WOW! What better way to ring in the new year than with a music festival! Remember those? Me neither! But the window of opportunity was open, DJ legends of the scene were on the decks and as expected the crowd was more than up for it!

Check out the full gallery below!

After more social shots? Head on over the Soulbridge media Facebook page!

Slight change of pace the other week with vintage bangers of a different kind thanks to Forever Gold. Check out the highlights below!

Times have been tough for everyone lately with so much unpredictability but its reassuring there’s always the beacon of hope in the form of Candee Flip! A haven where you can cast your mind and feet back to a time where the biggest concern was what song will be played next!
The CF crew have laid claim and fully settled into their new venue at Lala Land with the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor rooms and atmosphere. Even better is they’re locking in three gigs a year now so we only need to wait till Jan 15 for the next one! 😀

Till then, check out the extended highlight photos below and pop over to the soulbridge media facebook page for more socials 😀
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Oi Racecourse markets

There are several large markets around Tokyo though depending on time of year, day and location, they can be cancelled with little notice so its always good to have alternative options up your sleeve. A lesser known one but one of the biggest is held in the car park of the Oi Racecourse.

Getting there: there is a direct line from Tokyo station to Tachiaigawa station. After that, its about a 15min walk.

From the station there are small lanes with a scattering of quaint shops which lead out to major roads where its easy to follow the trickle of people coming and going from the venue.

The carpark is mostly covered which makes it far more pleasant during the sweltering July heat. For those from Brisbane, I liken them to the Rocklea markets due to the vendors covering both end of the markets scale from small businesses with quality products and marketing to the Marie Kondo mum that grabbed the junk drawers and the kids toy box and poured them on to a tarp. Due to this wide variety, there are bargains to be had and there is a lot of stuff you simply wont normally see about.



Travel tip: while quite large its still possible to cover the whole venue in an hour or 2 walking at a slow amble even with a modest sized crowd
Travel tip: food and toilets are on site

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Meguro Mipig Café

There wasn’t much we wanted to see in the Shinagawa area but to make the trip to the markets worthwhile we chose to take a slight detour to Meguro for the Mipig café on the way back. If you weren’t planning on venturing out that way, don’t fret, there are several mipig locations across Tokyo (:

Getting there: From Tachiaigawa station, change at Oimachi station then on to Meguro station or you could easily make the trip via Shibuya station if you’re coming from any other direction. From Meguro station it’s a direct route along Meguro dori Ave. however due to a couple steepish hills, the walk can feel a lot longer even though its under 2km. Being on a major road, there are however frequent buses if you want to save time and effort.

The Meguro location is a small two level store with reception area downstairs and the petting room upstairs via a small narrow staircase.

Travel tip: you must purchase a beverage on top of the session fee. Your order is taken once you’re seated.

Most people sit on the floor as chairs are limited, after the drinks are delivered the pigs are released and are free to roam the room. Don’t worry if they don’t initially come to you, the handlers will lead them to everyone for a chance to pet and hold at least one. The pigs are very tame, friendly and inquisitive but they are still pigs with hooves so take care if you have any exposed skin.



Travel tip: there is no food for the pigs, you can not feed them and you must remain seated for the session.

What a treat for us ‘flippers this year, we get the first ever winter edition of Candee Flip! Not quite the same as stumbling out of the 35C+ Arena into a 10C pneumonia inducing night but cool enough to sport a good ol fashion track jacket comfortably and in a new venue at La La Land! Was it the best one yet? You bet your sweet phatties it was! Even better, we don’t have anywhere near as long to wait till the next one 😀

Check out the extended highlights below and head on over to the Candee Flip Facebook page for more.

Ahh 2019 BC, the before times, Before Covid. If we knew that year was going to be the last time we could travel overseas for a few years we probably would’ve made it more of a special occasion, but as things would have it, we were lucky to even get away for the short time we did, but I think you’ll agree 5 days in Japan is better than no days!

With time against us, we chose to minimise lengthy travel and kept activities mostly to central Tokyo, setting up camp at the APA Hotel in Akiba. The short walk to the Akiba station took us past curry and ramen restaurants, a bakery and 2 conveniences stores. Couldn’t have asked for more ….except maybe for better weather!

As this was a quick visit with several rehashed stops from previous trips, the dialog in these blog entries will also be brief but there will still be plenty of piccies!

Travel tip: as always, look at the multi-day pass for JR rail options to save money on transport

Asakusa
Not sure how we’ve missed it in our previous trips, especially when we were at the Tokyo Skytree just across the river on the one prior, but apparently Asakusa is quite the tourist spot and its not hard to see why. It has the perfect tourist blend of site seeing starting with the 1000+yo Kaminari gate at the entrance to the Sensoji temple and other shrines, and souvenir shopping with Nakamise street, an outdoor market style set up of small shops and eateries leading to the temple. There is also a closed in mall on your way to Nakamise in the same vein as many others where its just one long mall with high glass ceilings. The stores here are less touristy and cover the usual, electronics, clothing and health varieties, there are also several restaurants.

Travel tip: check the events calendars, especially around spring, for food, music, traditional and shrine festivals

Asakusa is also home to Sanrio Gift Gate for more kawaii Hello Kitty and friends merch than you can wave two peace signs at. The store is only a couple minutes’ walk from Asakusa station and sells Asakusa specific items and other exclusives not found at other Sanrio stores.

Travel tip: allergy sufferers beware! There’s A LOT of incense and ceremonial burning at the shrines

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Odaiba
No Tokyo stop is complete without the obligatory visit to Odaiba, be it for the shopping, the mega ferris wheel, games arenas and now, Teamlabs Borderless (more on that later). Depending on the time of year there’s usually some sort of installation or lighting display along the walk paths and green spaces around the major hubs. Aqua City hides the illusive Statue of Liberty replica (and an official GShock store 😉 ). Diver city and Venus Fort/palette town are also worthy stops for shopping and games, Venus fort especially if you have a hankerin for outlet discounts. The huge Toyota city building is always interesting with its future tech, concept displays and race memorabilia.

Travel tip: If you arrive via Aomi station, exit towards the water to take in the sea breeze and ocean view off the palette town pier.

Travel tip: Regular JR passes or other discount passes aren’t valid on the Yurikamome line. The JR Tokyo Wide pass will at least get on to the island with the Rinkai line stopping at Tokyo Teleport station. If you plan on seeing more of Odaiba, there is an unlimited day pass option, purchasable at any stop on Odaiba.

As night falls, the full size Gundam comes alive with half hourly light, sound and (partial) movement shows. If, like us, your last trip was before 2017, you may notice he’s looking a bit different, that’s because it’s a WHOLE NEW ROBOT! Its now a RX-0 Gundam Unicorn which replaces the old RX-78-2 who has found a new home at Yokohoma and gotten a pretty huge upgrade(!). The new guy still lights up and transforms his head during the shows and is still one of the coolest landmarks in Tokyo.

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Teamlab Borderless
This exhibition initially started out as a short run event but it proved so popular that its still going many years later and rightly so. Put simply, its digital art projected on to installations but with such a vast lay out, evolving imagery and no maps it quickly becomes very immersive. The pics only tell part of the story as its hard to depict scale or capture the ebb and flow of each of the MANY rooms. Stand outs would definitely be the floating lanterns and the waterfall.

The exhibit boasts a rotation of displays not just over each moment but also over different days and seasons.

Travel tip: Budget at least a few hours, some exhibits like the floating lanterns require lining up and have a time limit so you might need a couple tries to get that perfect photo.

Travel tip: hours are slightly less than other museums (around 11-5pm) and tickets are not available for purchase at the venue, they need to be purchased via the website.

Photo tip: a lot of the rooms are quite large and some are maze like, between other visitors and restrictive installations, shooting space can be quite limited so an ultra wide angle lens is a wise choice. Being one big light show, its pitch black darkness in most rooms and some of the images move fast enough to trip up a slow shutter compensation so be prepared to push the ISO. Of course a tripod would be ideal but they are prohibited, if you have been out and about with one, you will be asked to store it in one of the paid lockers along with all medium to large size bags.

We’ve seen our fair share of zoos around the world, but with the kidlets in tow this time, we opted for something a little different in the way of Willowbank Wildlife reserve.

Its broken up into 3 sections:
Zoo/exotic – animals from other countries, mostly smaller creatures. You wont find big game, elephants or tigers but you will see tortoises, lemurs and capuchins.

NZ natives – mostly popular birdlife, including the destroyer of windscreen wipers and way too friendly Kakas (yes, they will have no problem landing on you to get a closer look at jewellery or food!) and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the very illusive kiwis

Farmyard – this was definitely a highlight for the little ones with a hands on free-feeding (feed for sale at the entrance). Alpacas, donkeys, kune kune pigs, rabbits, ducks and peacocks are all very friendly and tame.

The layout of the reserve for the most part has a very natural feel which adds to the ambience of roaming with the animals.

Travel tip: budget about 3hrs depending on your kids attention spans and your walking pace


New Brighton Beach

The beach is probably a less than ideal travel stop to make in winter (that ocean “breeze” is quite unforgiving!) but at only 15min from the CBD it was worth it for the impressive jetty alone. The beach also sits near a group of shops and eateries so if the weather suits, it would be worthy of an afternoon outing for a swim or picnic.

That brings us to the end of our truncated NZ trip, we weren’t planning a follow up visit any time soon, however with the current pandemic and potential travel bubbles/restrictions, the north island could be on the itinerary, but before that, in 2019 we did a quick dash over to our second home, yep, you guess it, Japan! Stay tuned for those highlights!

If it has wheels, wings or will send you broke the National Toy and Transport Museum probably has it. The museum sits just outside Wanaka and is housed across several large buildings and hangars and is easily the biggest collection of collections we’ve seen in our many travels. On cars alone it dwarfs LA’s Peterson’s Automotive museum in quantity and variety but it doesn’t stop there, there are all manner of toys, vintage and modern, quirky hand built machines and planes… and a tank. Some sections are grouped into type (eg. Trucks) and sub type (eg. Fire trucks) while other items seemed to have been added where ever there was space at the time, which ends up being like a little easter egg hunt, for example, finding a random slot machine wedged between two trucks.

Even if you’re not overly interested in toys or vehicles, there’s just so much there, its hard to look away and just when you think you can, something else catches your eye, so the easiest way to narrate the day would be a photo dump. Enjoy!

Travel tip: we were there on a week day, early afternoon, numbers were very low and it was a breeze to move between sections and spend a few extra minutes getting an unobstructed photo. However, with some of the spaces being a little cramped eg. Between toy displays and aisles of cars it could get a bit squishy during school holidays or if you bumped into a couple school excursions.

Next up, we wind down this NZ trip with a day at Willowbank Zoo and New Brighton Beach.

Queenstown

We chose to stay at the Queenstown Holiday Park – Creeksyde, it was the closest and best value/rated of the inner town spots suitable for motorhomes. At a bit over 1km from the town center it was an easy stroll in to the shops, restaurants and markets. There’s also a supermarket just around the corner to save carrying groceries all the way back from town but if you want better choice and prices head to Pak n Save or Countdown (NZ version of Woolies) just outside of town.

Queenstown had certainly changed a lot since we were last there 11 years ago. Gentrification and the hipster artisan movement is alive and well, though the benefit of that is there’s plenty of burger and beer options. Retail options in general were more in line with a large town than a blip on the map. Sadly the Pizza Hut restaurant was no more, though it seems this may have disappeared not long after we left the last time! )-,:

Travel tip: the Queenstown arts and crafts markets are on every Saturday at Earnslaw Park (walk towards the lake, once you hit the Bay beach follow it along to your right)

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Wanaka

At the half way point of our trip we splurged on a cabin to stretch out a bit, its amazing how even a small cabin can feel spacious after about a week in a camper!

We chose to stay at the Wanaka Lakeview holiday park a short walk to the lake, slightly longer to the famous Wanaka Tree and into the town center. The tree being the attraction it is, was of course a bit of a jostle to get a good shot at sunset regardless if you got there early. Even on a day with a lackluster sunset it was a battle of tripods and people walking into your shot.

Photo tip: try a longer lens so you can sit further down the line and wear waterproof boots or go shoeless (probably not a good idea in winter!) to set your tripod up further in the water. You may also have better odds with a sunrise especially during the cooler months

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Cardrona Snow Farm

Wanaka is a good jump off point for the Cardrona Snow Farm especially if you’re using the shuttle service. With the bad luck and pain we had last time with putting snow chains onto a motorhome and questionable weather looming, we opted to be chauffeured for the day. Only draw back was not being about to stop at some of the look out spots on the way up the mountain. The winding road was mostly slow going so its still possible to get some phone photos through the windows.

I don’t know about other ski locations but the Snow Farm covers a big variety with everything from a snow fun zone for the kids, to snow shoeing, cross country skiing and even dog sledding. With the kidlets in tow, the fun zone was our speed, though even then it was a tough sell with only one kid seeing snow once before and neither being fond of the cold or snow! They did however warm up to the tubing after a few clenched runs.

Travel tip: if you’re planning on bringing little ones, it would be most wise to invest in some snow pants and boots or at the very least rain pants and gum boots.

If you need a break or are simply over falling over for the millionth time, remember you are in the southern alps! The view is amazing which ever way you look but the weather is very unpredictable and can change at the drop of a mitten, so keep your camera and or clothing layers handy.

Next up we make a stop at the National Toy and Transport museum! 😀

It had been about 11 years since our first amazing adventure to New Zealand where we threw caution to the wind, jumped into a camper and toured the better part of the south island. Needless to say, expectations and eagerness were high to do it all again but you know that thing about best laid plans and ol mate Darwin? Yes, well, they had other ideas.

Losing the first day to camper hire company woes then the whole second week of activities on the west coast to cyclonic winds were a definite set back, battling 100kph winds in a big ol mobile home was not something we wanted to experience, the 60kph ones heading towards Queenstown were bad enough! That aside, with 24/7 access to a kettle and a toilet, the open road was still our oyster.

The country itself certainly never disappoints so rambling text in these entries will be slim but there will, of course, be plenty of photos!

Geraldine
First night we stayed at The Farmyard holiday park in Geraldine. Unbeknownst to us on our previous trip, these working farm holiday parks are easy to come by and are great when travelling with little ones. (Oh, I forget to mention, the biggest difference from the last trip is this time we have two extra little humans in tow!). These farms of course have a bunch of tame animals you can hand feed. We grabbed a couple bags of feed from reception (couple bucks each) and quickly made friends with the locals. Llamas, donkeys and rabbits were a big hit, there were also some rather pushy little pigs and chickens all too eager to nab stray pellets.

Lake Tekapo
We chose to stay at the Lake Tekapo Motel and Holiday park purely for its location, which was pretty much right on the lake (and just down the road from Tekapo Springs ice skating rink). A mere ~100m to have water lapping at my feet was perfect for the pre-dawn struggle to get some sunrise photos.

Thankfully the early rise was worth the effort with the sky turning it on with some beautiful colours and cloud formations.

Lake Tekapo is also home to the NZ dark sky project making it an ideal spot for some astro photography…on clear nights. Added to the “next time” list.

Tekapo Springs is a water, ice and snow park depending on the season, being winter we were keen to check out the snow tubing and the large outdoor ice skating rink. The line for the tubing was long and slow, so ice skating it was! While also quite busy, the wait was minimal.

Travel tip: they do package deals for their attractions

Travel tip: on the way out of Tekapo Springs, stop at the little grocery store for one of the most scenic little flying foxes/ziplines next to the lake.

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