We don’t photograph cars that often but when the mighty Godzilla menaces over your suburb, you make like a terrified Japanese business man and do what it says!

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Well it started here and now we’ve finally gotten around to finishing off the 30 days of our fave time keeping piece (ok, so there’s more than 30 and we even threw in a couple Protreks/Pathfinders for good measure 😉 ). We included a nice variety of models with a generous helping from the late 90’s/early 2000’s for those new to G land, a couple Japan only releases and the “Heavy Metal”/”Stargate” that started it all for me back in 1997! Respect RDA! 😀

Here’s to another 30 years!

Enjoy!

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Head on over to our Facebook page to check out the full gallery!

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Did they just skip a whole entry and jumped straight to #2? You betcha. You’re not going crazy, we’ve had a few requests for a review of this event so we’re skipping the prelims and are jumping straight into it!

Getting there: The website for the Tokyo Big Sight venue has quite clear instuctions and caters towards foreigners well with detailed maps and directions in English. Even without a major event on, when you arrive at Kokusai-Tenjijo station (Rinkai line) its pretty much a straight run to the venue. There’s a lot of open space and the unique architecture of the building makes it hard to miss (keep walking past maccas), but with something like the Toy Expo on the cards it was as simple as following the slews of scantily clad cosplayers. Done and I mean done!

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Travel tip: The event is a trade expo which goes for 4 days, first 2 are for resellers and the second 2 are for the general public. Getting there before doors open and beating some of the crowd is the key to maximising your viewing time.

Travel tip: Lockers – Having jumped straight off the shinkansen at Tokyo Station with all our luggage, the choice was either to spend time looking for our hotel to ditch our bags or head straight there to try and beat -some- of the people that slept in. We were already on the run so we decided to just take our luggage with us. In hindsight we probably should have just left them at Tokyo station but of course there’s never a locker when you need one! (or one big enough for our 30kg suitcases!). Not to worry, the venue has plenty in various sizes, as long as you get there before lunch you shouldn’t have too much problem scoring your choice. There is a change machine nearby in case you havent stocked up on Y100 coins.

Travel tip: Plan ahead – head to the event website before hand and find out which exhibits you want to see first. I recommend doing the big ones first then back track through the smaller vendors that don’t have any queues.

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First thing to keep in mind is that this is a trade expo, a lot of stuff you see is not for sale (yea, bunch of dirty teasers they are!) but where you cant buy, you can try. At least half the items are out of their cardboard prisons and are available for you to add your grubby fingerprints to. Ever wanted to see how that RC controller fits in your hands? Go for it, grab your fave car and take it for a spin while you’re at it. Or how about what you’d look like with a giant inflatable hat and dreadlocks? Throw it on and take a tote of your imaginery spliff, Cypress Hill style. Best of all you don’t need feel guilty or rude and you definitely wont get “the look”, in fact its quite the opposite, you’ll have someone on hand to show you how it works so you can nag your mum for it for xmas 😉

The major draw card AND biggest downside of the event is that its free. This means every man and his cosplaying kid dressed as a dog is there. Think of it like Disneyland or any major theme park for that matter, you will spend the majority of your time queuing…and queuing and just when you think you’re on the final stretch… some more queuing. The plus side is, unlike park rides, once you get in, the “ride” lasts longer than 5min! So back to the queuing, you thought Londoners knew how to queue? You havent seen anything till you add Japanese effeciency to the mix.

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Welcome to Line Town, population, you. First queue is to get in, these were reasonably short as there were several halls to enter. We enter the downstairs one first, simply put, if you’ve ever been to Japan before, its like entering a Pachinko slot arcade for the first time, or for the less initiated, think of hearing every radio station and seeing every TV channel all at once to a backdrop of a 1000 fireworks while drowning in skittles and you’ll be getting close. Take it in for a moment but don’t let it consume you, and it will, find your bearings then make a bee line to… the line.

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One of the main attractions for us and just about everyone else was the Bandai exhibit occuping the most real estate of the whole event and this is where the real queuing starts. Don’t be misled by thinking you can just waltz in the exit, even by accident, security are quite strict (it was an accident, I swear!). Tour group style signs and town criers on megaphones are most likely giving clues as to where the queues start and how long the waits are but that wont help for a second if you don’t understand Japanese, following the branding is much easier. A bit of pre-trip research found the wait was about 30-45min but finding the end of the queue with a mere 10-15m from the entrance I thought we were in luck but then the queue started to zig zag like a bank queue. No problem, 15min in and we were on the last “zag”, but …hang on why are we turning away from the entrance?? Dishearteningly the line took a tangent and headed off behind the vendor stalls and just kept going.

The distracting and time passing sights of people watching and spotting stalls to add to the “must see” list disappeared and we were left with the cold white walls of an event hall and rabbit runs for staff. Like the speeding up and changing into third of a traffic jam there’s glimpses of hope as you spot the entrance and try to estimate the amount of time left but its as much a mirage as a handicap carpark at the shops. Unless you arrived as the doors opened, save yourself a trip on the emotional rollercoaster and just go by your watch. 30-45min is a pretty good time estimate, we took around 40min, however the wait is well and truly worth it starting with a sample bag on entry, perhaps a “thank you, for not slapping the parent of that screaming kid or punching out the guy dragging his feet and staring at you the whole time” more than anything else but like a kid with ADD you’ll quickly forget those woes as the complete Bandai catalogue comes alive and tries to eat you.

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The first half of the display is targetted mostly to the younger kids, especially girls (and the occassional business man) with classics like Sailor Moon, Anpanman, Power Rangers (and other local tokusatsu style shows), Tamagotchi (and its spin offs like Dream Coffret Salon) to favourites like Monsters Inc. A lot of these sections included make and create tables for the little ones. Continuing around we crossed what you could loosely call the sporting section which housed a variety of weapons that shot, darts, water, pellets or paintballs but what I was interested in was the last sections, namely the very extensive Space cruiser Yamanto and Gundam sections. Basically if it was released or going to be released, you’d more than likely find it here from out of the box kit builds to full weathering and detailed dioramas, its all covered.

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Just off to the side of the exit there was one of our fave artists, Mr. Knucklebear himself Touma putting brush to canvas for a piece that was to be a lucky door prized. The cuter than cute Milky girl had her own section as did our favourite way of getting rid of coins, the toy equivalent of the pokies – gashapon! Just remember, a lot of items are display only so try not to get your hopes up too much if you spot that chaser you’ve been after for months!

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The rest of the event which included kids faves from My Little Pony, Mario characters, Lego and those creepy people-like mice Sylvannian Family (complete with their own stage show for the IRL creeps) to big boys toys and collectibles with air rifles, RC of any imaginable vehicle, Nanoblocks, exquisitely detailed movie characters from Hot Toys and even a stand of musical equipment from KORG all required little to no waiting. Unless of course you head upstairs to the Tomy stall, which of course had a line for the escalator, a line to get in to the exhibition hall, THEN a line for the stall. Needless to say we cut our losses and saved some time, more so because Gotemba outlet mall was calling! That’s up next…

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Travel tip: Exhibition eats: there are several “food court” areas essentially selling the carni’ equivalent Japanese food. Plenty of fried items and traditional event food like hotdogs but they also had rice dishes along the lines of teriyaki beef with kewpi and cabbage and gyozas which definitely left our stomachs with a much less weighed down feeling. Perfect to keep on running!

Tokyo International Toy Expo 2013 highlight photos

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Complete Tokyo Toy Expo 2013 gallery here

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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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

1631 cover

1632 cover

1633 cover

Moshi moshi! You’ve probably noiticed we’ve been quiet for the last couple weeks, that’s because we were off on another trip to the land of endless Ramen and gashapon! Reviews and photos will come (after I get through the ones from Hawaii!) from our many stops including the Tokyo International Toy Expo, Studio Ghibli Museum, Universal Studios Japan, Zoorasia, the Osaka Aquairum and a whole host of shopping spots so stay tuned! In the meantime….

While we were away the Time Off magazine machine kept rolling on with bands from our Time Off Magazine – “The Guide” section cover shoot photos. Holding down the fort were – RVLR, Ironside, Multiple Man.

Read about them in their respecitve issues #1631, 1632, 1633.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

If Oahu was the Gold Coast then The Big Island (TBI) would probably be Ballina. Its a lot less developed but still has plenty of small towns with general amenities and sealed roads to the majority of the popular sites.

Ideally you’d want at least a couple days to hire a car and explore the sights at your own pace, if you’re planning on any hikes then its definitely the way to go. If however you’re on a bit of tight schedule then taking a tour is actually not a bad choice to make.

Normally we would steer clear of tours, mainly because of the restrictions of being locked into what they want to show you and for the time they allow, not to mention its always cheaper to just “go yourself”, however, after doing the sums with the flights and car hire for the day it worked out to be not much more for the tour, plus the fact you get to sleep while being chauffeured around = priceless.

After a bit of research we settled on Discovery Hawaii tours for their pretty much flawless track record and… it was well worth it. Not just for the ease of everything but the knowledge and humour of the guide and his effort to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, even going to the extent of switching destinations so our group wouldn’t clash with other groups, which was very welcomed not just for a better experience at the sights but also for getting a photo minus the tourist clutter.

Speaking of groups, Discovery is one of the few companies that still do small groups around 20-30 ppl on a smaller bus rather than a “cost effective” approach with large coaches. The thought of travelling around and waiting for double the amount of ppl to do the most basic things like getting on and off the bus is something I’m glad we didn’t have to experience!

Anyway, enough of that, on with the tour!

Sour weather brewing on the flight over

Sour weather brewing on the flight over


Travel Tip: The tour makes a stop at the start of the day at a local convenience store for everyone to grab water and supplies for the day. There is a lunch stop at the golf course but other than that, no other stops for food or water so you will need to stock up. If you have dietary requirements or want to avoid paying convenience store prices then pack all your food before hand for the WHOLE day. We arrived back at the airport early evening with about 15min to spare before the flight where there was only a small news agent store open, with no actual meals as such so keep those muesli bars handy.

The specific tour we chose was the One day Hawaii Volcano Eco-Adventure Tour which covered the following stops:

– Hilo Town & Rainbow Falls
– Historic Banyan Drive
– Queen Lydia Liliuokalani Gardens
– Kilauea Iki Overlook
– Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
– National Park Visitors Center
– Kilauea Volcanic Steam Vents
– Jaggar Museum & Gift Shop
– National Park Admission
– Thurston Lava Tube
– Big Island Black Sand Beach
– No-Host Lunch at Local Restaurant
– Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook
– Volcanic Activity of Mount Kilauea

The actual sequence of stops varies depending on your driver, if yours is clued in like ours, he’ll know to leap frog some of the stops and return later if there are too many other tours at the one spot. The highlights in the order we travelled were:

Black Sand Beach – Small bay area just outside of Hilo. At first it looks like its just rich soil but on closer inspection you’ll see that it’s a rather coarse gravelly sand from the remnants of volcanic rock.
Photo tip: this bay sort of area has a lot of nooks with jagged rocks that would make for some great photos at sunrise/sunset. Unfortunately not a luxury we could afford being on a guided tour.

Travel Tip: Watch out for muddy areas in the grass or off paths, sulphur and who knows what else mixes with the sloppy stuff which will leave your shoes with an eu de canine faeces aroma = a very nauseating bus ride to the next stop!

Hilo – Basically like any other small coastal town, not really much to see, though the anecdotes from the guide were more than entertaining. (Not so) fun fact, the town has been wiped out completely due to natural disasters in the ‘40s and ‘60s, they’ve since rebuilt the town from scratch but further inland and now with some parkland as a buffer. As part of the rebuild, they kept the look and architecture of the original town.

Banyan Tree Drive

Banyan Tree Drive

Rainbow Falls – As far as falls go this was nothing special, not helped by the top down look out position and not enough time to venture down the bottom, even tho it wasn’t very tall. It would definitely be more impressive after some heavy rains.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls


Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens
– One of those spots that you’d love to have in your backyard for a weekend chill out or bbq spot. Interesting floral, landscaping and traditional Japanese features such as pargodas, arch bridges and ornaments.

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

19th hole Golf Club lunch – a little bit fancy dining with the plaid sweater vest brigade but the food was good and our guide showed off his multiple talents and surprised us with songs on an acoustic guitar!

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Volcano National Park – this is the school excursion part of the trip, we got a run down of volcano basics with a large model of the Hawaiian islands at the front of the information center then were ushered into a theatre for a screening of a short documentary on the history and formation of volcanoes as well as a finger shaking warning to be careful while out on the rocks and cliff faces. The short of it, bring proper sturdy shoes. A decent pair of runners will work but anything less like cutesy flats or slipons just wont cut it, in fact what will be cut is your feet.. into A MILLION PIECES!!!! Ok maybe not, but the dry lava and shards of rock are jagged and very sharp, which is why they wont even let you in to the park if you’re wearing thongs, sandals or none closed in shoes.

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After the show we had the option of taking a short hike through the steam fields or getting a lift with the bus to the next stop, a lookout point. As unpleasant as it sounds to be walking through scrub billowing with sulphur and steam (they recommended anyone with respiratory problems or pregnant women to avoid it) it was worth the short 20-30min walk to see where the earth has opened up and was cutting the proverbial cheese.

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At the top, the over look of Halema’uma’u shows a huge crater of the no doubt once active volcano. Now reduced to a smaller crater within the crater, it might not seem as impressive but with the plumes of sulphur clouds coming from it, enough to completely obscure visibility on the road passed it, one can only imagine the potential of that sleeping giant and imminent doom it could bring! Sorry, still channelling my Pierce Brosnan.

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Afternoon rainstorm moving in from the left

Afternoon rainstorm moving in from the left

Thurston Lava Tubes – As impressive as some of the other sights were, this took the number one spot for us. A short 10min hike takes you to a series of tunnels where lava has carved its way through the mountain side forming tubes like some sort of prehistoric water park.

Photo tip: the tubes are very dimly lit, ideally you’d want a tripod but setting one up will completely block the path way which is 2-3 people wide in most parts. A monopod might suffice if you can dodge the other tourists, otherwise you will just have to crank the iso and steady that twitchy hand. These shots were taken at f3.2 1/15 to 1/25 at ISO12800

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Kilauea Iki – is one of the most active volcanoes on the island but was rather quiet when we were there. What we did see however was the path of destruction it had left from its eruptions over the years. Lava flows, miles wide, has run from the top of the mountain down kilometres to the sea and as seen in the doco film, the lava tends to be brittle after hitting the water which eventually causes whole cliff shelves to just break away and fall into the ocean. These have left dramatic cliff faces and rock formations.

Rather ironically in the path of destruction from lava and all kinds of other toxic gases and chemicals, this most easterly point bears the winds of some of the most cleanest air in the world. So much so that it is used as a benchmark for measuring air clairity. Savour it, especially if you’re flying on to LA!

Another natural phenomenon that you will witness just about anywhere on the islands multiple times of day is rainbows. Yep, with all that sea spray the colourful light refractions are plentiful. Double rainbows are just as common and even triples can be viewed around coastal areas.

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Jaggar Museum – cue Rolling Stones joke. This was the last stop which, while small, still housed plenty of information on volcanoes from art work, to vintage scientific equipment, historic moments and live seismograph readings. There’s also a lookout for Kilauea Iki.

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All in all, it was a fun filled day and a refreshing change to be chauffeured around, the guide was informative and funny and knew when to keep quiet for everyone to take in the view or to have a nap on the afternoon stretch. While tipping was not encouraged unlike…well any other American service, we had no problem giving him a generous one at the end. Hopefully he’ll use it to buy some new jokes! Lol, kidding John, you’re ALL right!

Next we rejoin…err ourselves amidst some frantic retailing in Honolulu shopping – part b

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

Piers near Fisherman's Wharf

Our final entry for San Fran, is two of the other famous landmarks, Fisherman’s wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Boardwalk near Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s wharf

If you’ve ventured out this way for Alcatraz, then you might as well take the short walk west to Fisherman’s wharf. Only if you’re suffering an injury should you pay attention to the pedi-cabs gathered around the Alcatraz exit, it’s a short, easy 10-15min walk along a scenic path.

I was half expecting to see a bunch of little market stalls here but instead it pretty much an outdoor mall on wooden slats. Shops are the usual tourist fair and of course there’s a million tourists. The Aquarium by the Bay, countless restaurants and the big carousel are highlights but otherwise only a short stop of about an hour is required.

It is also across the road from a transport hub so getting to and from the downtown area is no problem. A lot of the trams/trolley cars run from here too so if you haven’t been on one yet, now is the time. Not exactly comfortable or fast or quiet but a whole bunch of nostalgic fun non the less (:

Fisherman's Wharf

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Like with a lot of tourist attractions that are a bit out of the way, a simple alternative is to book a “tour” ie. A bus picks you up and takes you there, but also like a lot of these attractions, its way cheaper to spend a little time researching, making your own way there and saving a bunch of dollars. There are plenty of places to view the bridge up close but we thought we’d try something a little different and take in a docks/beach walk along Marina Blvd to Crissy Fields. During the warmer months this would’ve been very pleasant, unfortunately on the tail end of winter the winds made short work of the few layers we had on.

Travel/Photo tip: always pack at least a wind breaker, even in warmer months. Depending on how long you intend on shooting, a plastic bag and a full water bottle or some weights for your tripod to minimise shake and some form of cover (another plastic bag will do) for the camera as well to keep out the sea spray, sand and grit will be a good idea.

Golden Gate Bridge

Unfortunately the sub-par conditions made for rather pedestrian photos and it wasn’t too long before the wind chilled us completely to our bones and we scurried off in seek of warmer pastures.

Arriving back at the CBD around 11pm (sun sets late round these parts) we returned to a Japanese restaurant we discovered on our first night and quickly became an instant fave, Maru Sushi not just for the food but for its late night trading hours and close proximity to our hotel. It was also conveniently just up from Lori’s Diner – a 50s inspired diner complete with mini jukebox on the tables and a 1959 Ford Edsel inside. It was a fitting breakfast stop for our last morning in SF and a perfect way to see off the great U. S of A.

Lori's Diner

Lori's Diner

As we made our way from the hotel to the BART station and out to SFO it began to bucket down, no doubt pre-empting what we could expect at our next stop…. London!

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

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