The view from the observatory at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is stunning, and free.

Tokyo A to Z

I love Tokyo.  Its unique paradoxical character which I have yet to experience anywhere else is a big reason for why it’s my favourite city in the world.

In one breath, Tokyo is a modern, futuristic city where millions of people work (hard) and play (harder).  From glistening glass and steel structures scraping the skyline, to a transportation system which is eerily efficient, to a digital culture which has nearly universal acceptance and literacy by old and young – Tokyo is the most evolved of any 21st-century city.

Yet, in the same breath, Tokyo is a place where formal, button-down, traditional culture permeates everyday life.  There are unspoken rules about how to do the most basic of tasks, a groupthink on what’s acceptable and unacceptable in public, and constant (and still functioning) elements of Japan’s history dotting the landscape.  Tokyo may be contemporary, but it remembers where it came from.

While there is a multitude of reasons to embrace it, I have chosen 26 for this post (A to Z) on why I love Tokyo.

Read more

Malaysian flag on Pulau Langkawi

8 Things I Learned Travelling in Malaysia

In January of this year, I set foot in Malaysia for the first time with a sense of adventure and a desire to go exploring.  What I found was a country which felt familiar, yet challenged my western sensibilities. I fell in love with Malaysia’s people, its natural beauty, and its unique place in history.

Not everything about Malaysia is perfect.  There are infrastructure deficits – most notably open sewers in some communities which leave you gasping for air.  There is petty crime which – like anywhere – stems from some people just not having enough to get by.  And while a variety of religions can find acceptance in Malaysia, the country’s government is decidedly regressive on social policy like LGBT rights.

Looking back on Kuala Lumpur's skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.
Looking back on Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.

Malaysia made a big impact on me during my month criss-crossing the nation.  Here are eight of my biggest takeaways from visiting the country.

Read more

Episode 36 – Learning Japanese

Before we launch in to this week’s show notes, a quick note on a major disaster here in Canada.  The Fort McMurray wildfire has caused more than 80,000 people to be displaced as fire has ravaged a number of homes and businesses in the northern Alberta city.

The Canadian Red Cross is a fantastic organization helping those who are in emergency shelters and other accommodations since many people left with the clothes on their backs and the few items they could cram in to a suitcase.

For Canadians wanting to donate to the relief effort, you can pledge $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333.  To donate $10, text FIRES to 45678.  These will be billed to your cell phone account.

If you’re not in Canada or wish to pledge using the Red Cross’ online donation form, you can do so by clicking here.


 

Before going to Japan, I was trying to brush up on my Japanese using an app called iTranslate Voice.  It wasn’t going so well.

Despite my frustrations with the app, my time in Japan went really well and I even picked up on some basic pleasantries and started to recognize some of the Kanji characters used in their writing system.

However, considering I love Japan – and I’ve visited so many times – I feel like I should become better versed in the language.  I should strive to at least be literate.  And so it was the gift of Japanese textbooks from Chris that have helped launch me in to actually buckling down and starting to learn the language.

Learning to write Hiragana characters is helping me remember them and the sounds they make.
Learning to write Hiragana characters is helping me remember them and the sounds they make.

On this week’s episode, I talk about the challenge that lies before me, and what I have identified as my first major task – to understand the Hiragana writing system (one of three writing systems used in the Japanese language).

I’ll be updating my progress on future podcast episodes and with posts on the website.

It’s a Small World, After All

Watch the faces of people walking through the gates of a Disney park, and you’ll realize there is a universal trait. Everyone is smiling.  I tend to believe it’s because you know what kind of day you’re in for.

For the young, they’ll see their favourite characters come to life and (if they’re patient) even give them a hug or an autograph. For the young at heart, it’s a chance to relive the simplicity of childhood – where, if for a daythey can worry about nothing.

On Friday, March 4, as I walked through the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland, a smile spread across my face. But that smile was not for the same reason as so many of the other visitors that day.  I was finally able to cross an item off my bucket list.

Anaheim, Florida, Paris, Tokyo and now, Hong Kong.  I was able to say I had been to every Disney theme park in the world.

Read more

Episode 28.5 – Censored

 

You often hear about censorship and propaganda when discussing Communist countries like Vietnam, but you never really see it in action.  But last Sunday night in Hanoi, I watched it take place before my eyes.

Not all censorship is as forward as the incident I describe in this add-on to episode 28 of the podcast.  There are other ways that conversation is curtailed and a world view is shaped on a regular basis – like the tape delay of cable news channels like CNN and BBC World, or laws which prohibit saying certain things about certain historical figures.

My biggest takeaway is that we fail to understand the gravity of the words “censorship” and “propaganda” when we throw them around trivially.  To truly appreciate these words, you have to look to places where they form public policy.

It’s important to not let this one part of my Vietnam visit take away from the incredible experiences I had with so many people in the country.  But, I’d be failing in providing context to my trip if I didn’t talk about this.