Category Archives: Travel

Staying in a Capsule Hotel

One thing I got excited about Tokyo trip was the first time staying in a capsule hotel. The vibe couldn’t get more local than that. It was truly a worthwhile experience.

Sleeping Pod
In a sleeping pod

Apart from a very good deal from a booking website, the hotel—Sauna & Capsule Hotel Dandy—seemed to check all the boxes I was looking for. It was just a walking distance from Ueno Station and easy to locate even though there was no hotel signage on the street. Above all, as the name stated, it’s got an onsen.

New Experience

It wasn’t just my first time staying in a capsule hotel but also the first time in the country. Surely, I was expecting some orientations with some new norms. But I didn’t expect it would be even before checking in.

First of all, before anything else, shoes off. Taking off shoes in the house wasn’t an etiquette I wasn’t accustomed to. But that custom in hotel was the next level. Basically, there was a small step up to the lobby. You were not allowed to have shoes on beyond that point. After taking off the shoes, you bring them to a shoe locker, keep them there, and take the key to the reception to check-in.

At checking-in, they kept the shoe locker key and gave you a set of towels, a robe, a pair of boxer shorts, and your locker key that matched your sleeping pod.

My previous concern was the luggage. Actually, they could store them during the stay. But you had to organise your stuff, taking things in and out, i.e. clean cloths.

The sleeping pod was not too bad at all. It was equipped with a power outlet and a TV. There was a blind covering the pod for privacy. Usually, you didn’t hear anyone from others except some snoring. And I could be able to sleep every night.

One minor hassle was that you had to be out by 10 am for cleaning. Luckily, with the time difference, I got up around 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep anyway. And you’d have to clear the bill when you ate, drank, or got a massage each day. But they left your locker alone so that you could keep something there. When you were back at the hotel, you’d get the same sleeping pod.

Onsen Experience

Did I mention an onsen in the hotel? Dipping in a hot bath was the best thing you could treat yourself after the long flight from Washington DC. I was aware of their etiquettes and could be able to relax.

To be honest, I didn’t find it awkward being naked amongst other men. No, it wasn’t my first time in a public bathhouse. But it was the first in a straight one without sexual intention. That was such a difference. Somehow, it was a humble expression of acceptance and tolerance.

Speaking of acceptance, there were a no-tattoo sign in Japanese. Tattoos have been associated with underworld gang in Japan. That unnerved me to expose my inked body the bath. However, there was not any sign of disgust from any patrons or staff. Not even a cringe (that I could notice). Everyone seemed to mind their own businesses.

Hotel video advertisement

Staying in shared facilities let me observe some social behaviours without having to interact with them. I found that was a great experience.

Discovering Bicycles in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the most visited cities in the world and there are abundant stories about it. I wonder if there would be any angles that I would discover and get me anchored during this trip. That was the relationship between the city and bicycles.

I would say that it was the first time that I’d experienced one of the most bicycle-friendly in the world. Without any previous knowledge about it, it was fascinating to this urban transportation in full range. From moms to a salaryman to a homeless man, they all had a bike at some point.

Bicycles were everywhere, so also parking: on the streets, in subway stations and apartments. I found those bikes on the street added another unique characteristic to the Tokyo urban landscape.

Rules and regulations about bicycle parking were apparent. Of course, there would be some mischief and mistreatment. We are human after all.

Tokyo on the walls

This is what you get when you wander along the streets of Tokyo.

Even though Tokyo doesn’t have back lanes to explore like in Sydney, its street scapes isn’t less interesting. For some reasons, I found it more similar to Bangkok. The precisions were apparent but there were also some clutters and wits.

I could explore more but it turned out my focus was shifted to something more specific. That shall be discussed on the next post.

Wandering in NYC

Like last November in LA, before hitting Bangkok for a long work break, I took a detour to New York City. Unlike the LA trip, there wasn’t real agenda for it. Well, frankly, it was just to check the box that I had been there. The city wasn’t disappointing and neither was it as exuberant as it was hyped, I found.

I had some glimpses of the city twice: once in Queens last year and another one in Brooklyn on the way back to DC from Moscow. They were only overnight and my observations were limited. This time, four nights staying in the Bronx and wandering in the city gave me clearer thoughts about it.

Swamping Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art

The first two days were mostly in museums: MoMA, Museum of the Moving Image and MoMA PS1 respectively. With those, there were beers in between.

After done those, I was at U2 concert at Madison Square Garden. It was spectacular but not so memorable. Post-concert, I got a chance to sit down for a beer in an open-air bar. The summer breeze helped calm the buzzing chaos. And my mind started to process the experience of the city.

Street food after U2 concert at Madison Square Garden

In the midst of the bright lights and busy street, it felt like everyone and everything was shouting at you but no one really cared to listen. It was hard to see contrasts I usually was drawn into. Until I ended up having long island iced tea at a Japanese karaoke bar across the street. It was a sanctuary from those noises.

Karaoke bar upstairs on 7th Avenue

However, the best of the city to offer was 24/7 subway system. It was convenient for a late-night drinker like me but it didn’t feel 100% safe to ride the night train back with plenty of beers and cocktails.

Night train back to the Bronx

After all of those seeing and drinking, it was time for my own photo shoots. I waited until late afternoon on the next day to go out. I walked from Chinatown to the Oculus and ended at Brooklyn Bridge.

Having a break in Chinatown, NYC

Obviously, NYC was more photogenic than LA or DC. But with those days in the city I just could not find anything really appealing for my eyes. But I was just scratching the surface and might not have been at a right spot for my taste.

It took around four hours from DC to NYC on a coach or a train . I could take that for granted by visiting Big Apple more often. But honestly, I wasn’t that thrilled about it and just didn’t see the point. Because this short trip didn’t add anything significant to my perspective neither did it inspire me that much. It would remain the biggest city in the US and maintain its cool but I wasn’t sure how it’d go further from it in the future.

(Update: 2 August 2018)