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Hyper Japan! Hyper! Japan!

I spent this afternoon at my first ‘Hyper Japan‘ expo in London.

Mind. Literally. Blown.

It was basically a hall full of all the things I love: cosplay, amazing Japanese food, more cosplay, karaoke, giant video game characters. And some cosplay.

It’s very hard to do it justice in a single blog post. It was a feast for the senses and, at times, really quite bewildering. At one moment, we were admiring the beautiful selection of bonsai trees, the next we were watching a jiu-jitsu demonstration, followed by a giant Pikachu wandering through the hall.

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You can enjoy all the many photos I snapped over on this Flickr album. I was somewhat hampered in my attempts to take photos as I mainly had my hands full of various Japanese foodstuffs, including (at various points): octopus balls, chicken katsu curry, gyoza, pumpkin katsu, cinnamon ice-cream.

I also sampled the green tea ice-cream and wish I’d been able to bring some back home. Another treat to save for next time!

It was one time I really wish I owned Google Glass – I could have eaten using both hands and just snapped pics by pointing my head int he right direction. Tech-geek-laziness triad right there.

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No Singapore sling?

I didn’t have even one. Nor did I make it over to the legendary Raffle’s. But I did enjoy my week in Singapore, despite the shocking jet-lag and the lack of sleep, combined with incredibly long working hours.

So yes, despite all that, I managed to enjoy the local food, the streets, the people and some of the many sights. I will admit I was dubious about having to go to Singapore – I had it mentally categorised as a boring business hub, lacking soul or culture.

Sorry, people of Singapore!

What I found instead was: incredibly friendly and helpful people, beautiful architecture (from a range of centuries…some yet to arrive!), fabulous food and a very relaxing pace of life. Yes, it’s still not exactly Asia’s number one democracy and yes, it’s still illegal to be gay. But crack open Grindr and you’ll notice that doesn’t stop the locals from having a good time.

Too much information?

Anyway, I’ve organised some of my favourite photos into a Flickr album, which you can see here. I’d really like to go back another time, to see more and experience more of the city in day time. I was working from 730am through to 6pm most days, followed by client dinners. Add to that an average of 4 hours of sleep per night and you can see why I didn’t make it to the marina, the zoo or Raffle’s.

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(Singapore Selfie!)

The jet lag was definitely the worst thing about this trip. I’ve never had it so bad and have no idea why it hit me so hard. I even had to break my new rule and go back to coffee to keep me going while working. It’s pretty bad form, regardless of culture, to fall asleep while running a workshop for 15 people.

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British Airways did a great job of getting me out there in one piece – business class was comfortable, despite the decrepit state of the plane. I think it had seen service in the evacuation at Dunkirk. Flying out late on a Friday night meant that I slept quite a bit (after filling my face with whatever food and drink was offered) and arrived in Singapore later on Saturday afternoon ready to have a look around.

I spent Sunday walking. And walking. All around the older part of town, visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum, shops and malls, bars and restaurants. It was about 35C and incredibly humid – so we moved slowly and carefully, refuelling at every opportunity. Sunday night was spent feasting at an all you can eat Japanese buffet, followed by deep regret at being such a glutton.

Delicious all the same!

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I’d definitely recommend Singapore for a short break – it’s safe, easy to navigate and a great hub for onward travel to places further afield. I’d love to build it into a future trip to Korea, for example. A friend described it as ‘Asia Lite’, and I have to agree. There’s a mix of Asian cultures and languages, combined with western-style malls, food and music. I lost count of the number of restaurants and bars playing 80’s power ballads in the background!

The malls are a very welcome break from the relentless heat and humidity – air-conditioned, vast and many floors underground, I spent hours just wandering around checking out the shops (and enjoying delicious local ice-cream). I didn’t buy much, as Singapore still seems to think that everyone who visits is a millionaire.

Beer cost on average £8 to £10 a pint, cocktails start at about £15. One colleague paid £25 for a Singapore Sling. Wine was crazy expensive, wherever you went. As I don’t drink, this wasn’t an issue. But when you’re charged £7.50 for a tonic water, things are getting bad. ‘Virgin’ cocktails usually cost just slightly less than their booze-filled counterparts. If you look around, you can eat well for less. But if you’re a naive visitor, you can easily be stung. I’m just glad I was on business and not burning through my own shekels! So preparation and advice from others is key.

As is sticking to water.

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Lovely, friendly people aside, (even the prostitutes who followed me down the street, calling me a ‘sexy boy’ – thank you!), my abiding memory is the food. In just one week, I had Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean and even American food (due to a client meal at a Hard Rock Cafe…not my choice). You can taste all of Asia in this one city and it’s great. I tried everything that was put in front of me and enjoyed about 95% of what I tasted. Even the deep fried carrot cake served with sambal.

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And it served as a great reminder of what I can look forward to in Japan next month. I’m counting down the days to two weeks of amazing fun and food there. And as a prequel, today we’re off to Hyper Japan at Earl’s Court. I think this makes me a Japanophile. As does my poor attempts at practising my Japanese with one of my clients while in Singapore.

After staying awake from 4am London time to about 10pm, then sleeping for 8 hours last night, I think I’ve knocked jet lag on the head. I feel like a new person and can’t wait to go experience some Japanese madness in London!

The long haul

20140719-193011-70211127.jpgWell, I made it here in one piece. Greetings from a very warm and muggy Singapore!

The BA flight over was very comfortable. I’d managed to snag one of the upper deck Business Class seats (thanks to @FrankDJS) and found it hard to stay awake once we boarded at 7:30pm. Take off was slightly delayed due to weather near Dover (?!) but we made up for it on the flight over.

Honestly, I wolfed down my dinner so I could get my head down. I only managed to watch half of Captain America: Winter Soldier (still my favourite film of 2014) before I fell asleep. I think I got about 7 hours sleep all in all.

Then woke up to a cracking breakfast before we landed. Thank you British Airways!

So far all I’ve seen of Singapore is the airport, the drive to the hotel and the hotel itself. All were lovely.

The hotel is a cracker – amazing service from the minute our taxis pulled up outside. I got a room upgrade thanks to one of the many, many hotel loyalty cards I carry around.

Looking forward to trying out the gym and pool tomorrow. Tonight (it’s 7:30pm here) it was all about getting a shower and a change of clothes before heading out for dinner.

Despite all I ate on the plane I’m once again starving. No change there, then.

RIP, Elaine Stritch

Apart from all the other horrific news today, I was really sad to learn of the passing of the amazing, fabulous and indomitable Elaine Stritch. I wouldn’t even attempt to do her career justice on this blog. It was immense.

Instead, here’s a clip of her performing at the celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. At the age of 86. I hope I can see clearly and dress myself at 86. Never mind get a standing ovation for a performance like this. Inspiring stuff.

Amazing. There’s going to be a hell of a party wherever she ended up this evening.

And for just a peek at her at her best, here’s her acceptance speech at the Emmys in 2004.

She will be missed.