Unlike outdoor adventures I’ve undertaken before, the Shikoku Pilgrimage is unique in that you’re rarely far from civilisation and that it takes upwards of 7 weeks to complete. This means you don’t need to worry about food or cooking equipment but any gear you carry needs to be extremely durable and light. Read more
Last weekend I finally moved out of the airport hotel and into a serviced apartment on Hong Kong Island where I’ll be for the next month until I find something more permanent. Having surveyed the options available there were clearly some tradeoffs to be made on the location vs price front but in the end I found somewhere pretty good. Read more
Sometimes in life you have to pinch yourself to check what you’re experiencing is real. I had one such moment last weekend when I had the chance to visit the Presidential Suite of Le Royal Meridien in Shanghai. It just so happened to coincide with my birthday so was a pretty special occasion. Read on for the gory details. Read more
Last week I continued my quest to stay at the worlds most amazing hotels for free with a visit to the W in Hong Kong (for previous escapades see W Seoul, Park Hyatt Shanghai, and Hotel Éclat Taipei). The hotel is located alongside the relatively new Elements shopping mall in Kowloon right above the MTR station. Read more
I’ve had some pretty good food in my time but rarely do my exploits extend to multi-course fine dining. Whilst I was in Taiwan I had the pleasure of experiencing some excellent haute cuisine curtsey of some very generous friends. One place in particular which stood out was Louis XIV, located in Taipei’s Da-an district, which serves exceptional French provencal cuisine. Here’s some pics to whet your appetite. Read more
Last weekend I took a short trip to Taiwan, a mere 1.5 hours away from Hong Kong but in many respects a world apart from the mainland (depending on who you ask). Arriving Thursday evening in Taipei my first stop was Hotel Éclat, a stone’s throw away from Daan MTR station. As far as posh places I’ve stayed in without paying go (1, 2) this probably tops the list for style and sheer exuberance. Read more
For the first weekend I was in South Korea I was lucky enough to be about to stay in the extremely cool “W Seoul” boutique hotel, in Walkerhill, courtesy of a very generous friends enormous accumulation of loyalty points (usual cost from approx. 250,000 KRW per night). Described as the “hippest joint in town” expectations were high…
After a rather tortuous two hour trip from Incheon Airport I finally reached the W and upon entering my first impressions were that I’d set foot on the set of a James Bond film! Instead of a standard hotel entrance the lobby was a combined with a multi-level lounge / bar complete with cool lighting, egg-pod shaped seats, a DJ playing techno music and expensively-dressed people floating around (not to mention all the rather beautiful women). This isn’t your father’s 5 star hotel.
Whilst feeling quite out-of-place in the hyper-trendy surroundings I was checked in by extremely attentive staff and then took the lift (darkened with glowing hoops hanging from the ceiling) to my “Wonderful room” on the 6th floor. It turns out they had got the name right since it was unlike anything I’d stayed in before (given my usual choice of budget accommodation that wasnt going to be hard).
With minimal clean white decoration, red bedding, soothing lighting, floor to ceiling glass windows, and more space-age chairs it felt pretty special. The level of detail was staggering – from coat hangers to paperclips even the bin was given the designer treatment! I spent the first 5 minutes of my stay just taking photos before I touched anything. To add to the ambiance the Bose hi-fi was automatically set to play their own mix CD as you entered (I’ve recreated it as a Spotify playlist).
After getting directions from the extremely knowledgable concierge we took the free hotel shuttle bus a short distance (passing Gangbyeon and Gwangnaru subway stations) and had dinner in a local restaurant (delicious dak-galbi) then retired for a quick drink in the lounge before hitting the hay. The bed itself must have had some special magic coating since I slept better than I had done in a long while and woke up feeling fresh and ready for a day exploring Seoul.
Breakfast was an equally luxurious affair with a fabulous array of fresh food from around the world to suit anyones taste. I went back for seconds and thirds but still didn’t quite manage to try everything! Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take any photos but take it from me this something not to miss (at 38,000 KRW per head you wouldn’t expect anything different).
All good things have to come to an end and after a great weekend it was time to come back down to earth. The next hotel I moved to was a complete disaster but I’ll save that story for another time. After staying at the W anywhere else was going to be a disappointment and whilst I doubt I’ll be returning anytime soon if you have deep pockets I highly recommend giving the W experience a try – they have uniquely designed places worldwide.
The Lift Asia 09 conference wrapped up last Friday afternoon on Jeju Island, South Korea and I’m glad to report that it was great. If you ever wanted two days of intense inspiration then this was the place to go. There was a plethora of fascinating talks from people spanning a wide range of disciplines in an ideal location overlooking the sea.
Photo by Jinho Jung
I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the talks and experiences that stood out for me:
Hojun Song (Open Source Satellite Initiative)
Photo by Jinho Jung
This guy is on a serious mission to build and launch his own open-source satellite for no other reason than to make a personal fantasy come true. He aims to launch the first version by September 2010 and is raising funds by selling t-shirts. As some materials (which could be used to make weapons) are restricted under export bans he is having to be somewhat creative in sourcing parts from alternate yet still legal sources. It doesn’t get much cooler than this.
Benjamin Joffe (Social Media & Evolution)
Photo by Jinho Jung
Anyone who has lived in China, Korea & Japan and knows about the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (originator of the Noosphere concept) is pretty smart in my book. He spoke about how social media is evolving, how it compares to traditional social environments and how we can learn from emerging behaviors. He compares our current situation to living in a kind of “digital panopticon“, an invisible prison where we are forced to participate to remain relevant. In “the dark age of transparency” the definition of privacy is being redefined and by observing advanced Asian countries we can gain some insight into new services and behaviors. I’ve embedded his presentation below – it’s well worth a look.
Also noteworthy: Minsuk Chuo – An architect who showed some fascinating projects both real and imagined and how exploration and interaction can be incorporated into the most basic structures.
Yangachi (Surveillance Drama)
What if you were to film short scenes using only CCTV cameras to capture the action? This is exactly what played out in the Jeju ICC when Yagachi used the networked cameras from the center to capture a 007-esq shoot-out live (much to bemusement of bystanders) which was then beamed into the conference hall. Good fun and an interesting piece of art in its own right.
Here we saw a video from a group of European artists who used high powered projectors to project 3D animations set to music onto the side of a building bringing it to life. The artists use light to explore its influence on our perception of space. Below is an example of their work:
Also noteworthy: Taeyoon Choi – “End users’ guide” video presentation demonstrating how networked environments are potentially a tool for control, deception, and profit. Video below (Korean language but with English on the slides) –
Amazingly the wi-fi worked well throughout the two days, despite the large number of people using it, and overall it was a very well organised conference with a relaxed atmosphere and a mix of people from all over the world. If I’m in the same region next year this will definitely be on my calendar again.
The main computer I use day-to-day is my trusty MacBook Pro 15″ but the problem I have with it is its weight which makes it impracticable for travelling with. I also have an iPhone which is great for quickly checking email or surfing a few sites but not very practical for writing anything of considerable length or downloading photos on the go. Because of this I’ve just purchased a Dell Mini 10 netbook which I’ll primarily take with me while I’m travelling to stay in touch – at only 1.2kg it’s as light as a feather and perfect to slip in a backpack.
Aside from having a very sleek design one of the biggest selling points for me was the 10.1″ HD screen (1366 x 768) which is a lot higher resolution than most on other models giving a lot more screen real-estate for viewing web pages and the like. For such a small form factor it also has a comfortable keyboard (92% full size) and somehow manages to squeeze in 3 USB ports, HDMI output, and a 3-in-1 card reader (very handy for photographers).
Nearly all netbooks come pre-installed with Windows XP, which anyone call tell you is long past its best-before date. While I would have loved to install Max OS X (which can be hacked to run on some specific models) the Mini 10’s graphics chip doesn’t support it so I decided to install Windows 7 instead. This turned out to be quite a good choice and seems significantly snappier than its predecessor with an overall big improvement in the user experience.
As the Mini 10 doesn’t have a DVD drive I installed Windows 7 from a USB hard disk (see guide here for instructions). To keep things lean and mean I’ve tried to install as little as possible (and disable some unneeded services which could slow it down):
Once Google Chrome OS comes out (next year) I’ll most likely move over to that but until then this setup should do quite nicely as a general purpose machine for on the road. I’ll be putting it through it’s paces on my trip to South Korea next week (more on this later) and will report back on any significant positives/negatives.