (the success of this is arguable from a western european point of view).  Shopping areas are large and filled with many designer brands, and also lower cost options that offer a similar if slightly renamed alternatives (who rather calmly clap their hands in an effort to attract attention rather than shouting).

Clothes shops are matched in number and variety by food outlets, and in particular street food, and the quality is extremely high.  There is so much of it that 3 meals a day feels insufficient and over the course of the day I am sure that we grazed more than we should over the course of the day….its a good job that according to Nik’s UP we are averaging 12km walking a day or else we’d be the size of houses!

As we stroll down the Cheonggyecheon area – a recently refurbished inner city river area – we notice the almost total lack of rubbish bins.  You can spend a good 30 minutes walking with an empty bottle in your hand without seeing an appropriate receptacle though despite this Seoul is one of the cleanest cities we have visited ever.  We wish that cities in the UK could be half as clean.

To end our day we board a cable car to scale the largest hill in the area to see the city move effortlessly from sunlit urban sprawl to neon lit metropolis under the shadows of the Seoul N Tower.  I love big cities, they are full of life and energy, but I particularly love them at night when the lights give them a unique magical feel.

Day 151 – When the lights go out

Whilst the statistics have told us that Shanghai is the biggest city in the world, it hasn’t actually felt like it that much in terms of the number of people we have seen.

That changed today.

A combination of a weekend and a public holiday meant that the streets are rammed with people in the way that can annoy you.  Think Meadowhall on the last Saturday before Christmas and you are somewhere close, but with the added ‘benefit’ that the Chinese people have a different tolerance to personal space and willingness to walk into you without feeling the need to apologise.

By the end of a morning walking round the wonderful maze of alleyways of the Tiangzang area (a delightful collection of shops and cafés) I had spend a good period of my time staring in that English way and muttering under my breath.

The rest of the day was spent sat on another Chinese train travelling across the country.  The hard sleeper layout is a much more communal affair with 6 bunks per ‘room’, and by room it means alcove off the corridor.  A great way to get to know our G group (and a number of other people) better as we discuss the politics of China and play one of the most complicated game of Uno ever.

UNO was concluded by the light of mobile phones and torches when the 10pm light curfew arrived 20 minutes early and the subsequent getting ready for bed was made more challenging than it would have already been.

Day 86 – Skyscraper

We were (as usual) under prepared for our time in Kuala Lumpar, and in fact Malaysia over all (in total we will be in here for 2 weeks), so what do you do in KL?

The biggest attraction, literally, is the famous Petronas Towers.  For a while the tallest buildings in the world, and still the tallest twin tower structure, these steel towers stand at an impressive 452m high dominating the skyline.

Visitor numbers are limited, but booking online is straight-forward and we have slots for the early morning 9am tour and we even get a free lift from our hotel.  The tour doesn’t amount to much more than a couple of lift rides, one to the Skybridge that links the towers on the 41st and 42nd floors, and then a second that takes you the observation deck on the 86th floor, but the building and views are impressive.  Normally at the top of this type of attraction (the highest building in a city is a common tourist attraction round the world) you are used to looking down on everything else, but the town tower design means that you can see an exact copy of the building you are stood in out of the window.

Up close the design of the towers is beautiful, having an almost art deco style to the mass of steel that they are constructed with (more steel was used to build them than any other building in the world).

The base of the towers is filled with a very expensive shopping centre packed full of shops selling genuine designer products at genuine designer prices.  In fact the biggest attraction in KL is the shopping from what we can tell.  Locals and tourists alike come here to shop, shop and shop.

KL is home to an extraordinary number of shopping malls.  Glistening structures of glass and metal, stretching up into the clear blue skies, covered with large screens perpetually running technicoloured advertisements for everything you could possible need (and some that you don’t).

We head for one called the Low Yat Plaza, the largest IT shopping collection I have ever seen.  6 floors of shops that are totally dedicated to selling electronics.  Cameras, mobile phones, tablets, laptops are everywhere – and the place is filled with consumers trying to get a bargain.  With our time in Asia likely to include more beach locations than S.America we grab ourselves an underwater camera (and later play around with it in the hotel pool) and then make a dangerous discovery…..Malaysia is the cheapest place in the world to buy Apple products.

My experience was that generally Apple products are a fixed price, that is no amount of shopping around online gets them any cheaper in the UK.  Also generally when I have looked abroad they are not any cheaper, but that is not the case here, where there is between 25-33% saving over UK prices.  I can definitely get an iPad Mini in our luggage but the 27” iMac is proving a little more problematic…

Day 85 – The Real Thing

Arriving anywhere at 3am is not ideal.  Thankfully our Kuala Lumpar (or KL as it appears to often referred to locally) hotel allows us to check in early and manage to grab a few hours sleep and eat the homemade cheese and crisp sandwiches that Mandy made us for breakfast.

Malaysia is a relatively easy transition into S.E.Asia.  It became independent from the UK in the last 1950s, but English is still widely spoken, they drive on the left and even share the same power supply system.

Heading into downtown KL, the climate is hot and humid, and we have a bit of a wander following a walking tour we got off Trip Advisor.  During which we pass some beautiful religious buildings from a range of faiths (Hindu, Buddist, Islam and Christian) which highlights the diverse make-up of the population.  Malaysia is a part of the word that was colonised by many different people, and the population is made up of 50% Malaysians, 35% Chinese, 10% Indians, and you can see the distinctions in the people as we walk around.

We head to China Town for some lunch and a wander round the markets.  The markets are reminiscent of the markets we saw in Honk Kong a year or so back, and they are stocked with stalls selling designer and fashion brands at knock down prices.

Perfume, headphones, sunglasses, watches, and clothing all bearing the world’s most desirable brand names are for sale at a fraction of the cost.  Rayban sunglasses for less than £10? Dr Dre Beats headphones for less than £20? Perfume for a fiver?  A less than trusting person may question whether these bargains are the real thing.

We decide to make a couple of purchases, though I avoided the sunglasses as I suspect that do not provide the UV protection they claim – though they would be OK for use back home.  Making a purchase involves getting into ‘haggle’ mode, we were advised by the stewardesses on the way over to make an opening offer of at the most 50% of the asking price.

In the end Niki makes a Nike hat purchase for £2.35 (complete with ‘genuine holographic sticker’) and I buy an ‘Ice’ watch for a bank-busting £1.81.  It will be interesting to see how well it keeps time, but after the fact that after an hour of wearing it in the humidity it had steamed up I decide not to test its stated 5ATM water resistance in the hotel during a late afternoon swim…

Leave me alone

Our time in Cusco has been wonderful and we have loved the city and it’s people. That said, there is one thing that this place highlighted that we have experienced all over S.America.

That is, the bombardment at times of the tourist by people in the street trying to sell you things. Below is a list of things we had to say a repeated “no gracias” to in a morning in Cusco:

A photo with a lamb
A photo with a llama
A photo with an alpaca
A massage
A llama jumper (though Niki later succumbed in the market)
A painting
A poncho
A trip to Machu Picchu
A sightseeing bus tour
A pair of earrings
A fluffy llama rug
A packet of cigarettes
A pair of nail clippers
A woody woodpecker whistle
A llama key ring

And finally I am not going to eat in a restaurant because you shout at me as I walk past.

I think that perhaps it’s the mentality of the English, but the more you push or hassle us, the less likely we are to buy anything. Perhaps I should wear a sign that says “I am English: leave me alone and I am more likely to buy something”.