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Vision uncompromised by negativity!

High Flying!

Recently I went to a few places that have blown my mind away in terms of the vision needed to create them.

It started in Shanghai, well a little outside, with Naked and how this simple South African guy managed to build a resort in rural Shanghai. He raised $300m, he built and eco-friendly game lodge type of resort (without the animals) and it has become one of the most successful ventures of its type in China. Imagine the balls it took for him to venture out into rural nowhere and imagine creating something like this?

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Then last week (this was written a while ago but not posted)  I went back to SA and so decided to stop off in the Emirates.

After getting the hell out of Dubai at sunrise, the metropolis scenery subsided and it melted into typical desert for about an hour. As it began to change to white beach sand and sheer cliffs of hard rock, like nothing I’ve seen before and I cannot explain. Just miles and miles of rocky, bare, desolate cliffs. We began to climb into the mountain and I started to think that this guy was now taking me into deep dark Oman to be sold for body parts.

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As I reached the top of the mountain and could peak over the other side I saw something that blew my mind completely. A bay of crystal blue water, and a desert camp build completely out of the surrounding mountain rocks that blended so well into the landscape it looked like it had been in that spot since the beginning of time. Immediately I started to wonder how someone managed to drive out into the middle of the desert for two hours crossing cliff after cliff and then decide to pick this spot to put up a completely self-sustaining, Eco friendly resort.

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After a few days in this paradise I headed back into the ‘typical’ desert.

Sparse surroundings, beige sand and dunes for as far as you could see. Even in the air-conned car I started to believe there was no end in sight but low and behold an oasis.

Again how this was built, how its maintained and how they manage to get things like Bose sound systems, Nepresso pods and on and on into the middle of desert no where just flaws me.

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Then returning to Dubai that is supposed to be impressive I was completely underwhelmed, well except for this magical beast, a dirty vodka martini on the 120 something floor was much needed. In Shanghai there are many buildings of similar sizes but because they are all together you don’t really get the massive impact of this Burj.

I came away believing Dubai downtown was almost a cop out, I mean building a hotel in a city is easy if you think about it. If you have the money you can build anything really. You design, you pay and you build, its that simple really. While our stay at the Ritz was exceptional as it is in most instances at the Ritz, but after being in the middle of nowhere and appreciating the execution of running a five star resort with literally no connection to the ‘outside world’, I was underwhelmed.

The vision, the balls and the gamble of building a resort far away, difficult to get to and at such a high level is incredible. I mean I think I have a decent ability to see things before they exist, I’m not talking the next Apple invention but in my field I can see evolution faster than most, but the long term commitment to an idea that these people have executed so sensationally just blew me away. I thank whatever being that people like this exist in the world so that I can fly half way around the world, lie on a massive beach lounger, put on a Bluetooth headset and watch a cinema screen attached to a boat on the beach at midnight :)

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The people with this kind of vision, they are the ones who truly create magic!

 

 

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Do more, see more, be more!

High Flying!

When I wrote my new year’s post a few days ago I expressed what I expected of myself for this coming year. Like I said I’m not one for fun fluffy New Year’s resolutions because I think, in general resolutions, are stupid. The concept of waiting until the end of the year to make changes you think are necessary now is just poor humaning!

Never the less I had a few things I wanted to focus on in the coming year. I thought I had them all pretty well mapped out and then I saw this video floating around social media and it hit me that I’ve left off the one I’m trying to achieve the most.

Have a look . . .

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no action junky I don’t want to bungee jump, base jump, parachute, fly in a squirrel suite between mountains (well this one I lie, I would f&%$ing love to do this!) but you get the idea. What it did make me think of are those moments in life that make you feel like something inside of you jumped!

I want to feel those more. I want to make points in meetings above my pay-grade, I want to feel butterflies of nervous excitement. I want to see things that will make my heart sing and my jaw drop. I want to feel the excitement of a kid opening a present on his birthday or running towards the ice cream van outside, like there’s nothing in life that could compare to the feeling of whats about to happen! I want to feel more excitement, feel more moments of raising your hands in the air in absolute triumph and joy! I want to create more moments that my heart sings because it cannot possibly be any happier.

I wrote a post about experiencing travel as opposed to just doing it. I want this year to be filled with experiences of travel. Going to places and experiencing things that are not just on a list, but on a bucket list. I want to see and feel it all!

I want to reach more pinnacles, feel more uncomfortable, feel more anxious, more out of place, more intrusive, sometimes more stupid and always like I’m experiencing rather than floating along.

I never want to just simply ebb and flow with the tide.

It’s easy to say, very easy, the difficult part is experiencing it, feeling it and living it but the end, in my experience has always justified the means when it comes to these things!

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Someone, probably a writer at hallmark, much wiser and cheesier than I said, ‘Life is not measured by the breaths we take but the moments that take your breath away.’

I want to lose my breath as much as possible in 2014!

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It’s funny what triggers a memory, triggers a feeling and a rush of thoughts.

High Flying!

I was in Harbin for the ice festival this weekend (ill post on at some point because it was mind-blowing again). And if you have ever heard of this place you will understand that it’s a comfortable -30 degrees which means no matter how tough you think you are there are some clothing requirements.

There’s a specific noise ski pants make when you walk, the chafing of the fabric against itself. Last night while I was walking back to my room after a hot pot dinner in an igloo, followed by a few gluweins and shots of vodka in the ice bar, my wife turned to me and said, ‘I really miss this sound.’ in reference to the pants. If you haven’t been skiing or don’t know what I mean you will think I’ve gone slightly off my rocker but bare with me!

All of a sudden a whack of memories came rushing back. You see for as long as I’ve been alive my family has been privileged enough to go skiing together once a year. It’s a tradition my grandparents had and one of the greatest ones my family have. Obviously with growing families, spread across the world it becomes harder and harder. Kids can’t get out of school, it’s far too travel, there’s work etc etc. I haven’t been for two years now.

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All of  sudden I missed the years of squeezing feet into ski boots, and then the feeling of elation taking them off at the end of the day. I missed a drink up in the mountains on a sunny day, the smell of the kit room, coming down for a glass of champagne before dinner in absolute Swiss lobby lounge civility. I missed the smell of the rickety old bowling alley in the basement of one of our favorite hotels. I missed shared moments of perfect blue skies on the slopes and blizzarding days of not being able to see five feet in front of you. I missed perfectly executed jumps and massive tumbles into powder. I missed gearing up layers apon layers only to have to undo them all just to have a pee. I missed bratwurst and rosti with Tommy Senf, i missed Ricola sweets my dad for some reason carries every second of every day, I missed Rivella blou, rod and groen.

I missed being with my family.

I missed sharing laughs and smiles and squabbles, I missed being a family, how we were, how always used to be.

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I missed the shared moments of talking on ski lifts, fighting down ski slopes, sneaking a smoke, racing my brothers down black slopes and pub crawling down to the bottom at the end of a long day. I missed these moments so much and almost immediately realized that in life moments like these so often go under appreciated until you realize how rare they are. Im not sure if with time comes a certain amount of perspective or if you just realize the importance when the moments become less, you realize they are finite in number and therefor you long for the ones past and hope there will be more in future.

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The simple point is, life in its definition is finite, don’t take it for granted, not any of it. Guess it took a simple sound to remind me of that fact. Funny how deep the simple noise of ski pants rubbing together can impact . . .

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How were your last few days?

High Flying!

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One hour to the airport, two at the airport, 3 to Hong Kong, 3 in Hong Kong, 13hrs to Johannesburg

Slept 45 min, hit turbulence couldn’t sleep again, 2 hours in Joburg, 2 hours to CT, interview on landing with no sleep and hangover from Champagne on plane

Presentations until 6pm (body clock midnight), go for a run (slightly pull calf muscle), dinner till 10pm at The Bungalow, drinks until 3am (body clock on 9am) at Mitchells pub, drunken slumber until 5am, 2 hours sleep, strong hangover

Interview after breakfast at 7am, me to present at 9am, presentations all day, drinks until 7pm at the Radisson (body clock somewhere around midnight), drive to Stellies, dinner with the some of the family, 4 bottles of wine / 4 ppl, sleep at midnight, wake up 5am (body clock no idea at this point), third very strong hangover in 3 mornings

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One hour to airport, 2 hours to Joburg, spend day with friends at Wolfpack, drink from after lunch until 1am at Melrose arch, sleep until 5am (body clock probably around 8am – syncing with local time)

One hour to airport, two hours to Cape Town one hour to Stellenbosch, all day party in the wine lands at the Duck Pond, dinner at The Bungalow until brain and body shutdown at midnight (body clock adjusted to local time), 6 hours sleep.

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Presentations all day, dinner at Grand Beach, drinks at the Mount Nelson until 1am, 4 hours sleep.

One hour to the airport, one hour at the airport, two hours to Johannesburg, four hours at the airport, 13 hours to Hong Kong, two hours in Hong Kong, two hours to Shanghai, One hour home from airport.

Shower, work and fall asleep on couch pinching nerve in neck. Now to look left or right I have to turn my full body but even if there is a threat I can’t run away due to pulled leg muscle and exhaustion.

So fine thank you, how were your last few days?

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Experience travel . . .

High Flying!

I read such a cool article the other day on the ever brilliant cool hunter about travel, that just sums up my love if it.

Some people don’t get me and why I love to travel so much, but to experience different things, in different places, different cultures, foods, drinks, people and so on is just the most incredible thing for me. I fell like each time I experience something new, especially out of my comfort zone, I gain a new perspective on things, a fresh eye and probably a better understanding of myself.

So when I found this Aman resort that is basically built out of the waiting quarters from the 1000 year old Beijing Summer Palace there was no question other than when. You see the resort is not only inside these almost ancient houses, redone to modern luxury standards of course, but with the feeling of old China. China without the people, the chaos, but replaced with simple elegance and subtle decadence of dynasty’s long gone and forgotten in this booming metropolis.

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The best part, I think though, is at any time you can call the resort team and they will navigate you to the secret door which leads right into the summer palace grounds, a place that from 9 – 5 during the day is a mess of families, groups, children screaming, tourist’s touring, people eating, drinking and messing around this man-made lake overlooked by the magnificent summer palace itself BUT outside of these hours it’s a magically quiet, calm and serene place. A place that if you wake up at sunset and run the 6 or 7km course around it, over ancient half-moon bridges, through the corridors of hand painted scenes and past the antique building and shrines it fills you with the most incredible feeling of past and present.

This is what I mean by experiencing travel. Don’t get me wrong I’m no health freak, the tasting menu in the signature French / Chinese fusion restaurant and bottle of vino from burgundy was a little more my speed but you get what I mean.

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As it is I get to experience almost all of these things with the most important person of all but every now and again I get to experience things with friends or family that make it just that much more special.

I had been to the Great Wall as a kid and apparently I said to my parents that I want to bring my children to it one day, I’ve never said that about anything else in my life. I don’t remember saying that but I do remember the impact the wall had on me, I was eager to see if it would hold the same feeling.

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I can honestly say standing on top of the Great Wall with a bunch of people I have loved for many years has to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The feeling you get standing, overlooking, walking, thinking, climbing is unparalleled. I think it is really one of the most special places in the world for me.

That’s without the sledding from top to bottom ;)

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To conclude the experience to sit in the side car of an American / Tongan entrepreneur who has been living in Beijing for 10 years and to see the city at night through his eyes and on his bike was incredible!

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This is what I mean by experience travel. These are the kinds of things that impact your soul and stay with you as memories forever. These are the experiences that grow you as a citizen of this planet and allow you fresh perspective on the world around!

 

 

 

 

 

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The place they call Naked . . .

High Flying!, The wonders of China . . .

Like pretty much every Laowai that comes to shanghai I’m going to post about Moganshan. I’m posting for every new Laowai that arrives and wants to know whether they should go to the Naked Retreats or not.

Its very simple, you must and here’s the picture proof why!

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Being in Shanghai I miss the wide open spaces, I miss the feel of being at Inyati and while this doesn’t exactly have the same variables to work with it is one of the most amazing places I’ve been.

Firstly praise has to go to the South African who had the giant balls to go out and setup something like this in the middle of rural china, I mean I sh1t myself when I have to present to an all Chinese audience, this dude built a luxury camp out.

Second the feeling of sitting in rural china and having a braai, with a bottle of vino and some home made boera almost brought me to tears.

This place is truly special for anyone but for South Africans  it’s a ‘home oasis’ in the middle of a Chinese desert, one that’s not needed often but when you come across it you sink to your knees and drink it all in!

If you are coming to Shanghai, live in shanghai or are passing through this place is not a suggestion but an absolute must do place filled with biking through ancient towns, tea fields, horse riding, relaxing and disappearing into the forest canopy! Sensational!

Go check their site for the full show!

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On the road again . . .

High Flying!

So I have a rather hectic travel schedule coming up. A few countries in a few weeks (including 72 hours back home YAY!). I haven’t traveled in a while and after 4 years of almost 100 flights a year it feels a little weird being on the ground so much.

Never the less it’s starting to move again, I guess after my move to China I had to feel solid ground for a while before I could fly again, after last week’s drunken post I guess that time has come.

My new policy though is that while there is work, a lot of work, there must be some fun in between and if you disagree and think the straight and narrow is the only way, well then, read on and tell me if you still think this way at the end!

Here’s the next few days!

A bit of work in Vietnam (very very excited just to get there – I want to plan a 3 week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia for CNY next year!)

Once the work is done a few days to relax at the Nam Hai near Hoi An are in order.

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As you can tell this is going to get boring quickly so maybe a bit of time experiencing the World Heritage site of Hoi An.

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Back to Ho Chi Minh City for one night and day sadly but just enough to have a superb dinner round the corner from the Park Hyatt and relax by the pool for a bit! A quiet drink in the bar downstairs might just be in order :)

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From there its back to work but in a rather magnificent park of Singapore, the Marina Sands (I don’t have the first day to laze with some friends around their epic infinity pool overlooking the city!)

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There shall be some entertaining of course and I get to catchup with my brother (hopefully both!!) at the W Hotel (you know I love the W) for a dinner at the brilliant Skirt in Sentosa!

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Then back home for a few days to get the shirts washed and ironed to pack for the next little adventure!

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Sometimes inspiration just smacks you in the (drunk) face . . .

High Flying!, The wonders of China . . .

So I’m taking a leaf out of another bloggers book, not of the same courage, not of similar personal perseverance to triumph, but of impulsive unedited spontaneous feeling driven writing!

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Let me give you the 20 second summary and background.

I sucked at university, so much so that it almost took me double the allotted time to complete my degree. Since then I have been a merchandiser (shelf packer) , sales rep, manager, director, created the biggest dedicated sales force in the world and now Shanghai-I’m-not-sure-what-CEO-type-thing!

Today, I was playing golf with probably three of the most important business people in my universe (I manage about 15 000 ppl and they pay most of the bills). So I was slightly nervous at 10am this morning at tee off. I didn’t shank the first drive but I certainly didn’t find the fairway. After a year of non-golf you will excuse me!

So now I’m drunk, very drunk (each hole had to include a beer but drunk quickly every four holes – its raining and playing golf in the rain is shit so you get it).

So currently I’m in my Buick people carrier driven back to Shanghai by my seriously cool under 30 driver who is the epitome of Chinese new age nonchalant cool (whose mom made me Zongzi over the Duanwu Jie when he went home this week and I went cruising – soon to be written about).

We’re going off track (I did warn you I am drunk)

So the reason for my post is I’m listening to a playlist of song from a world class friend of mine, one of which is ‘Pursuit of happiness – Kid Cudi’ – the kind of track I like to stand in the middle of the dance floor hand in the air when the beat drops and just standing still enjoy the moment as the music, light and people all move in slow motion around me.

(this is the remix im listening to – the video is from a movie called Project X that you should have seen by the way)

This feeling is slightly older, slightly more limitless-pill, the feeling a sense of calm, happy and power. One of small victories and self satisfaction. The fact that I’ve come to place I cannot understand and cannot begin to comprehend but now, a year later, am playing golf with the most important people in my economic world, I have friends, I have and amazing lane house (post to come) and I have a ‘power-base’ that I took so for granted in SA.

Do I miss my home, fuck yes, do I miss my friends and the fact that I would be on the course with them today instead of anyone else today, no question but as so brilliantly said in the Godfather ‘This is the business we’ve chosen’ and so I must live with these decisions but so much as to say, I’m doing well, I’m enjoying life and I’m really starting to feel like I’m standing on grass rather that in the waves of the beach feeling the sand seep out from below my toes!

The moral of this rather long laborious story is, enjoy life, enjoy the shit adjustment phases of new days and enjoy the intimacy of knowing and learning new spaces – love it all and like I’ve said so many times before, when you have a small victory, embrace it, enjoy it and appreciate it!

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Japan, Ryokans and the Cherry Blossoms . . .

High Flying!

Five days, two 150 year old Ryokans, The height of Cherry Blossoms blooming, 9 tasting menus, The Ritz and a train or two.

Let me break the experience down into pieces . . .

Japan in general . . .

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After being in Shanghai a year you start to ignore and forget the daily things that used to seriously piss me off when I first arrived. The pushing into elevators when people haven’t come out, the lack of courtesy walking down a street and the snort and spit on the pavement.

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When you go to Japan though, in my limited experience, you quite quickly start to realize what a humble and polite people they are (this may get me kicked out of China but still). They are gentle, kind, helpful and endearing! They have a way about them that feels like you are consistently somewhere you are wanted, liked and appreciated!

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The way they express things and the way they talk is calm and to the point but in a loving way. There expressions are charming yet ancient and their outlook on life is everlasting!

Ryokans and Hotels . . .

To stay in a Ryokan is something quite special. The two I chose were Seikoro and Sumiya as they are quintessential representations of the ancient culture and civilization of Japan. When you arrive and are greeted you immediately feel the humble nature of the people and the history and heritage in the institution that has been around for 150 years.

You sit, slowly take off your shows and slip on traditional Japanese in door slippers. You transition into a world long gone, instantly.

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The room is simple, cozy and leads onto the most exquisite Japanese garden outside. The seats are on the floor and in the afternoon are quickly removed and replaced by your bed. Western luxuries exist but are hidden away for those who don’t want the distraction.

Wake up is early, if you want or rather is expected, with a traditional style bath (they prefer you to use the communal baths as this is customary – for R10 000 a night I really preferred my own bathroom, call me a snob but I’m just not a fan of the communal showers since my boarding house or prison days) which consists of sitting on a midget stool while washing and hand showering and then climbing into a hot deep wooden bath – this process can be repeated several times.

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While you are getting ready your room is re-transformed into a seated breakfast room with and array of dishes in every shape color and form, freshly prepared, clean and healthy (more on this later) served by what us Westerners term a butler, a term that has been horribly bastardised from the noble profession it once was (thanks Downton Abbey). This was a quiet, humble, educated and traditional women (who did sound a little like Mogwai from Gremlins when she spoke)

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You head out for the day to what I will explain a little later and return for evening green tea, authentically made in powder form and mixed into a sweet, bitter combination of intense flavor accompanied by a sweet biscuit. No extreme cookies or cupcakes of decadence, the main focus is the simplicity of elegance and natural beauty, I guess this could be a framework for Japan in general.

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Dinner is then served in the same quantity and variety as breakfast . . .

Then you head out for the blossoms and temples by night!

After four days in Ryokans the change to the Ritz Carlton in Osaka was happily anticlimactic if that makes any sense. It was nice to get to the absolute decadence of a corner suite at the Ritz but it was completely over shadowed by the quiet peaceful elegance of these small 150 year old establishments.

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Never the less a when you get out of the full sized standing shower and put on those massive Ritz white robes it’s hard not to appreciate it!

The Food.

I live to eat, I always have (except this week I’m currently on a liquid only detox for the first time in my life) but this trip was never planned around the eating and yet somehow it managed to be a massive highlight. Like I said every morning and night in the Ryokans was a feast of tasting menu perfection.

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First though a surprising stumble around the neighborhood to see a nighttime feast of blossoms down one of the streets meant we stumbled across a quaint looking restaurant, being 10 at night and they were still open we stumbled in sat down (actually they only took cash so they made one of there 7 chefs walk us ten minutes to an ATM) and quickly realized this was something special. As soon as a restaurant tells you they have one menu for tasting, they have 10 seats and 7 chefs you know something magical is happening. We managed to get a table at one of the best restaurants in the country called Guilo Guilo off the street while the friendly Aussies next to us booked 2 months in advance and could only get a 10pm seating. Sometimes I feel I’m destined to eat!

Epicurean splendor ensued . . .

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From there in to 8 Ryokan menus was absolutely hedonistic-ally fantastic. This is pretty much what every breakfast and dinner looked like from then for the next few days!

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IMG_8544As a treat, as food markets always are, we hit the ‘kitchen of Kyoto’ or Niishiki market for a few hours. This single street that spans 8 blocks houses every fresh, dried, smoked and cooked thing possible to purchase (including a little delicious donut surprise!).  I decided to partake in the sweet teriyaki baby octopus on a stick complete with pickled quale’s egg stuffed in its head!

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After escaping roughly 100 courses later we thought we could slow the consumption rate by getting to the Ritz and quietly sneaking off to a local sushi place. Needless to say the suggestion from the concierge was closed and turning to city guides for advice in a sudden rain storm proved to be fruitful as we were directed to XEX, again by coincidence and again one of the best in the city, for another tasting menu!

By this point I had been so full for so long I could barely take pics of the ice bar, fresh sashimi and another 10 courses. It was only lunchtime!

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After passing out from lack of blood to the brain for a few hours it was on to what was supposed to be the ONLY pre planned culinary event. The Michelin starred IPPOH tempura restaurant. Complete with private room, private chef and a tasting menu through every kind of tempura possible, of course coupled with a few bottles of saki and once again served by a humble women in traditional dress.

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The blossoms . . .

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I can barely explain a cherry blossom tree if you haven’t seen a real one. I don’t mean a half arsed one that exists in most places in the world, I mean a tree so packed with blossoms it looks like it’s going to explode into a cloud of white and pink fluff!

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These trees are mesmerizing in their pearl white and candy floss pink and as they blow in the wind they shed these beautiful flowers. I have seen few things in the world this surreal and beautiful.

There are a few highlights.

Philosophers walk is a canal that stretches about 3 kilometers and down almost all of it are these perfect blossoms lining the canal and falling slowly down into the water creating a white blanket over the water.

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IMG_9088Maruyama Park is another magical place. Below the trees everyone sets up picnics or for drinking games or to relax with their family, mostly students drinking games, then the restaurants setup tables to lie down, drink your body weight in Asahi beer and stare up at the magical white blossoms with the sun shining perfectly through. Not a bad place to spend a day!

 

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Lastly Kiyomidzu Temple at night is enthralling, it sits on a cliff overlooking the city and the scaffolding built hundreds of years ago supporting the entire structure is made without a single nail, did I mention the Japanese are genius designers in every respect. The Temples lit up at night are unbelievable to go along with the lit up blossoms all around the mountain.

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As a final word on these amazing trees I have to say that the biggest surprise is how they look at night. The trees are all lit from below at night making every street look like an old black and white movie. There cannot be many more places on this earth better to be for 10 days during Cherry Blossom season!

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Planes, movies, red wine . . .

High Flying!, Local is / is not lekker

So I finally watched Searching for Sugar Man.

Right now its Chinese New year or spring festival whatever you prefer and so the entire country is on holiday pretty much, which means I get to go home for the first time in 8 months.

This means an hour taxi to the airport, two hour wait in the emirates lounge, 10 hour flight to Dubai, another 3 hours in the Emirates lounge, another 8 hour flight and then another hour drive, all a tiny price to pay to see my friends and family again.

The truth is I get to drink champagne and decent wine for 24 hours while watching movies on a bed drifting in and out of sleep – it’s truly fantastic compared to what I would be doing any other day of the working year!

So after the first 10 hours of watching meaningless crap movies which I can barely remember or maybe I’m just trying to forget Richard Gear clinging to his acting career, Ben Affleck playing some glorified American, Steve Carrell dying in an earth ending asteroid with Kristen Stewart, I mean Kiera Knightly, and Jennifer Garner barren again (albeit this time far more annoyingly than the first with Juno) I saw ‘Searching for Sugar Man’

I had seen so much noise about it on twitter but for some reason I thought that it was another battle of drugs and hard knocked life story of some overrated over privileged musical superstar that I’ve grown numb to and the fact that it’s not exactly freely available behind the iron dumpling curtain made it impossible to see until now.

The truth is I was being stubborn – I’m a Taurean so not exactly out of character. So between the 5th and 8th glass of decent burgundy I watched Rodriguez’s story.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d seen that Cold Fact album cover a hundred times in various CD collections of my much older brothers, I had just assumed he had lived a life of music royalty. When you are a kid the world is much simpler, especially a kid in third world apartheid, or newly liberated South Africa. If you made a CD, let alone a CD of that quality, you were famous, you were rich and that was the end of it.

How naïve.

I guess so many of us believe we are destined for something great, I thought I was the only one until I read that 85% of all people think that, I didn’t feel so great after that. I suppose all of us fantasize that in some place half way around the world they understand our genius and praise us not for anything other than our ability to connect with them on some level.

This man’s music has been one of the default songs when my brain thinks about music for so long I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t one of music’s golden children, one that was adored in every city on every stage in every country. I truly believed that by the way his music had become such a household standard that he was given the credit that he deserved for as long as I was alive and so really didn’t give it another thought!

When I saw the clips of him returning to South Africa in 1998 to an audience that had believed they had lost an icon, and that base started to play, the base that instinctively started a generation singing the same song much like the Beatles or the Stones, I started to cry. I’m not sure why it impacted me so heavily, maybe it’s because I think that I was so happy that he finally got the recognition that he deserved, maybe because the people got to connect in that moment with an artist who defined their first love, first intimate relationship, first joint, first whatever but a man who completed moments for so many South Africans. Maybe I was just happy that these two great forces got to connect with each other finally after so many years.

To see this man that had lived a life of relative poverty for most of his life to at least get a glimpse of the power his music had on a generation of people he probably didn’t even know existed, took my breath away. It made me believe in the magic of great music all over again. The magic of people, the hope of stories with happy endings and the ability to be great regardless of who you think is lestening.

If you haven’t seen it, you are allowing a part of South African and global music history that will make your heart smile, cry, break and come together all at the same time disappear all over again. This man is a genius, a true genius, a genius in the way great musicians used to be before they we created just to be jammed down our throats for a quick buck and a catchy tune!  Sadly the world doesn’t always understand genius at the time it appears. I can only hope the rest of the world will be able to experience this magic before it’s too late.

Searching for Sugar Man . . .

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STM needs a break . . .

High Flying!

So I have had a rather lengthy year, besides moving to Shanghai in March, there has been a bit of China travel and experience and then some fun and some work globetrotting so it’s important to have a few days to relax and go visit the one man phenomenon Jack Spanish (my brother the writer in Phuket) and then to really chill out at the Racha!

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, its because I will be feet up, drinking excessively here (start hating all you want!)

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Dont worry I will be sure to post a large amount of luxuriously decadent pics along the way ;)

From STM, may you have a massive New Year, one that you feel well into 2013 and may 2013 be the year that you create, conquor, love, be loved, exist, have fun, meet friends, gain trust, build, laugh, cry, sing, drink, eat, and all round make it a year of epic proportions!

 

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From Russia with love . . .

High Flying!

So as if I thought Beijing and Tianjin were not cold enough, I decided, well I was told rather, to head to Moscow for a bit of business. Ordinarily one would assume there would be some time to acclimate to the impossible to inhabit temperatures  however the travelling time to and from Moscow all in (35 hours) was more than half of the time actually spent in Moscow (60 hours) so not exactly a lot of time to mess about getting used to the weather!

So what did I learn from this excursion (outside of the productive work that is)?

When you live in a city, like Shanghai, that is completely foreign to you in every way you start to develop an understanding of things without being able to read pretty much anything. This does help you in a city where the signs look like they have come straight out of an Asterix & Obelix cartoon!

Moscow is beautiful, not when its grey, freezing and gloomy, but when the sun is shining (It only comes up at 10am) it really is a great city by day. The buildings have heritage and grace, the scenery is really magnificent for a big city and even the underground stations are based in the most glorious historical stories. The subway trains on the other hand look just like what I’d imagine Soviet Russia to be like!

There is seems to be such strength in the pride of the country and for the history that everything seems to have meaning and a purpose . . .

By night the city comes alive. It is, in the right locations, a world filled with Cristal champagne in every corner. Models, well they pretty much all look like models, on every arm and everything you would expect a cosmopolitan nouveau riche city to be!

This is the right location, overlooking the famous Red Square . . . .

When in Rome . . . you drink VODKA and when you see a giant Faberge egg being sold for the sole purpose of drinking like some kind of Siberian Prince you realize how serious these people are about two things – being exceedingly wealthy and drinking! Fortunately I was prepared mentally and physically for the latter!

There is a fair amount of arbitrary things, this too you seem to get used to living in China, but there were a few prize things that stood out like this tiny glass sculpture in my hotel room of a fat squirrel, rat or whatever type of rodent randomly perched against a mirror . . .

Then a trip to the supermarket gave these two beauties, yes, that is Strawberry toilet paper!

Finally, and without doubt most importantly, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT lose your passports five hours before your plane is going to take you home. This creates an epic F%$# UP for you and everyone around you. No, I am not this stupid, my brother however, decided it was too easy to do things normally and so he let a fair whack of cash and both his passports get stolen, okay he didn’t let it happen but when you dress like a Russian oligarch and carry TUMI everything you are bound to be a target!

If this does happen – here is the checklist of SH1T you will have to go through to travel out of the country!

  1. Go to the SA embassy
  2. Fill out a massive amount of paperwork
  3. Get finger printed by a South Africa (who takes your left hand twice by mistake)
  4. Travel in numerous cars of random strangers (in Moscow you can hail a normal private citizens car down, offer them some money and they will take you wherever you want – this is common practice in getting around the city because the taxis are so corrupt?!)
  5. Go to a police station and explain the situation to get a police report filed
  6. Fill out much more paperwork
  7. Get ID photos taken by a guy who thinks he shoots the Playboy swimwear edition!
  8. Fill out some more paperwork
  9. Wait for South Africa to confirm you are actually who you are (waiting for SA could take until summer)

There are a few more steps from here but fortunately I didn’t lose all of my crap so I left Russia, barely making my plane but for a mad dash from the train. All in all I learnt that if the wine and vodka are flowing not much can upset you! Also you will get to the airport with just enough time to have a smoke, in the bizarre cordoned off smoking section next to the gate and slump into your chair with a glass of Roederer champagne to ease you off to sleep!

That ladies and gentlemen was 60 hours in Moscow, not for the faint hearted!

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Lessons from 30hrs in Bangkok?

High Flying!

My brothers and I are very close, and now that we live in three very separate parts of the world it makes seeing each other rather difficult, so when our diaries do somehow overlap it’s cause to celebrate (even if it is for only 30hrs) and what better place to do that than Bangkok!

Now having seen The Hangover II, the dangers of three grown men running wild in the streets of Bangkok are clearly apparent, but who says common sense was part of the weekends proceedings?

Here’s what I learnt!

1. If you arrive at your hotel at midnight on a Friday night and have to leave Sunday morning you are asking for trouble. If you cannot avoid it then make sure you have a private TUK TUK for the duration and some Chang Quarts ready, cold and waiting (fortunately my one brother is very focused and prepared for things like this! He has seen man a tour of this nature!) – this is our fearless driver, Ten (yes his name was Ten)

Ten in all his glory! Do not at 4am tell him you want to go to ‘one more place’ – GO HOME!

2. In a whirlwind tour like this you need to get absorbed early on. A bucket, a Phad Thai on the street and a box of Marlboros on the Khao San road will do this for you . . .

This is a bucket (its filled with goodness, black magic and red bull)!!

3. Somehow over the last little while I have forgotten what it’s like to be in a really good club. I also have seemed to have forgotten what it’s like waking up with stamps on your arms and not remembering where the hell they came from!

4. If you are going to wake up extraordinarily hangover, do it in a place like the Mandarin Oriental. First of all the luxury does add a little padding to the pain you will feel and secondly it’s easier to go down for something to eat when there is a string quartet playing in the lobby.

5. As soon as your body is strong enough, head down the river (DO NOT TAKE THE PUBLIC FERRY – YOU WILL HURL!). There is something about a little bit of chaos, dirt and general decay that reminds me of Africa as a whole and allows you to channel the inner warrior for recovery! Eat something overlooking the water (hot is good) and have a beer, no matter how hard it is!

6. When you are in a private boat, do not get ripped off like a tourist and if it starts to rain, you are F%$#@! Subsequent to this point, if it starts to rain and you find one umbrella for three people, its every man for himself (I almost got pushed out of the boat over this)

7. Anticipate the above and have more than one pair of jeans for the trip (I did, but I was alone – hotel dri-cleaning takes time you do not have). If you are at the Mandarin Oriental, take their shuttle boat across the river to the spa. Get a massage (note to self – DO NOT GO FOR A RUN) then steam, sauna and climb into the tiny bubble jet pool and fully re-focus for next night!

8. Have a drink at the edge of the river at the hotel bar (DO NOT WEAR SHORTS EVEN THOUGH ITS A BIJJILLION DEGREEs). Watch the sun go down, have a Corona with lime. Change your dinner reservation 12 times with Quintessentially, the hotel concierge and the various restaurants themselves (you don’t have to do this really but for some reason my family seems to think its imperative!).

9. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this! Go to the Hotel Lebua and have a dirty martini at Sirocco (just check the gallery). This was the place they filmed the scene with the helicopters in the Hangover II . The bar will be packed, you will feel like you are touching immortality (well after 3 very strong Martinis you will). Keep a steady supply of Red Bull to your blood and eat something!

10. If sufficiently drunk move onto the Soi Cowboy (this is the road they party on / lose their shit on in Hangover II – I can see how easily it can happen). The shortest, brightest, dodgiest, craziest road in Bangkok. There’s only one thing to do here, survive!

11. If you are still alive the next morning, have a walk, have something to eat and make sure you fly back business class, anything else at this point may put your body over the edge.

Leave before Bangkok gets you and make a clean break. Make sure all the brothers are still alive (well alive enough) before you leave.

Plan for the next gathering of The Brothers!

 

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Finally I can overcome my fear and hangout in the water!

High Flying!, Perfect products

Due to an early terrifying and scaring event with sharks (and by this I mean my brothers let me watch it from my crib at age 3, and to make it even more of a #1stworldproblem we were here at the time!) I do not go in the water! Ever! So I like to find myself rooms like these ones, to stay in . . .

. . . that overlook the ocean (cause yes its pretty) and have a nice small fresh water swimming pool to paddle around in! The truth is I do wish I could wallow around with all the cool kids in the lakes and etc. and finally it is possible!

I thought initially this would be my savior . . .

But actually we all know from the pool lilos that if you manage to climb on this thing without capsizing it then you have to lie dead still, never taking a drag of your smoke or having a sip of your Champaz (The woman – YES, the float-able deck chairs – NO & for the cost of $4500 DEFINITELY Not! But if you are interested though – HERE YOU GO! - CLUE: Dont answer yet!)

So onto bigger and better things . . .

This magnificent beauty is a TUG BOAT HOT TUB! It come complete with all the things a tiny boat needs (except you have to bring your own of these & of these). This brilliant invention does cost a little at around $22 000 but to be fair by this photo you can see how many of these you can fit in it!

The family is for demo purposes – we would fill it up with a few more interesting creatures :)

You can place your orders with these guys (or even rent it for a while!) If you want just go check out the pics of this thing (full or not – but if its empty its just a slow crappy boat really?!)

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STM going off the grid to recharge!

High Flying!

It’s been a rather long start to the year here in Shanghai. In fact let me give you a better description of what I have been doing.

Imagine running an army.

Imagine everything from deploying the tracks, tracking their progress, ensuring they have the right weapons, uniforms and helmets. Making sure they have lunch every day, correct menus and water for their trips. Imagine having to order every piece of equipment, every tank, every gun and every bullet. Imagine have to check and monitor who has survived, who needs to be replaced and who is not up to their job and then what happens to them. Imagine having to continuously find new troops and train them while simultaneously have to stay on the front foot in the battle.

Now imagine doing all of that in CHINESE!

My job is pretty similar without the bloodshed I guess (even sometimes that’s the same) so when I tell you it’s been a long few months (sure I’ve had a few escapes recently) but really its time to go off the grid, drink a F*&% LOAD of champagne and stare at the most beautiful things imaginable!

The Chinese government is nice enough to take two holidays and move them together so pretty much the whole country gets the Mid Autumn Festival off for a week!

So if you see no new content for a bit, this is where I’ll be if you wanna come ask for it Ill be in the pool villa at the epically sexy Alila Villas in Uluwatu Bali. . .

For some sun . . .

Afternoon cocktails . . .

And finally where i will rest my head at night :)

After a few days of recharging in the mountains its down to the beach to my ABSOLUTE BEST HOTEL CHAIN THE WORLD. THE W!!

The spa if the weather turns south . . .

The desk to get drunk and read (the 17 000 books I have stored up to get through)

And again not a bad place to rest my over indulged liver at night . . .

If you are starting to hate me just a little, remember, firstly I really don’t care because believe me I have earned this excursion and secondly, Ill be in BALI BABY!

See you soon!

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