We stopped at Macca’s for brekky first and just had to try the maple syrup infused “waffle” bun McMuffin. Yep, every bit as sickly delicious as it sounds :p

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On the way back to Tokyo we finally caught a great view of Mt. Fuji through what seemed to be a large window at a station along the way…(couldnt believe my timing to catch a shinkansen in the shot as well! :p )

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Harajuku
Yoyoji Park

Not too happy about our other failed attempts at rummaging through a large flea market in Japan, this was our last chance. Weather was good, no forecast for rain, left Osaka early to try and beat the crowd… unfortunately the forecast said nothing about protesters! Not sure what they were on about but they were everywhere along with police and media. Foiled again. The park however was a nice consolation for a walk around and to take in some of the outrageously dressed people, dancers, artists and even a cardboard box town that looked like it was pieced together and built/painted on over many hours throughout the day.

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The park in itself is huge so even though it gets rather busy there’s always a nice quiet spot away from all the action.

Disappointed once again, there was only one thing left to do…. SHOP!

Takeshita Street and surrounds

We’ve covered Harajuku previously and you’d have to be researching the wrong country to have missed any mention of the place in reading up of Tokyo must-see’s so we’ll leave you with the knowledge that nothing much has changed… in the sense that everything changes all the time. They’ve spruced up the building fasades on Takeshita street and the major street that runs adjacent to it. Cat Street has also gotten a face lift and a few different shops have moved in. The best thing, most of our fave sneaker/streetwear stores have all moved together. Undefeated, Kicks Lab, Chapter, La Brea Avenue (and Supreme if you like extra hype with your purchases) are all within spitting distance of each other along with seizure inducing rainbow colour store 6% Dokidoki and Ninja Warrior champion sponsor – Rescue Squad. Also in the area, Nike Harajuku, the massive Harajuku Daiso and the irresistible Kiddyland.

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Shibuya

With Shibuya so close, its worth the walk to discover some new sights and places that you’d miss on the train, and that we did. We grabbed a bite to eat at Teddy’s Bigger Burger, a burger joint from our last destination, Hawaii with a guy serving that could only be classed as “quite the character”, which simply added to the great dining experience and tasty food :-‘9

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Continuing down Meiji Dori sees eye catching landmarks like the Audi Forum “crumpled glass” building, sneaker boutique, Atmos, familiar brands like DC, Burberry and local quirky tee store, Graphix. We also stumbled across a live graffiti art install outside a skate shop and swingin’ rockabilly greaser store, Temmye – Cream Soda on our way to our streetwear faves, KiksTYO and Santastic, then almost got caught in an interview with a lifestyle TV show at the Shibuya crossing.

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While we struck out completely with the markets this time, we at least added a few new “I’ll be back” spots to the list for future visits.

Next up we hit two of the biggest sights in Osaka, Osaka castle and the Umeda Sky building.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

02.25.2015

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If you’re looking for a day trip while staying in Osaka, Kyoto is an obvious choice being only about 30min away on a regular train or if you splurge for the shinkansen add-on for the JR pass it only takes 15min, in fact, you could easily spend a few days here but of course we were still whirlwinding and only had a day so we kept to a couple of the highlights.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Getting there:
Directly across the road from Inari station which is about a 5min ride from Kyoto station. The giant torii is hard to miss!

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We chose to check out probably one of the most well known Kyoto landmarks first, the shrine at Fushimi Inari-taisha as it, like many “nature” based sights, opened before anything else. The large shrine is located at the base of the mountain which is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and sake. Food and booze? Sounds like a top bloke 😉 From the shrine there is a few kilometers of walking track up the mountain through several thousand “torii” ie. the big orange arches. The path is mostly easy but with a modest 2 hour approximation to reach the top its best you budget the better part of the day, if however you have a crammed itinerary burning through your hidden waist pouch you can take a detour just before half way which leads to obstructed views of the city and paved paths through residential buildings and a couple little tucked away souvenir stores.

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Foxes, said to be messengers, feature heavily through out the main shrine and the smaller ones up the mountain path. What does the fox say? It says its time to get back to Kyoto station and catch a bus…

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Travel tip: being a mountain hike, make sure you wear suitable footwear unless you’re a fan of stubbed toes and rolled ankles! Exposed rocks and natural paths get very slick under the slightest bit of water so take it easy either way. A light weight spray jacket and some water wouldn’t go astray either.

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The Golden Temple
Ok so on the way to the Golden Temple we may have gotten off the bus a little too early, mainly because everyone else got off so instead we saw…

…The Silver Temple
Second place isnt that bad right? Well unless it’s a temple then its not really the same, especially after seeing photos of the Golden Temple before hand :( That said, it was still a nice stop with some picturesque scenery, a short wilderness walk, sand garden and coy/wishing pond. However if you want the first place, stay on the bus! Don’t get out at the first major stop where everyone gets off.

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Getting there:
Take bus numbers 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station to the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop…easier said than done since its difficult to see the name of the stops so this is where our help ends and you adventure begins! 😀

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Shopping on Shijo-dori
Here you get the best of both worlds, higher end stores with brands like Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Lauren on Shijo while a block away the Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Arcades run parallel to each other with stores along the lines of everyday items with a scattering of vintage clothing stores, “urban” stores and the odd store that sells only walking sticks! While not the shopping mecca for most tourists the unique items in some of the smaller boutiques is worthy enough for a “quick” (it goes on for awhile!) walk through.

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There is also a smaller street section dedicated to food markets called Nishiki Market adjacent to these with fresh food, produce and meat along with a bunch of eateries. At around 7-8pm we noticed they were all closing up so remember to get there a bit earlier if you’re after some grub.

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Getting there:
We chose to catch the train to Karasuma station and walk towards Kawaramachi station. Note: your JR pass is not accepted on most of the local lines here as they are privately run. You’ll also find a lot of the stations and maps at the ticket machines have no English so get acquainted with tracking train routes by colour and matching Japanese characters of the stops of your origin and destination.

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Next up, we make the most of our JR pass and catch an early shinkansen back to Tokyo in an attempt to attend at least one flea market, the mission, the large one at Yoyoji park in Harajuku.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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After finally getting to ditch our luggage at the Yaesu Fujiya hotel a couple blocks from Tokyo station, we once again had time against us as we rushed out to Gotemba, home to the Premium Outlets mall and the last day of “Golden Week”, a nation wide sale which only happens a couple times a year.

It’s a bit of a hike – made longer with the wait and change to local trains then a (free) shuttle bus before you actually get there.

Travel tip: budget about 2 hours (door to door) to be safe (should be less if you get the right connections) from Tokyo station. Once you get to Gotemba station, walk down the stairs and out to the car park, you’ll see a big sign for Premium Outlets with times for the shuttle bus, which runs about twice an hour. Remember to plan your return trip so you aren’t left stranded out in the sticks!

Travel tip: kill a bit of time at the small store which sold a bit of everything. Cool vintage cameras adorn the windows.

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The mall is very unassuming amongst the trees and mountains on the small roads leading to it. The complex is split across two sections divided by a scenic bridge and river (see first image). Two reasons why we chose to come out here, first, the Golden week sales – which were sadly disappointing, most stores had sales but nothing even close the the fire sale that’s hyped about online. The second reason was sadly also a little disappointing – to see Mt Fuji without having to go to it but thanks to the ever present haze it was completely invisible until just after sunset when its looming prescence was revealed as a silhouette.

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Travel tip: Mt Fuji is viewable from many spots around the mall and from the shinkansen travelling between Osaka and Tokyo, however its most likely to be shrowded in cloud and haze, but if you’re lucky, you might get it on a good day as seen here, photoed from the shinkansen by one of our friends, thanks Troy!

So, back to the shopping. First stop is the information booth to grab your travellers discount booklet which sports coupons for percent off or after purchase bonuses. Most excellently, these worked on top of the already reduced items. Golden Week may have let us down but these made up for it in a small way, especially at the Nike Outlet store, which was definitely a highlight and some of the best bargains we came across on the whole trip. However, being the first day we were reluctant to fill the suitcases so early on. Turns out that helped A LOT but let’s just say, next time we’re just going to bring an extra one 😉

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The rest of the stores are what you’d expect from the Premiun Outlet chain(and very similar to other branches around the world (re: Hawaii 2012)). Stand outs for us included Adidas (nice variety of stock and generously discounts); G Shock (a couple items were slightly reduced but nothing you couldn’t get online for a lot less); Bandai (all full RRP but the coupon helps a bit with the decision making, although we found quite a few items were cheaper outside of Tokyo – most noteably Den Den Town in Osaka); Lego and Sanrio are always fun to stop in, the former requiring just that bit longer with all their displays 😉 (see bonus photos below); Nikon– prices were like the G Shocks – cheaper online but it was nice to venture into a mothership, Reebok, Puma and The North Face are worthy of a quick look in as well.

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There’s also the swanky labels that put the premium in to “Premium Outlets” like Armani, Anna Sui, Burberry, Bvlgari, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Harrods, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Ralph Lauren but far out of reach for our modest wallets and tastes!

Finally, the foodcourt offers a nice variety of western and eastern eats and desserts covered mostly by local brands.
Note: it closes before the shops do so you may want to eat first if its coming towards the end of the day, but of course you can always count on Macca’s (off to the side of the complex) if you miss out!

Next we catch the Catbus to the Studio Ghibli museum!

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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For our final day, we wound things down starting with a relaxing drive out to Hanauma bay.

From Honolulu we took the Lunalilo Fwy to the Kalanianaole Hwy, it’s the most direct route and also runs through Kaimuki. Pretty much a blip on the map but it is home to Toys and Joys’ main store which if you had to make only one stop at a toy shop, this would probably be it. Prices were on the high side but the range and quantity of stock makes it a worthy stop for figures, games and RC gear along with the standard cutesy fair.

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A block or two away there’s also Gecko Books and Comics (surprisingly pretty much no web presence!) which would definitely be up there as Oahu’s most extensive range of comics. They also have an eclectic range of collectibles, toys and games.

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A few minutes down the road is the Kahala Mall. It’s a decent sized mall in a regional sense but nothing really of much note apart from Champs… and Pretzelmaker 😉

Onward along the Kalanianaole Hwy there are plenty of coves, boat ramps and sand bar lagoon areas, any of which would make a more than nice spot to stop for a cuppa, picnic or spot of sunning.

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You know you’re getting close to the entry to Hanauma Bay when the traffic grinds to a halt and you guessed it, you see paid parking. The parking is up the top at the lookout, which if you want to venture down to the beach is quite a hike but thankfully there are (paid) shuttle buses to spare your legs.

The beach itself is actually a private beach so you will have to pay to play. Going by recent reviews, it used to be the place to go to for amateur snorkelling but now (no thanks to its popularity) the natural reef is almost none existent till a lot further out. Closer in, they have tried to regrow sections by mounting coral to plastic frames, not quite the same ambiance.

For us the best spot was up on the lookout points. There are several around the top of the bay all with its own merits but the center point to fully take in the bay’s horse shoe shape was a clear stand out. Add it to your list of things to do before or after bumping shoulders with other greased up tourists down on the beach.

Photo tip: online reports mention its well worth your while getting there for a sun rise… but of course that would mean getting up early. No easy feat when you’re on island time!

You can pretty much continue along the highway to explore more of the coastline which gives way to specklings of hidden secluded beaches and sweeping golden sand.

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Diamondhead Crater
The crater is definitely one of the biggest landmarks on that side of the island. It’s clearly visible on take off or landing at HNL airport and always looming on the southern horizon. Its a short drive from Waikiki so it wouldn’t be a stretch to head out on a moped if that was your only mode of transport. The parking is, you guessed it, paid, $5 per car but this is entry to the park as well. You can avoid the fee by parking in the lower carpark but only if you’re prepared for a long uphill walk BEFORE you even get to the foot of the crater and you will still have to pay $1 per person if you arrive on foot.

The upper carpark is actually on the crater floor, here you’ll find restrooms, vending machines and the odd food truck. The hike to the lookout takes you up the inner wall of the crater to a south west point. If you’re reasonably fit and don’t dawdle it takes about 45min to get to the top (about 30min coming down).

Travel tip: Like any hike, make sure you have sturdy shoes, if you’re wearing heals, dressy shoes or thongs (flip flops) save yourself the blisters, stubbed toes, rolled ankles and whinging and just wait down the bottom. A fair portion of the track is very uneven with loose and jagged rocks, it would be even more treacherous in the wet. Depending on the time of day there is little to no shade so water and sunscreen is a also must.

Photo tip: There are a few places on the way up to take photos but they all pale in comparison once you reach the top. Save unpacking and repacking the slr till then.

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The “top” is actually one of a few large battlements which line the crater top. Being an outpost and early warning location for the USA you can just imagine the kind of artillery they would’ve had up here during the World Wars.

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The view to say the least is well worth the climb. You can see the whole breadth of the island from Waikiki and Honolulu in the west through the central mountain range to off shore islands in the east. Get there at the right time and you’ll even catch the scheduled afternoon rain shower rolling in and an obligatory rainbows.

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After some view savouring we took an alternate route and ventured down through the internal stairwell of the battlement, a little creepy but a lot cool. I’ll leave you to explore the area to find the entrance 😉

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For those that are a gluten for punishment or want the ultimate downhill mountain biking rush, there’s THAT “hill” nearby.

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And with that, another one of our adventures comes to a close further cementing our motto, overseas holidays are for doing stuff, relax when you get home!

ALOHA!

 

…and, Moshi moshi!
Yes I know its taken some time to get through these, more than a year again! Hopefully I’ll be able to find the time so you don’t need to wait as long for the next batch! Coming soon, Japan 2013! Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto – highlights include the Tokyo International Toy Expo, Studio Ghibli, the Ramen Museum, Universal Studios Japan, outlet malls and more toy shopping than you can poke a 1:1 scale Gundam at!!

 

As always, if you have any questions about our adventures or where to buy something, just hit us up on the Soulbridge Media facebook page.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

For most, the main reason to head over to the East coast aka the Windward shore is the Kualoa Ranch movie site tour, which is a famous location for movies such as Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates. While some of the off road activities are appealing, its essentially just rain forest and grass with a few pieces of memorabilia, a far cry from a working production set some may be hoping for. There are however, plenty of other things to see and do, along with kilometers of beaches fair less busy than those on the west coast.

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Nuuanu Pali lookout

On the way to the east coast via the winding forest roads of the cross country Pali Highway, take a quick stop at the Nuuanu Pali lookout. This will help you understand why they call it the Windward shore, windward being a severe understatement! Even on an otherwise quite warm day of mid to high 20s weather it was quite cold thanks to the wind chill factor dropping temps easily by 10-15C! Needless to say, a jacket is a must, ideally a softshell will give you the most comfort and protection.

The view however is worth a short bit of discomfort overlooking the valleys towards Kaneohe and the ocean.

There is no cost for entry but there is also no free parking for tourists (locals just need to show proof of residency). The $3 fee apparently has only come about in the last couple years, its a bit of a greedyy since there’s no facilities or anything else justifying the cost for a short 15-30min visit but worth it none the less.

If you have time to kill there is a hiking path leading down from the lookout point or to make a day of it, head to near by Manoa Falls. Just be warned that the falls aren’t really falls any more after a landslide a couple years back but terrain may have once again changed since this was written.

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Byodo-in Temple

The Byodo-in Temple is a little north of Kaneohe nestled in lush rolling foothills. It is a commemorative replica of the same temple in Japan and features Japanese gardens, bridge and koi pond with literally thousands of koi carp. The place also lays its claims to fame with appearances in Hawaii 5-0 and Lost.

The grounds aren’t overly big so you wont need more than an hour of slow strolling to cover it.

Entrance fee is $3 for adults but at least here you know that money is going to the maintenance of the grounds and not pocket lining!

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Windward mall
Image courtesy of Oahu Paradise Homes

Windward mall

On the way down to Sealife park the only major shopping stop is the Windward mall. While quite sizable, there is little variation in the stores and probably for the most part can be skipped over if you already hit the big centers on the west coast. One store however that made the stop more than worthy was Sears. Normally it falls into the “killing time” category for us with its Myer/David Jones assortment of stock but this particular store was more like an outlet version with almost everything on sale or at clearance prices. Brands and content read more like parts of a Karmaloop catalogue with Dickies, Southpole, Zoo York, Levis, Lee, Carhartt and a bunch of business attire basics undoubtedly from their incorporated chain, KMart. A great stop for the ladies as well with heavily discounted underwear and swimwear.

Oh, I lied when I said there was no reason to stop.. they have a Wetzel’s Pretzels 😉

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Sea Life Park

Sea Life Park made the list for two main reasons, swimming with the dolphins and the Chief’s Luau.

The almost obligatory claim to fame is 50 First Dates – seriously that movie is like a walking billboard for Tourism Hawaii! There were no penguins in Hawaiian shirts but the dolphin we swam with was in the movie! Real down to earth guy too, you wouldn’t pick it from the obnoxious character he plays on screen 😉

– Dolphin swimming
Want to mingle with celebrities? Well you know you gotta drop some coin to let them know how you roll! Luckily costs are available on their website and you don’t need to leave a Benjamin for the “help”. Take your swim wear, cos, you know, you’ll be swimming (more like wading and fighting the powerful currents stirred up from the dophin’s wake). There are a couple change room areas, there’s even one in the briefing area so you don’t have to arrive in your swim gear. The staff along with a short video will explain everything pretty clearly and there’s really not much else to it.

Travel tip: A note to those with piercings, you will be asked to remove them so if you have a face full of metal you may want to get a start on that before hand. Girls, if you have something like a belly button ring, wearing a one piece may help you avoid having to remove it, but they are very strict and rightly so to protect ocean friends.

Photo tip: since you cant take anything into the pool, let alone a camera, photos are taken by staff and sold at the usual exuberant theme park prices. The shots look like they’re taken on full auto, with no colour correction which leaves you looking a nice shade of sea sick green! So its best to get someone in your group that isn’t swimming to snap some shots for you (or maybe sweet talk a stranger into emailing some to you). Spectators are free to move around outside of the barrier so a good angle wont be too hard to find.

The rest of the park houses the usual aquatic life from small tanked fish and sea life to large compounds with seals and penguins.

If you purchased one of the value combo deals which includes the Chief’s Luau, its just a short walk from the gift shop. Those hip shaking good times are up next!

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As always, if you have any questions about our adventures or where to buy something, just hit us up on the Soulbridge Media facebook page.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

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Pearl Harbour

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Hawaii after beaches and luaus is a more sombre affair and the site of a battle that led to one of the most devastating retaliations in world history.

Not being anything close to history buffs (I haven’t even watched the whole movie in one sitting) we didn’t really know what to expect but like most historic places in America, it has been converted to cater for the masses similar to an amusement park, the main difference being you aren’t allowed to take in anything that can carry things. Any kind of bag (shopping/grocery included), backpack or case (including lenses cases) has to be checked in to the cloak room at a hefty $3 per item (small building off to the right of the main entry gates). Bottles or cans of liquid are also out, so where possible, best to just leave it in the car/hotel.

Once inside, its quickly noticeable that it is far from a joyous place, I don’t mean the mass of screaming kids running around, I mean bottom line, it’s a memorial, a place where people go to honour family members and comrades. Seeing a solider in uniform huddled around his sobbing family and an old veteran facing the ocean with his head bowed quashed my excitement of “checking out cool war stuff” and made me remember where I was. I don’t know how the photojornos from the likes of Nikon Walkley Press Photo awards can do it – detach themselves from an environment of sadness or suffering. Drunken revellers are easy to ignore but I definitely cant bring myself to vulture over such moments or try to share such a moment that wasn’t mine to share, so out of respect, I holstered the camera around these parts of the grounds.

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The solemn disposition of this nature aside, the lead attractions – the USS Missouri, the Bowfin submarine and a ferry out to the USS Arizona memorial above the sunken wreck of the battleship of the same name were as expected, very busy, so we decided to forgo the “rides” and just take a semi-peaceful walk around the grounds to view some of the memorials and relics instead.

Travel tip: Tickets for the attractions can be pre booked directly through the National Parks Services

There is a large gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise, from historic photos, medals and models to tacky patriotic fan fare.

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Travel tip: Even if you do the “rides”, you only really need to budget a couple hours here. If you’ve got extra time to kill, you can make the trip over to Ford Island via shuttle bus for the Aviation museum and Missouri battleship memorial. Time it on the right day and you’ll be able to bare witness to one of the many air shows hosted there.

The center opens early at 7pm daily which is handy in planning multiple stops for the day, one of which could be a spot of shopping…

Shopping – Aiea

The pearl (*cough* sorry…) for shopping in this area is the Pearlridge center, second only to Ala Moana in size but its fully undercover and has a monorail (yes that’s right my Hindu friend!) that connects its two halves, sure beats walking!

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Divided into “uptown” and “downtown” sections our choice amongst the stores were Hot Topic, Champs, Footlocker, Footaction, In Soles, In4mation, Journeys and the Sanrio café, but the store we spent the most time in was Razor Concepts/Razor Sports. A combination of sporting memorabilia and clothing on one side and a wide selection of toy, hobby, games and collectibles on the other. Prices were average to good and sale items were plentiful. Large display cases with “not for sale” items also adorned the stores with vintage collectibles and prestige memorabilia such as an autographed pair of Shaquille O’Neal’s monster size 22 Reeboks!

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A couple other spots in the area are Toys n Joys (actual domain has been closed and taken over by another company) – this is the smaller of their stores stocking more paintball guns and Airsoft replicas than anything else and The Hobby Company – tucked away amongst rows of industrial and commercial buildings and businesses this place has a good size selection of scale model kits and other hobby related items.

Aiea is also home to the largest 2 flea market/swap meets on the island, which we will be getting to later.

Shopping – Waipahu

If you’re coming from Honolulu it’s a bit of a hike but its only a short drive from Pearl City. The highlight and pretty much the only sight amongst all the residential housing is the Waikele Premium outlets.

We’ve come across Premium outlets a few times in our travels and they rarely disappoint…mainly because there’s a Nike outlet store 😉 but sadly there wasn’t one here. From research there possibly used to be one but not anymore. That left Adidas, Vans and “Factory brand shoes” to pick up the failed attempt at a bargain for us, you however may have better luck with the other stores on hand.

The plus side is they’re open till 9pm every night except for Sunday so heading there after dark will give you a more relaxed experience as the place is pretty quiet then.

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Over the road at the Waikele Centre there’s a Kmart, Old Navy and Sports Authority and a bunch of places for a bite to eat. Amongst the regular fast food places there’s our first day friends, Chili’s Bar and Grill and a Korean BBQ but it was Genki Sushi with its angry little logo that drew us like moths to a flame. Slotting us in just before closing time gives them an extra thumbs up!

Next up, we get thrifty and hit up the swapmeets.

If you have any questions about our adventures, feel free to hit us up on facebook.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Ward Warehouse map

The Ward Warehouse/Center

Well just as I was about to write this blog I realised I don’t actually have any photos of these next couple shopping stops! A picture is worth a thousands words but not wanting to bore you with a novel of compensation, I’ll cut to the chase and keep this one nice and short.

A (big) block away from the Ala Moana Shopping Center along Ala Moana Blvd is The Ward Warehouse/Center. It boasts quite a selection of stores across a large area (more so, a conglomeration of a few smaller shopping centers) with single level open air and covered sections but the whole time I couldn’t help but to think this -was- the place to be before the Ala Moana Shopping Center came along. It just has that poorer cousin/ghost town feel. None the less, if you got the time its worthy of a look through.

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Big brand names like Quicksilver, T&C Surf (yep, still alive and kicking over there!), Sports Authority, Famous Footwear and Office Depot are there along with a cinema complex. Happy Haleiwa are there for a selection of kawaii related clothing and gift items. Other collectibles, toys, hobby bits and comics are catered for by Other Realms.

If you managed to get addicted to the Honolulu Cookie Company cookies, breathe a sigh of relief, they have a store here too for that sweet shortbread fix.

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A short drive north on the North Nimitz Hwy is Best Buy, prepare to keel over if you’re looking at a price on an Ethernet cable! Heart attacks aside, the place that sparked our interest here is Armchair Adventurer, sad but fitting name for hobbyists and game players everywhere. Rather unassuming on the outside with its mirrored glass, the store door opens (barely) to pancake rock stack like formations or figures and model kits. Shelves are crammed in a rough order but it seems new stock just ends up piled in front of it. Most of the model kits were military related but there were still a good selection of cars and fictional vehicles/space craft. There’s a corner of plush toys and designer collectibles but the real focus seemed to be on War Hammer and Dungeons and Dragons style games with a whole (clear)area and table set aside for it. (There’s a note on the website saying they are doing a big tidy up and moving some of the towering law suits and expanding into previously unused space)

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Speaking of board/card games, if this is your cup of tea, it wouldn’t hurt for you to drop into nearby Toy Lynx in the Dole Cannery Shopping center. Get there at the right time and you’ll be immersed in one of their regular meet ups. They also have a small selection of Kidrobot and similar collectibles.

Lastly, across the road from the Armchair Adventurer is UIC outlet, one of the few places in Hawaii that stocks a decent selection of Dickies gear. It definitely has a thrift store feel, I’m certain I’ve been in the exact same store but it has “Lifeline” on the sign at the front but thanks to their range its worth a look if you’re after pants or a jacket (or scrubs). The prices aren’t too bad, cheaper in the states of course though. There’s also a small range of New Era knock offs and gawdish plastic “bling” if that tickles your fancy…

We also managed to leg it up to the Premium Outlets at Waikele this same day so keep an eye out for that in the Pearl City shopping review.

Next up, we head to the Honolulu Museum of Arts for the “Tattoo Honolulu” and The History of Board Shorts art exhibits.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Ala Moana Shopping Centre

If shopping is low on your list of priorities but you still want to venture out then Ala Moana is the one stop you should make, if you’re a shopaholic then it’s a good first stop to gauge prices and what’s available. Even better, it opens early and closes late.

The short of it, the place is huge. A mostly open aired multi-storey arrangement is home to nearly 300 stores so you’ll need a good couple hours even if you are moving at a moderate pace. In list form our picks of the bunch would be:

Animation Addict
– A good place to start if you’re after Hello Kitty, Tokidoki or Angry Birds. They also have a good selection of Domo and the more popular items like Pop! Vinyl collectibles and Marvel merch. While most items are readily available just about everywhere, there were a few gems like a limited edtion Hello Kitty x Wish Come True collab bag. You know its scarce when even the staff at the Sanrio store have never seen one before!

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Magic – An alterntive to Animation Addict quite possibly own by the same mob as the stock was very similar
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Pac Sun – Local surf and skate store. Generous mix of designer and run of the mill wear with a few things on sale.
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Crazy shirts
– A Hawaii staple for tees. Its where you go if you want a souvenir shirt that isn’t from an ABC store. Shirts are good quality with a variety of themes, mostly surf/native based however the bump in price ($15-40) may have you heading back to the markets for a 5 for $20 deal.

Lego store – Doesn’t matter where we are in the world, if there’s a Lego store close by, we’re stopping in! This one had a nice bunch of dioramas built around different themes, the half size R2D2 and very large Star Wars star destroyer in the window were quite impressive. An instant souvenir was the minifig’ and Lego tag “I <3 Hawaii" keyring, shame these weren't available in other cities we've been to. [caption id="attachment_2882" align="alignnone" width="550"]Lego Store Lego Store[/caption]

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And of course you cant go past the American shopping mall staples – Champs, Footlocker, Hot Topic, Lids, Vans, Journeys, local surf/ski store Local Motion and cutesy overload is never too far away with Sanrio which seems to have signed a deal with the whole state as it and its associated local related merchandise is everywhere, they’re even in ABC stores! Just try to hold back a “nawwww” when you see a brown Hello Kitty in a grass skirt, its impossible! @~@

Pit stop time, roll out the pretzels! Unfortunately without a Wetzel‘s in sight we had to settle for Pretzelmaker. Not quite the same but tasty nonetheless (and still a damn sight better than anything on the streets of NYC! Yes, I realise using anything “from the streets of NYC” as a benchmark is a lazy and bias comparison :p)

One of the best things about Ala Moana is, it is central to a lot of other shops and eating spots, even better if you’re on foot, they’re all near each other and all buses lead to “Rome”.

Head out towards Nordstrom and you’ll come across three of Hawaii’s premium streetwear and sneaker boutique stores Kicks Hawaii, Noteworthy and Fitted all within a short distance of each other.

Kicks Hawaii (or KICKS HI – I know, sounds like a chorus line in Can can mode) – Is your one stop shop for sneakers and streetwear, very much in the vein of Kicks Tokyo, Undefeated and Dave’s Quality Meats. Prices are what you’d expect from such places but with limited edition prints and stock that wasn’t available on the website its a worthy tax for the “souvenir for someone who hates souvenirs”. I even spotted an unreleased ACG sneaker behind the counter which looked like a Terra Humara with “Powerlines”. Speaking to the owner it turns out we were both fans of rugged ACG’s but being a sample he quickly rejected my request to buy it :p Not being released for at least another six months didn’t help my case either!

They also regularly come by plenty of Quickstrikes so if you’re in the area for more than a week, it might be worth a return visit. You can keep up to date with their blog here.

Noteworthy – Is quite the illusive store if you’re on the same block as the store. It’s actually on the second level with access up an old flight of stairs behind the shop fronts, which you can only really see if you’re on the other side of the road. These guys are more along the lines of higher end street fashion. If you’ve ever had a penchant for $100 flannies, pants with the bottoms rolled past your ankles or have ever been referred to as a hipster then this is the place for you. Prices were well in the “you’re kiddin’ right?” range but they did have plenty of items heavily reduced on sale to help minimise that instant buyers’ remorse feeling.

Noteworthy

Noteworthy



Fitted
– Very much like Lids but swap the run of the mill colours and teams for limited edition colours and exclusive branded designs along with their in house branding. Staff were very friendly and helpful, they even went to the extent of cracking open new, yet to be released stock a couple months early for me. Easy decision then 😉
Fitted

Fitted

Crooks and Castles is also in the area, a couple doors down from Noteworthy in all of its clinic white glory but very same-same stock. We recommend sticking to online dealers like Karmaloop where this brand is always on sale.

A couple other mentions in the area are Walmart – come on, you’re in the ‘States, its pretty much a tourist attraction even if its just for “The people of Walmart“. It’s also a good stop if you’re after some cheap clothing/beach wear basics.

Morning glory
is just across the road, yep, the one and the same that used to be in almost every shopping centre around Brisbane and the original cutesy Asian toy and knick knack chain. If you’re after plushes or stationary along these lines then it doesn’t disappoint – a huge range of items from little phone trinkets right up to bean bag sized Totoros.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

..And with that, we’ll hit the pause button on this epic day of deep tissue retail therapy and insert a day volcano hunting at the biggest island in Hawaii’s chain of island, aptly called… The Big Island.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

05.08.2013
Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Having Chilli’s Bar and Grill on the ground floor of our hotel was one way to welcome us back to American food culture, tantalisingly delish but instantly regrettable. Luckily there was plenty of walking to be had around our new temporary home to help move along the couple pounds of meat, cheese and grease we had just ingested.

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Waikiki is pretty much the Oahu equivalent of Surfers Paradise, ie. tourist central, but its not all bad! Street botherers and slow moving path blocking groups aside, between the scores of hotels there is a generous speckling of retail shops and eateries. Kuhio Ave is a good place to start with the Waikiki town center, Kings Village shopping center, Royal Hawaiian center. Here you’ll find almost any souvenir you can imagine with the usual excessive over redundancy of content and shops in tourist hot spots but it is still worth a look-through as some stores will stock different designs, colours or styles. The fixed shops make way for open air markets and mobile stalls in surrounding lanes and streets, thankfully very few are pushy with their sales.

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The Royal Hawaiian is where the branded shopping begins with high end names like Fendi, Hermes, Bvlgari and even a Ferrari store but the one we were most interested in was Zumies – the token skate, surf, snow, moto-x store. They actually had quite the range of stock and brands, even a small section of Undefeated along with a bunch of sale items, always a good sign (:
Downstairs, it wouldn’t hurt your taste buds to pop into the Honolulu Cookie Company and try a few samples of their gourmet shortbread cookies.

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Out on the streets you’ll find a couple 88 tees stores – kind of a designer vintage tee store dressed up like a rubbishy clearance store where shirts are in piles on large tables and in pigeon holes. There were some cool designs but prices were quite expensive for what they were (starting around $20). They did however have some other random items like old Hawaiian and American licence plates which were great for a slightly quirky souvenir (:

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Alot of the high end stores made use of their massive store fronts for some intriguing art exhibits.

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Finally, if by some chance you were walking around with your eyes closed, you may not have noticed that there’s quite literally an ABC store on every corner (not be mistaken with the Japanese Footlocker equivalent). Basically your one stop shop for souvenirs, convenience items and last minute life saving.

Next up, we take our best shot contracting mall dementia by running the gauntlet of the major shopping centres on the west coast… all in one day!

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Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Shopping in Beijing… where to start? No, seriously, where do you start?? There are scores of huge multi-level shopping centres which pretty much fall into two categories, high end dedicated brand name stores and haggle city, home of knock offs, repetition and de ja vue. Having shopped till we almost dropped (well at least to the point where we were shipping box loads of stuff home from San Fran and London), our enthusiasm to battle the crowds was waning but we still managed a few stops and a couple last minute items to toy with out luggage limit.

Wang Fu Jing Da Jie

Downtown

A good place to start is downtown Beijing (Dongcheng), an open air, sealed off road style shopping/business center on Wang Fu Jing Da Jie (crossroad : Jinyu Hutong). Nearest metro is Dengshikou, under 1km away or a similar distance from the Forbidden City (depending on which exit you take). Hesitant or cultural shocked shoppers will find this a nice way to ease into it, nothing like the Golden Arches or the Colonel to set your mind at ease no matter where you are in the world 😉 The northern end houses a fair selection of branded watch stores included Omega, Tagheuer , Rolex, our G Shock friends and plenty of glasses/optometrist stores. Nike Beijing is also there, mostly along the athletic side of things with only the latest stock so you wont find any rare releases or streetwear related items but there is a Nike iD upstairs. The store sits in a multi level mall with a run of the usual random clothing and electronics stores, there are however some notable boutique stores sporting some designer Kidrobot, anime, kawaii style gear, like Devil Nut, unfortunately they had the prices to match. There’s also a smallish Adidas store, good for a couple regional tees.

Nike Beijing

Nike iD

Devil Nut

On the southern end of Wang Fu Jing you’ll find another shopping mall – Haoyou World and a bunch of eating places, most notably the famous Wang Fu Jing snack street, great for a plethora of variety but you will have to haggle for your dinner if you want it at a reasonable price or you could take the easy route and go with Yoshinoya.

There are also a small scattering of boutique street wear stores in the surrounding blocks like this Eternal store stocking Nike SB and other skate related brands and products but as with many of these shops, they come and go so be sure to do your research before hand and potentially save yourself a hike.

Eternal

…where you can buy members of the Wu-Tang clan…

Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market)

If you’re out visiting the Temple of Heaven then this “market” is only a couple hundred meters north of the East Gate exit (just up from Tiantandongmen metro stop). The Pearl Market used to be THE place for knock off goods but after getting hammered by the license holders and having building management crack down… its still pretty much the place for knock off goods!

Even though the name suggests its only pearls and jewellery, these are mostly secluded to the top 2 floors, but a bargain (on the real deal) can still be had if you know what you’re looking at/for.

The lower three floors are made up of side by side market stall set up. Most with glass display counters so its more like a department store than a flea market.

Level 1 – Mostly electronics – cameras, mp3 players, storage media, watches, audio/visual. Beats Audio headphones for $40AU? No thanks, even with the pleas from the sales person as “real deal, good buy”. While there were quite a few stores selling DSLR equipment I was still skeptical to the quality as there was just no way of telling if they were warranty repairs or QC failed grade. There were also some silk items and underwear stores mixed randomly between the other stores.

Level 2 – Clothing, shoes, handbags, travel goods – this is where things get tough. Once upon a time I think alot of broke kids much like myself would’ve just been happy to have the brand logo, if it had the same cut/style/distinct features that was a bonus, but I guess as you get older (and have more disposable income) you get choosier and you also buy products for their technology/features/build quality. So the dilemma quickly becomes apparent, that North Face jacket says it has Goretex, looks and feels like it, even has the tags but do I really want to find out in the middle of a downpour far from cover that it isnt waterproof? The sneakers however were a lot easier thanks to my trained eye and a bit of common sense. Jordan 1’s in unreleased colourways or limited edition from 5 years prior just sitting on a shelf at a market? You’re definitely right to be skeptical. Where things get difficult is with current run of the mill models. Being in the country that makes the genuine article means there are plenty of variants, which can even be authentic stock that followed a factory worker home or the more common “fell off the back of the truck” items. Where the seams start to come apart (pun!) are those that have the same equipment but cut corners with materials and quality control. So keep your wits about you, if its too good to be true then it usually is.

Level 3 – Traditional Chinese art, ornaments, vases etc. – Worthy stop for some souvenirs, just remember two things – 1. take note of the materials used in the items, remember AU customs isn’t going to look too kindly on that living bonsai pondscape complete with exotic goldfish (and if you do find something you think will be passable eg. Wooden vase, save yourself embarrassment and a possible fine, declare it) and 2. haggle haggle haggle.

Finally outside there’s good ol’ reliable Yoshinoya and to the right and behind is the Hong Qiao toy market, which I only found out about recently, how I missed this in my research I have no idea! Can someone go check it out or those that have been, tell me its crap so I don’t feel so bad? 😉

Photo tip – like alot of places that sell “unofficial” (re: fake) goods, the shop owners can be rather “private” (re: paranoid that you’re collecting evidence). I managed to get a short video (on a point n shoot) walking down one of the aisles before I was repeatedly beaten… with a rolled up brouchure. Admittedly moo-ing like a cow then asking about “copy watch” didn’t help my case so it’s best to keep photos to a minimum or feel the same wrath.

Hutongs

One of the other bonuses of staying at the Courtyard 7 was being pretty much in the middle of a lane of boutique stores and restaurants on S Luogu Alley, which you could easily liken to places like Bulimba or West End in Brisbane. Many stores stocked a random assortment of quality knick knacks, unusual souvenirs and designer kitch, a far cry from the generic over rehashing of comparative market stalls.

S Luogu Alley

Plastered 8

Vintage wind up toys

Places like Plastered 8 stocked designer tee’s, most with an Asian theme while “Vintage wind up toys” was exactly that, old metal wind up toys. Most were replicas but there were also some older antique items amongst general toys and oddball items. Hipsters will go nuts with Lomo camera gear offerings and of course you can’t leave China without some kind of panda paraphernalia.

Love Cupcakes

Tea houses, small bars and even gourmet cupcake stores follow the lane up to Gulou E St which becomes Jiaodaokou E St. (a major arterial road which leads to the nearest metro stop, Beixinqiao). Along here you’ll find the regular western fast food places with a few clothing and toy boutique stores, many with no names like this toy store, which was packed to the ceiling with figures and model kits while another sold giant plush poos. Good luck or not one managed to follow us home 😉 and with that, comes the conclusion of our 2011 round the world stint. A little slow in the recap but we got there in the end!

Coming soon, we’ll be reliving this year’s getaway from the land of Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, pineapples, coconuts and shave ice (no “d” 😉 )… HAWAII!

Beijing 2011 part #1 – Arrival + Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City
Beijing 2011 part #2 – The Great Wall – Mutianyu
Beijing 2011 part #3 – Beijing Zoo

Beijing photo gallery here
Beijing Zoo photo gallery here

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