Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 8

The neighborhood we were in couldn’t have been better. We stayed in Shibuya, which is famous for shopping and food, but our apartment was on a quiet street away from all the excitement. We were only a few blocks away from everything, but once you turned onto our street, everything immediately got slower. It was like being in a quiet residential neighborhood right next to all the downtown action.

We were very close to the Shibuya JR station, but we were also pretty close to the Harajuku station. I think our apartment might have been right in the middle of the two, but we mostly used Shibuya because it was bigger and went to more places.

I’m not really sure what’s south of Shibuya, but just north of our apartment was Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine. The first time we went there, we took the JR from Shibuya to Harajuku, but then we quickly found out that we could easily walk to the park. The front entrance to the park was about the same walking distance as the Shibuya station.

The Meiji Shrine was very interesting. Ryan thought it looked like a Chinese temple, but I thought it was completely different. Chinese temples seem louder. Not only in the noise made by all the people, but in the design. This shrine was calm and relaxing. Chinese temples are rough and jagged. The Japanese people at the Meiji Shrine were far more reverential than I have ever seen anyone at a Chinese temple.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 7

Tokyo was amazing. I can see why Americans like it so much. Japanese culture seems a lot more accessible than Chinese culture – from an American perspective, at least. I’m not saying Japan is like the United States. They are very different places in a million different ways. But from what little I’ve seen, I think it would be far easier to be an American adapting to Japan than to be an American adapting to China. I’d love to know how Chinese people feel about adapting to life in Japan, or about Japanese people in China.

Going to another country with Ryan, Lily and Kevin was more than interesting. I’ve gone to a few countries with Ryan, so there were no surprises there, but this was my first trip with Lily & Kevin. We’ve all known each other for a few years, but we never really thought about taking a vacation together until now. We talked about it, but not seriously.

Staying together in a hotel would have been interesting. We’ve all lived together, more or less, but a hotel is very different from an apartment. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about that experience since we stayed in an apartment on this trip. It wasn’t someone’s actual apartment, but one of those apartments that travelers can rent for short stays. There’s a name for it, but it totally escapes me right now.

The great thing about staying in an apartment is that you have a lot more room. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a small kitchen. We could have had the same amount of space in a large suit at one of the better hotels, but that would have been far more expensive. Tokyo isn’t the cheapest city in the world. The apartment we rented was very reasonable. I think they charge less because most people don’t know about it, unlike a national hotel chain that everyone knows about.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 6

We’re going to Tokyo tomorrow. The plane tickets are confirmed and the hotel/apartment is finally booked. We have some idea of what we want to see and where we want to go, but we’re also leaving plenty of room to improvise. The last thing I ever want to do on a trip is plan every little thing down to the last hour. I want to know how to get around, but where I go is often open to last minute choices. Luckily, I’m traveling with people who pretty much feel the same way. The four of us have never traveled together to a different country, so it should be interesting.

As if that’s not enough traveling, I’m going to Los Angeles next month. That trip is easier for me since I don’t really have to plan anything. My agent already booked the plane tickets. I’m not even sure which airline it is. I should probably look into that. I don’t know if he’s found a hotel yet. I’m going with 3 other girls I don’t know, so hopefully he’ll book at least 2 rooms. I should probably look into that as well. Right now I’m concentrating on Tokyo. I’ll deal with Los Angeles later.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 5

We finally decided on a hotel. That’s good news since we’re leaving on Monday. I was a little worried that we’d still be arguing over hotels when our plane landed in Tokyo.

We went with Shibuya for a few reasons. The Shinjuku hotels are probably more luxurious, but we all decided that we’re probably not going to spend all that much time in the hotel anyway. Since none of us have ever been to Tokyo, we want to see Tokyo, not some hotel. In Shibuya, we found a place that’s more like an apartment than a hotel. It won’t have all the room service and housekeeping that you get in a hotel, but it seems like a very nice apartment. Hopefully it will give us a better experience – more like the way people live there instead of like tourists staying at a hotel.

Shibuya seems to have more for all of us. From what I can tell, Shinjuku is a business and party area, with a lot less in between. Shibuya seems to have a little bit of everything. We also had to consider our luggage. Lily & Kevin don’t know how to travel light. I’m not really sure why that is, but they always bring a lot more than they ever need on trips. The Shibuya apartment is close to the train station. The Shinjuku hotels require some extra walking time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 4

We’ve narrowed our hotel options down to the Shibuya Excel Hotel in Shibuya and the Hilton or Hyatt in Shinjuku. The two Shinjuku hotels are right next to each other and very expensive. We can get a suite at either one and have a very nice time in Tokyo. The Shibuya hotel is less expensive and doesn’t have suites, but I think it’s in a better location.

The Shinjuku hotels are farther away from the MTR – though they’re probably an easy enough walk. They’re in a very business area and I’m sure it’s a great place to stay if you’re on a business trip. Your meeting would probably be very close by, if not in the hotel itself.

Ryan & Kevin want to be closer to the non-stop nightlife. The neighborhood they want to stay in is northeast of the station, but the better hotels are west of the station. The station itself seems to be massive, so just getting from one end to the other might take a while. I don’t know how long it would take to walk from either hotel to the red light district, but in August, even 30 minutes might be too much.

The Shibuya hotel is right next to the train station. It’s actually across the street and connected by a walkway. You can probably walk from one to the other during a typhoon and never get wet. I think that’s very convenient. Typhoon or not, I’m sure we’ll use the trains a lot, so the closer we are, the better. We could also avoid the famous crosswalk, which probably gets pretty old pretty fast – especially if you have to walk through thousands of people just to cross the street.

There are practical considerations we need to think about. Tokyo, unlike Hong Kong, has Krispy Kreme. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll go there once a day. The Shinjuku hotels are 11 blocks from the nearest Krispy Kreme. The Shibuya hotel is about a block away from the nearest Krispy Kreme. There’s another one 6 blocks in the opposite direction. Clearly, Shibuya has the advantage.

Ryan likes to get as much authentic American food as he can when we travel. Most people don’t go to Tokyo for American food, but most people who were raised on American food probably don’t live in Fuzhou either. There’s nothing close to real American food where he lives and very little where I live. Tokyo should have more options.

So far, we know about a Sizzler in Shinjuku and Outback in Shibuya. Sizzler is terrible. It’s literally killed people. I don’t know why they want it in Japan. There’s a Hard Rock CafĂ©, but that’s farther away from Shinjuku and Shibuya. McDonald’s is everywhere, but I’m not counting that because it’s crap.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tokyo Trip part 3

We’ve narrowed our Tokyo hotel search to two neighborhoods, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Shinjuku is one of the main entertainment districts with a lot of food & shopping. It also has a famous park and a famous temple. Shibuya is one of the main entertainment districts with a lot of food & shopping. It also has a famous park and a famous temple. If they sound exactly the same, that’s because what little I’ve seen describes both areas in the same ways. The big difference seems to be that Shinjuku has one of the red light districts and Shibuya has a famous crosswalk.

When Ryan finds out about the red light district, he’s going to vote for Shinjuku. He loves going into red light districts, for some reason. He doesn’t do anything he’s not supposed to do. He just likes to look around. He spent way too much time in Amsterdam’s red light district as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want him to miss the rest of Tokyo.

No one’s going to vote for the famous crosswalk. It’s in every movie set in Tokyo, but that’s not enough of a reason to stay there. I think a crosswalk is about as exciting as a street lamp.

The bad news, or maybe it’s good news, is that both neighborhoods have far too many hotels. We’ve narrowed our search, so we can ignore most of the hotels in Tokyo, but we still have about a million to choose from.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

And Yet Another Trip

We’re still trying to find a good hotel in Tokyo and now I have another trip to think about.

I had a meeting with my agent and he seemed more frustrated at my lack of work than I am. He thinks I should be going on more auditions and getting more parts. I don’t disagree with that, but I have a steady job, so I’m not so worried about it. I like my job and it pays the bills, but my agent had nothing to do with it, so he doesn’t make any money off it. As far as he’s concerned, he hasn’t really done enough for me. He’s gotten me a few auditions and I’m satisfied with the job he’s doing overall, but he’s not.

So he went all out and got me an audition for an actual motion picture in development at MGM. That sounds pretty good, but MGM is in Los Angeles, not in Hong Kong. That’s where the other trip comes in. My agent wants me to go to Los Angeles in September to audition for this movie.

Ordinarily, I’d have to think about it. Do I really want to fly to the other side of the world just for an audition? Getting an audition is a good thing, but most of the time they don’t lead to actually getting the part. Even if you get the part, a million things can happen that keep you out of it. Your scene can be cut, your part can be cut, they can recast with someone else, the movie can linger in development for years or never be finished at all. Even major international movie stars lose jobs in this business. A long time ago some celebrity said it’s never guaranteed until it’s in the theaters. Even then, it can get pulled right away if it bombs.

The odds are always against you in the entertainment industry. You have to accept that and just roll with it if you want to survive. Since I have a steady job, I’m luckier than most. A lot of people wait tables and work retail while waiting for something to happen. For most people, nothing will ever happen.

I already know all of this and I try to take it as it comes, but when I moved to Hong Kong, I assumed whatever work I got would be in Hong Kong. Flying out to Los Angeles for every audition would be insanely expensive, but my agent is either so confident or feels so guilty that he’s going to pay for the trip.

I couldn’t believe it when he told me that part. Hong Kong to Los Angeles is not a cheap flight. I had to ask him what he was thinking. That’s when he told me that I’ll be going with 3 other girls. He set up auditions for all of us – though we’re not all up for the same part – and he wants to send us all out there at the same time. That’s certainly a less expensive way to do it, but how often can he afford such a thing? If he keeps sending his people to the United States for auditions, he’ll go broke in no time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Weekends in China

My latest book, Weekends in China, is ready to go. It’s mostly about adapting to life in Hong Kong with a lot more information and details than this blog. There’s also a lot about going back and forth between Hong Kong and Mainland China and how different they are from each other.

I’ve seen some of my books in the weirdest places and on websites that I’ve never heard of, but the main place to buy it is at Amazon.

Weekends in China on paperback and e-book.

Tokyo Trip part 2

Finding a hotel is a bigger challenge than finding a flight. The flights are all about timing. With hotels, we have to think about price, location and what we want from the hotel.

Tokyo has thousands of hotels, from the most luxurious suites to tiny boxes the size of coffins. They have “capsule hotels” where a bunch of beds are lined up and stacked on top of each other. It’s like you have a bunk bed with a hundred roommates, except there’s a little bit of privacy in your own little coffin. You even get your own little TV. I don’t know where the bathroom is. Each floor probably has one or two that everyone has to share.

Obviously we’re not going to do that. Between the four of us, we can afford something a little better. We just have to decide what kind of hotel we want, and more importantly, where.

Tokyo is an enormous city. I think that rationally, the best thing to do would be to pick a neighborhood and just spend all of our time there. There’s no way we’re ever going to see even a fraction of everything Tokyo has to offer. You probably have to live there for years to see half of the city. It’s never a good idea to try and cram too much into one trip. With a smaller city like Amsterdam, we could probably get to know the place very well in the amount of time we have. For a city like Tokyo, there’s just no time.

Since none of us have ever been there, that’s not going to happen. We all have things that we want to see and do and they’re not all in the same neighborhood. Tokyo is supposed to have a good MTR system – which I’m sure they call something else – and I know we’ll be using that a lot. Ideally, we’d see one part of the city on this trip and other parts on subsequent trips, but if none of us have been there in all these years, how long will it be before any of us ever go back for a second trip?