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Aki’ba, THE geek mecca (and mecha!) of the world. We covered a few spots on our last visit but its one of those places that you can continually go back to and not only find something new every time but you’ll never cover all of it! It’s a bit hard to reference each store, especially when a lot of them don’t even seem to have any obvious naming (having rubbish Japanese reading skills doesn’t help!) but know that if you work your way north from the station keeping within a block or two of the main drag you cant go too wrong. The best part is uncovering hidden treasures in stores that, at first glance, don’t look like they’d have what youre looking for.

A couple of our fave stops include:
The Gundam Café – exactly what it says on the box. A café celebrating all that’s Gundam with Gundam referenced food and drinks and nifty décor. Also a good place to grab a couple café related souvenirs – mugs, biscuits etc. as well as a small selection of Gunpla. Next door is AKB48, the girl band, the theatre, the hourly shows. Sick of waiting years to see your fave act or missing them because they didn’t come to your city? AKB48 has you covered where you can go to them and see them play any day of the year and even in different parts of the country on the same day! How is this possible? Well having 48 members (now into the hundreds!) helps. Though if you’re not a tweenage girl or business man it may not be your cup of Miso.

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Mandarake – Big black building. Toys. Cosplay. Old, new. Lots. If you’ve read any of our posts about Japan previously, you’ll know how much we champion this place, go there.

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Gashapon store – A whole shop just for gashapon! While the thrill of the hunt is always fun, I’m finding I’m more inclined to just pay a slight premium to get the “discovered” pieces and either cherry pick or buy the whole collection that someone else has taken the time to collate. If this sounds like you as well, the rear of the store and upstairs has display cases and shelves full of the ones you’ve been chasing, didn’t know existed or have been out of production for years.

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Sega – There are plenty of multi storey gaming buildings but none stand out quite like Seee-gahh (cue sparkly shine). Many hours and thousands of Yen can be spent without blinking an eye. But of course if you cant master the “giant metal nail punching holes in the paper” or “push the pig through the bars” technique, there’s always the cop out of simply finding a store that stocks the prize you’re after and buying it 😉

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Super Potato – Wall to wall retro console gaming, even if you’re not after a cartridge or console there’s plenty of items that would make great wall/desktop display pieces.

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Robot Robot – Thankfully this was one of those times judging a shop by its name paid off! With no street frontage and only a sign to go by, it was always going to be a gamble but the trip up the elevator was worth it not just for Robot squared with its extensive range of Hot Toys style high end collector products with leanings towards horror movies and gore in general …and vagina-like monsters (why are they always vagina-like??)  but for the smaller accompanying stores on the same floor with a great selection of new and used toys and collectibles. Want to see a fair chunk of Coca Cola’s history as a yoyo? Yep, you see that here too!

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Of course there’s also the plethora of electronics stores like LAOX which really need no description, if it’s a new gadget, they’ll more than likely have it. Pricing is however average or slightly better with greater bargains to be had online but finding a JDM only model or colour can be worth it.

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We stumbled across a “Rollertarg” a bit further down so lunch was an easy choice :) continue walking and you will end up in Ueno. However, unlike last time the market gods were not kind to us and a lot of stores that we previously come across had moved on, though its always a good place to walk through, you’ll never know what you’ll find and the nearby park is more than worth the trip.

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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

Last weekend we popped down to the Kustom Krafts market on a sweltering 29C (for almost winter!) but beautiful day. If you like a spot of swing dancing, old cars or just about anything from or inspired by the 50s or 60s then this is the place for you! Check out their facebook page for details of their next event or if you’d like to man a stall yourself.

 

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Our coincidental timing had once again rewarded us with two events we didn’t know about but now would feel empty (metaphorically and physically) if we hadn’t of gone! A traditional cook off and an American hotrod car show!

Up in Smoke Cook Off

Travel tip: DO NOT go to one on a full belly, better yet, skip breakfast altogether. And if you don’t like meat, don’t fret, all is not lost….but you might wanna take a bag of rabbit food just in case 😉

So what’s a cook off? From a participants point of view, it’s a chance to show case your culinary skills and dazzle the general public and your competitors with your secret recipes and generations of passed down knowledge in a forum not too unlike a good ol fashioned “tailgating” commonly seen at American ball game (foot, base, basket etc) carparks around the country.
From a spectators view it’s a chance to sample any and all of these products without judgement, in fact it’s the opposite, since it’s a competition and you get to vote for your favourite, participants tend to be very friendly calling out to you to try “the best” and score your vote.

Due to the outdoor barbie nature of the Up in Smoke Cook off, cooking tends to lend itself to two 3 types of cooking, grilled, fried and spit roasted. If you’re asking for anything else then you probably should turn in your Man Card and walk away now, otherwise grab a toothpick or a custom cocktail skewer and dive on in!

With so many competitors on show and so much food available there really is no need to rush, they’ll all get their turn 😉 We’re hardly the “foodie” types, usually opting for value or quantity over quality but after just a handful of stalls we really began to notice the subtle differences between them, just keep an eye out for the spicy/chilli flavours if you cant handle the heat! 45min in and a couple rounds later our choice was unanimous, we both settle on #14 21”?? a bbq’d pork with a sweetish bbq saucing and light smoked flavour. The richness of the pork flavour with a hint of bacon from the crispier bits were the perfect balance, outstanding in its subtly. See what I mean? Instant connoisseur :p

Bellies teetering on “I don’t want eat pork every again” (till the follow day it turns out) we placed our votes and waddled over to the car show.

Nobody Cares Car Show

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Entering into its 3rd year the Nobody Cares Car Show (quite possibly the best name ever for a car show right!?) hosted more than just a couple cars of a certain type. The majority were hotrods and vintage variants but there were also newer drag racing cars, custom street and even the ever present mini monster trucks which seem to be a trend amongst the locals. Take a hilux, put a 4 foot lift kit and big ass tyres and you’re reading to high five big rig drivers!

There were even a couple motorbikes competing with the high gloss and chrome but essentially looking a bit out of place.

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Live entertainment was also on hand with local rockabilly and bluegrass style bands playing tunes to help you digest that belly full of regret.

Even if you’re not too interested in the cars, between the food sampling and live entertainment its still easy to spend a couple hours there.

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Complete No Body Cares Car Show gallery here

Next up, we head to the North shore for endless summer clichés 😉

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

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Bonus section – Hawaii High Rollin’ and Big Wheelin’

Some on the run snaps of the local (not so) mini monsters.

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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

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We were very excited to realise our travel dates coincided with this exhibition which incorporated two things that are very Hawaii, tattoos and board shorts!

Getting there
The Honolulu Museum of Arts is roughly between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki on S Beretania St which makes it pretty accessible by car or public transport. If you’re coming by car, watch for all the one way streets and if you go a block too far north you will end up on the freeway!

There are a few choices for parking with the cheapest being $3 for up to 4 hours at the Art school. Metered street parking is also an option for shorter stays, only slightly more expensive.

Full details of directions and parking can be found here.

The building itself is rather unassuming but the large cane artworks and swinging metal objet d’art at the front are hard to miss.

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Travel tip: Remember this is America and they can “never be too careful” when it comes to tourist spots ie. you will not be allowed to take in bags or liquids. They do however have lockers for hire at the main entrance.

Tattoo Honolulu
Being the featured exhibit, the displays extended over several buildings covering the history of tattooing from style to application with an abundance of examples and a strong lean towards the locals with traditional tribal, islander and Japanese stylings. There’s also a bunch of traditional artwork, vintage designs and equipment on display.

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As much as douche bags acros the globe have tainted his name by sporting his gaudish and over the top print designs, Ed Hardy was a pioneer in the tattooing world and has a whole section, along with the official event logo dedicated to him.

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Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit – The history of boardshorts
This small novel exhibit in a dedicated room was a little light in content but it did well in focusing on the major style changes and brands of everyone’s favourite non offensive swimming attire from its humble beginnings as short shorts to the quick dry knee length velcro’d numbers that we have today. You might even spot a couple pairs you used to own!

There was also some local history on life saving and the Baywatch styled outfits that came with the job and champion surfers contributions with their boards and their actual boardies on display.

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Also during our visit, the museum was featuring a section dedicated to Japanese traditional artist, Hiroshige. The artist responsible for some of Japans most well known images this side of The Great Wave.

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The rest of the museum is divided up with mostly Asian history and artifacts. Some of the carvings and sculptures are extremely detailed. The mind boggles at the time it would have taken to construct such complex pieces with only primitive tools!

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Modern conceptual art also gets its chance to shine along with local paintings of volcanoes, even the courtyards through out the grounds are individually landscaped and decorated to a specific theme.

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Travel Tip: There’s not much else in this area for sight seeing but there is a Safeway supermarket which is open 24 hours. Definitely the place to stop in if your hotel room has a kitchenette, just remember most portion sizes range from “bulk” to “giant”! Though it does have its perks, a 1.5L bottle of vodka will set you back only $25US! (even less if you’re part of the members shopping).

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Check out the full gallery of photos with the links below

Tattoo Honolulu 2013 exhibit
Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit – History of Boardshorts exhibit 2013
Honolulu Museum of Art

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

With a little time to spare we caught the black line from Chalk Farm to Old Street (just make sure you get the one going through Kings Cross, not Euston) to make a stop at an “in the know” sneaker collector spot Kazmatazz.  Walking past, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was just one of those discount .99p stores with items stacked along its front window but on further inspection of the unpacked boxes and seemingly random grouping display, you’ll see a method to the madness with a lot of unique pieces of clothing and sneakers.  A lot of items weren’t in multiple sizes or colours and quite a few I had never seen in the States let alone London or at all, another very good sign.  On the down side, you would have to trust his taste and selection to really benefit from the “uniqueness” as some colourways and styles were questionable to say the least.

Kazmattazz

Watching, who I assume was the owner, stand firm against a middle age guy trying to haggle 60%+ off a pair of jeans was amusing to say the least.  While firm with this guy, he was only to friendly to have a chat and point out new arrival stock to me.  Chat a bit more and if you know what you’re talking about he may suggest you to have a look at the “good stuff out back/behind the counter”.  From the quick look I had before he went back to Mr. Lowballer, it seems he may have access to a Tier 0/1 account and possibly a collector’s collection from the colourways and models I saw.  Either way, stock was very limited, no idea on sizes but it would be one of those places where frequent visits would be required on the off chance you nab something you’ve been chasing.

Unfortunately with thoughts of overweight luggage looming, we left empty handed and headed down Bishopgate.  Getting towards the business districts, it was eerily quiet on a weekend but a nice walk to see some stark contrasts of modern skyscrapers amongst period architecture.  To cut across to Brick Lane, by pure chance we wandered down Brushfield St where we stumbled across the Old Spitalfield markets.  While not huge, it still had quite a few rows of stalls, “classier” or more elegant styled arts and crafts, jewellery and hand crafted clothing sat amongst the market staples of novelty tees and souvenirs.

Arriving at Brick Lane was like walking into a music festival.  Normally its full of expats and backpackers looking for the cheapest curry deals but come the weekend they’re looking for the cheapest of… just about anything else.  The food stores still have their “hey buddy” “come have a look” staff on the street but towards the northern end, Dray Walk is where the random street vendors and market stalls start cropping up. The bulk of the stalls lie in the Old Truman Brewery building with the majority being at the cheaper low end of the market range.  The selection of food definitely makes up for it, its just a matter of finding somewhere to sit (or stand) to eat it!

The surrounding lanes is where things look up a bit with a few nice boutique stores and Casio G Shock East store (pretty much identical stock to their West store).  Prior research also revealed another sneaker spot called “Gloria’s” at shop 6 Dray Walk but I’ll be darned if we could find it!  Quite possibly no longer existing or just wasn’t open on the day hiding behind one of the many vandalised rolla-doors.


Travel tip: We took the scenic (re: long) route down to Whitechapel station (Aldgate East is closer) but we did come across another JD Sports store which was perfect to grab a couple last minute items to fill the few spaces left in the suitcase.  Moral of the story – JD Sports stores are everywhere so even if you miss one or change your mind there isn’t one too far away.

That’s just about it for our London visit, we wind down next with a spot of tranquility at Hyde park.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Imagine every market you’ve ever been to… all at once, and you’ll be coming close to what Camden is like, but first, getting there.

The busiest days are on the weekend with most of the shops open, because of this and the influx of around 100,000 people every weekend (and the dire need of an upgrade to the station) Camden Town station is “exit only” for most of it. Check the posted signs or London Underground website before hand for in and out times so you don’t end up trying to push your way against the current and REALLY look like a tourist 😉

Rest assured, not all is lost if you cant make it out on a weekend, a fair percentage of the fixed stores are open during the week and will be much more suitable for those that aren’t fond of crowds.

Exiting the station on to Camden High St. you get a plethora of sneakers with JD Sports, Footlocker and Offspring. These are all decent sized stores with plenty of stock, variety and sales. If you’re going to buy up big straight out the gate, consider asking the store to hold your purchases to collect later otherwise you will quickly lose patience and strength trying to get a couple armfuls through the bustling crowd.

Heading north, take your selection of Converse and Dr. Martin stores along with kitsch punk, rockabilly, vintage clothing (Punkyfish, Rokit Vintage), leather goods and a secondhand music and video store.

The Camden markets themselves start just after the river crossing with Camden Lock and The Stables traditionally being THE markets but there are smaller groups of stalls in surrounding lanes and streets. In general its a mixture of fixed stores, large warehouse style areas and temporary pop up stalls that cover all manner of arts, crafts, fashion, food, brick a brac, novelties and souvenirs. There’s really no good place to start or any kind of system to get you round the place with so many things to see (and taste), its more a matter of taking your time and going with the flow (literally most of the time). If things get a little too hectic for you, there’s plenty of nice spots along the water-way to take a breather.

Stand outs were the smaller designer stalls with unique tees (these are the ones that don’t have the same designs as the last 10 stalls you just walked past!) and the cute vintage style dresses. There is a couple places stocking a few toys but the only place worth a mention is a small stall in the Stables hosted by some old dude. Pretty much all vintage items, most rather worn or in boxes that have seen better days. A few Star Wars and He-man items but you will have to get your fingers dirty to really find something amongst the cluttered shelves.

Finally, no visit to the Camden markets would be complete with out visiting Cyberdog. Quite possibly your worse nightmare if your kid brings you here and you have very little knowledge or experience with the dance music scene but for everyone else its pretty much like being at a rave. From the entrance with the giant “people of the future” statues you are bombarded with strobe lights and a barrage of hard style and hard trance. Its very dimly lit apart from neon lights and all manner of glow in the dark and flashing novelties like coloured contacts and light up face “neurons”. The rest covers everything you’ll need for a night of laser reaching with the staples of phat pants and light up tees to full space suits and girls outfits which shakily stumble the line of “cute raver chick” and Fortitude Valley hooker. There is also a good selection of DJ gear (CDJ’s, mixers, headphones etc).

The biggest set back is the pricing, which goes from “whoa!” to “ok, lets get outta here”. Also keep your camera holstered, the staff may look like they’re “best night eva”-ing but be aware of the ones that are already on to their “Terrible Tuesday” (plus there’s “no photo” signs at the entrance and around the store).

From my research there is also supposed to be a “good” sneaker store right near Cyberdog but with very little recent online presence I’d dare say it has since closed as it was no where to be seen.

Since the Camden Town station was exit only, we took a short walk to Chalk Farm Station which was stark quiet in contrast and an easy boarding to head out to our next stop, Shoreditch.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Nike Air Vengeance

“Vintage is back..” fictitious ad campaign.

These bad boys were originally released in 1985 but have had the remake treatment like so many other Nike models in the last 5 years.
They keep true to the styling and materials but with modern build quality and colourways. This “maize” colour got a more limited release as opposed to the red or blue, so the choice was easy, even if I was already sold on that colour 😉

A side note, not being very Photoshop literate, this is actually the first time I’ve ever used gradients on an image (applied to the original image) so it makes it a little special. But don’t worry, I have no inclination to become a shop-tographer anytime soon!

Downtown LA

Most cities around the world tend to have a CBD which is based loosely round a large mall or group of shops, not so much for LA. Its CBD is strongly focused on the ‘B’ and can throw off first timers expecting more, very much like ourselves. First stop and possibly only stop for most people is the infamous 100 block “fashion” district. I use the term “fashion” very loosely as it seems like its more targeted to certain demographics and it seems one of the biggest markets are middle age to elderly women, not too unlike the mother of Nanny Fine. You know the look, big loose clothing with violent clashes of colour and patterns or an unashamed overuse of glo-mesh and bedazzling.

Coming a close second are the hoochie mama outfits. If you finally got that part as “background dancer #14″ in your friends rap video (yes we know, it’s a foot in the door till your boyfriend/manager sorts out that demo for you) then this is the place for you! Store after store of leggings that look like jeans, jeans that look like leggings and mannequin bums that look like two pigs fighting under a blanket. Starting to see a pattern yet?

YA RLY

Unfortunately the guys gear isn’t much better, while some of the prices are good, the range is limited to basic work wear, athletic gear and Ed Hardy styled fashion. On the upside there are plenty of suit stores and tailors, a lot with questionable designs and dated cuts to go with their outlandish sitcom drug dealer style shirts but there are some good places with classic designs and vintage flare.

One thing to note is a lot of the stores are wholesalers (some don’t actually sell to the public) so the prices can get very good if you’re looking at buying in bulk eg. For your team, school, work. One of the Dickies sellers mentioned he supplies a few stores in NZ and AU.
But remember these are the UDM (US domestic market) work wear variety, not the “Dickies Street” version sold by stores like City Beach in Australia, which incidentally have very little difference to the work wear ones.

In the way of sneakers, you’re best to just keep walking. The few stores we ventured into were a mixture of fakes, factory seconds and low end “rubbishy” models. There were a couple worthy toy stores with less commercial product, one I found in the most unlikely of places selling wind chimes and jewellery, everything BUT toys. But they did have a shelf in the window of collectible vinyl in a hiphop/graffiti vain which look liked they’ve sat there for years. Pieces which I’ve seen around the traps ranging from $50-200US as limited runs in selected Kidrobot stores and the like. When asked on prices, they were clearly made up on the spot from a guy that should really never play poker! I’m sure I could’ve haggled a better price out of him, but with numbers between $10-15US it was hard to keep a straight face. Needless to say, I cleaned them out 😉

The rest of this precinct is divided up for flowers and textiles. The flower section has a huge selection of cut flowers and potted garden flowers and plants along with associated accessories. Obviously the weather dictates a lot of the seasonal/regional flowers but its still a surprise to see massive 10-15 flowered Phalaenopsis orchids for a throw away $10ea. Similar items would fetch between $50 and $100 mark here. The cut flower arrangements are what can only be described and typically American. Big, bold and brash, like a brand new Escalade with chrome wheels or your mum’s hair style from the 80s, they feature a fanned peacock tail arrangement with a random selection of “pretty” flowers. Roses, sunflowers, tulips and ample Baby’s Breath are all slapped together in a tribal head gear fashion with cohesion and colour blocking coming in with a DNF. If you really want to dazzle your loved one you can even go for the pieces that feature a large plastic gold plated ornament! Needless to say, if you are buying cut flowers, you’ll do better buying a couple bunches and putting them together in the dark 😉

Textiles on the other hand, while still having the patterns/styles of a Rugs-a-million clearance rug, are saved by sheer variety. Even if you have a brief passing interest in sewing its worth a look, if you’re at the other end of the scale and are already thinking how many fat quarters you can get into a suitcase then you may want to consider ditching some of those sneakers :-0

iPhone case anyone?

Its probably best to just park your car as close as possible to the area you’re visiting, then move it to the next area and pay the few bucks again as the blocks are loonngg. If you want to brave it or aren’t driving, walking does have its advantages in stumbling across stores and flea market style centres with electronics, souvenirs and general plastic crap, not too unlike your average Asian shopping “centre” and all at prices less than the usual tourist spots. For example, souvenir tees were around 20-40% less than places like Santa Monica and the Farmer’s Markets.

Big Man Bakes

As you’re venturing north take a detour to South Main street for Big Man Bakes, nothing as suss… or big …or manly as it sounds! Simply some very tasty gourmet cupcakes. Try the Red Velvet – a traditional southern style cake, the caramel apple or the “old school” – yellow cake with chocolate butter cream icing; the list goes on and they get cheaper the more you buy.

Further north is the “Toy District“, which was in all accounts disappointing. A whole district of toys?? Yes please! Unfortunately, from the several blocks we walked through it was nothing more than novelties and knick knacks bar a few remote controlled helicopters and cars. There’s also a scattering of home wares and car accessories stores. There’s a Hello Kitty store, or should I say a store that sells Hello Kitty items. Hard to tell if they were real or not but the branding and packaging looked authentic as did the HK car mats. Hello Kitty as a robot with Astro boy styled rocket feet flying through a rainbow? Just try and stop me!

By now you’ve probably ready to hurt someone if you see another battery powered car that flips over when it hits a wall or a “live” ball with a tail, but don’t despair, Japantown is just around the corner.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

So we’re back in West Hollywood. Kinda like catching up with an old friend really. You know their quirks, you know what you have in common, you by pass the touchy subjects and jump straight into reminiscing.

We covered the bulk of the West Hollywood stores previously here and here, but just to quickly recap, Flightclub LA and Sportie LA are always good stops for consignment/pre owned gear, though some of their prices are starting to get a little greedy. If you worry more about how good you look while skateboarding than how good you can actually skateboard then you might wanna pop your head into the stores of
Supreme, Diamond Supply and Crooks and Castles. Each trying to out do each other in hipster arrogance and poor service. What’s worse is none have the inventory to back the attitude, with limit range and sizes, give the glorified check out chicks a miss, there’s nothing you cant buy online or at another store for cheaper.

Flightclub LA

Sportie LA

Johnny Cupcakes is always worth a stop in for in store exclusives. A recent subtraction from this cluster of shops is Loyal Army, sadly they pretty much upped and closed their store overnight with very little notice. They are however still selling online and from their San Francisco store in Haight.

Japan LA

On the plus side, JapanLA has moved on to Melrose not too far from their old location to a newer and bigger store. Still the same good selection, abundance of Hello Kitty merch, friendly staff, sale items and now also sporting a small gallery room at the back with works from local artists.

Meltdown Comics

Last stop in West Hollywood was Meltdown Comics. Easily one of the biggest comic stores we’ve seen in awhile. Huge selection of comics and just as big selection of collectibles, figures, toys and plushes ranging from movie/comic based items to urban vinyl collectibles and blind boxes. They also have the complete range of So So Happy merchandise, which means if you’ve got a sweet tooth for the sickly cute and colourful you’ll no doubt go into a diabetic coma here.

Pop Killer

While you’re there, pop over the road to Pop Killer. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling of vintage and vintage styled new items. Mostly clothing but also a range of accessories, knick knacks, novelties and house hold items.

Mulholland Drive

As the sun slowing slipped away at a leisurely 8pm we took a drive up to Muholland Drive. Just follow the road up to the lookout (with fixtures and signage, not just dirt!), even though there are spots before this, parking is a little hit and miss as is the view. Don’t forget to take a jacket as well, those mountain breezes are very unforgiving! The view here is mostly of west LA, to see more of downtown follow the road around and head east through the tiny residential streets. You will eventually go over the mountain and start heading down, half way down on a rather Mt. Akina style of road, there’s a dirt spot to pull over to get your cityscape pano on.

LA cityscape (click for big)

Next up, we hit the downtown area where dodgy and awesome go hand in hand like Jesse James and Kat Von D!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

“You can stick your well laid plans up your well laid ass!”. Ah yes, another pearl of wisdom from Mr. Jackson and nothing short of the truth for the opening leg of our latest trip. It’s true, there’s no amount of preparation that will prevent curve balls from external influences.

Things started off with a nervous check in thanks to our travel agent putting completely wrong passport numbers into our flight booking. Not the best thing to have against your name flying into the states with their current “everyone is a terrorist” standing. Luckily, after half
an hour of “Border Control” TV show style questioning, accusing glances and hushed phone calls it was all sorted and we were on our way around the world!

We scored some crazy cheap flights via star alliance, which led to the bulk of the flights being covered by Lufthansa. I’ve only flown once domestically with them which was fine for a short trip but I was a little skeptical with what the service would be like on a long haul – no thanks to a lot of comments and :S faces from friends and random strangers. However I’m happy to report it was great (: Service was good albeit it a bit hurried at times and the accommodations were nothing short of lush, being on a 3 week old A380 definitely helped with this. Exceptionally quiet, engine noise was easily half of a regular A300 or 747. Seats were comfy and the touch screen LCD complete with 3 external live cameras was great for in flight entertainment. Don’t forget your LAN or USB cable to plug your devices into your arm rest 😉 Best of all, it had that fresh off the floor, new plane smell.

Noisey kids, idiots bumping our seats, jet lag and the inescapable 2 hour crawl through LAX customs/immigration later, we were free from the clutches of commercial transit. Grabbed our rental car from Dollar Rentals (review here) and headed straight for West Hollywood.
(tips on driving in California in a coming installment)

The biggest speed bump I always find on holidays is store trading hours. The majority of places I have travelled to in the world (except Australia), retailers open around 10-11am (sometimes 12 or later for boutique stores), some bigger stores/malls might swing the doors open around 9. This might work well if you’ve had a big night but it seriously eats into your day when you’re travelling. So a good thing to try is to tee up sight seeing or community events to do in the morning while you’re waiting for the stores to open.

Random bits and pieces

First stop for us was the Melrose Trading Post at Fairfax High school which is pretty much what you would expect for a popular Californian market. An abundance of quirky brick-a-brack, hand made arts and crafts and vintage items galore from cute plush monsters to taxidermy to thousands of random photographs and negatives from people’s personal collection. How? Why? Who knows, it’s LA baby!

Vintage Coke Esky

Hand made plush toys

Framed butterflies

Vintage photo frames - $5

Buy someone else's personal photos

There’s also a selection of vintage and modern cameras and accessories. Forget over bidding on ebay for a used Vivitar flash, they were available here for throw away prices. Plenty of army surplus items as well, right down to aircraft instrumentation and war memorabilia.

Camera stuff... and hand mirrors

More camera stuff

Ammunition case

Aviation memorabilia

Photo tip: while there are plenty of tourists and arty types snapping photos, take care when shooting some of the stalls, especially the ones of the local designers who seem to be very particular with others “stealing” their ideas. I witnessed a guy get chased down and verbally abused by one owner. While the empty threats of “That’s stealing! I’m calling the police” may not mean much, it is definitely a conflict best avoided. Or at least wait till you’re about to leave anyway :p

Travel tip: Head to their website for half price entry coupons

Depending on how thoroughly you browse, it only takes about 1-2 hours to do the whole event. Take advantage of the food and (especially) toilets while you’re there. Parking is free when you drive into the grounds, (just follow the directions from the traffic controllers) so to save a few bucks, leave your car there and check out the surrounding shops, most of which should be open by now….

Next – Shopping in West Hollywood and a spot of sight seeing at the famed Mulholland Drive.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here