Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Yin and the Yang - FP's Asia Playlist

This is the week where I've most acutely felt the shortcomings of deezer (just to fuel the old debate). Dorian HAS to include a Japan track. Just has to. And none of the contenders are available. Just for the record, I think he has a choice between the early electronic Morodor - infused "Life in Tokyo" or the much later "Visions of China", "Cantonese Boy" or "Sons of Pioneers". Close call. I think I'd go for "Visions of China" if only for the beautifully produced, muscular percussion that became the hallmark of Steve Janssen's contribution to their distinctive sound.
Never been to Asia myself. Never been out of Europe in fact. Isn't that shocking? My teenage fascination for Japan (the group) alone should have spurred me on to make the journey. It just always seems that work or family considerations have been uppermost. Oh stop making excuses FP!
So what I want to know is: once I get the courage up to make that long haul flight to Asia (big place) which places would you recommend? Where should I go? What's unmissable?

free music


scarymonster said...

Agreed re Japan, FP - played the OGWT clip several times already today and think Visions has the edge. Well envious of your having seen them - you must have been in the same audience as my friend if it was at the City Hall ?

I can't contribute to your Big Asia Discussion, I'm afraid, but a friend has recommended Dubai as an ideal summer holiday location. If 'spillers are agreeable to Wikpedia's geographical boundary-drawing and have any Dubai views/tips and weblinks, that would help the scaryholiday planning process.


FrogPee said...

It WAS the City Hall. Fancy. Dubai would be very exciting. Don't they have a prestigious horse race there? I love arab horses - used to have an anglo-arab. They are the most beautiful, graceful animals you can imagine. And sitting on one feels like driving a Porsche. You just rev 'em up and then drop the handbrake...

DarceysDad said...

Dubai is the only place I've been east of Europe. Did a short (beach-based) holiday and it was brilliant. Everything in hotel immaculate, absolutely everyone courteous to a fault to anyone behaving respectfully. Equally, the locals were hilariously savage on the few boorish Westeners too bloody-ignorant to remember where they were!

I only have one regret over that holiday: it was a fortnight too early! To cross-thread back to our breathtaking buildings thread, our hotel suite overlooked the sea-entrance to the new HUGE marina. An even more massive feat of engineering than Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, it made the quarry-size lorries driving around its floor look like Matchbox toys. It was due to be opened for filling by the sea two weeks after we left ... now THAT would have been a sight to see.

Glazes over wistfully ........

Tempusfugit said...

Hi all

FP: I learned that crossing The Bosphorous takes you from Europe into Asia. Not too far to fly, and Turkey is a brilliant place away from the seaside, especially in spring when the temperatures drop.

Visit Istanbul and see the great mosques - they're everywhere you look, and the old underwater cistern system - as mentioned in an earlier theme you raised ref buildings. Take a ferry up the Bosphorus and at the Black Sea end jump off on the Asian side and have fantastic fish at the myriad fish restaurants.

Then head for 2 great places in the interior: Pamukale, with its' hot springs and limestone shelf waterfalls and definitely Cappadocia and the Fairy chimneypots. Explore the cave-dwellings and wierdest, naturally phallic landscape you will ever encounter from your own room 'dug into a rock face'. Brilliant.

Further east, any and all of Sri Lanka you can visit is fab, from the beautiful beaches of the South West coast - pass through Kalutara where I lived from 84-86 and head on down to Unnawatunna. Or head inland to Dambulla to the massive Sigiriya Rock and Buddhist temples - we stayed in an amazing hotel there carved inot the fock face of a cliff overlooking a huge tank, or natural reservoir. Go uphill to Kandy and catch the Perahera - where the sacred tooth of Buddha is paraded on elephant back through the narrow streets - and on up to the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya.

On your way there, or back, take a stopover in Dubai - where you may be met by the Fugits and shown the town, or better still, brought into the desert to visit the red dunes of Al Ain.

If you go to Thailand, I recommend a visit north to Chiang Mai, including a trip along the Mekong River, of Vietnam War fame, up to the Burmese border. Sounds exotic, dunnit?

India? the Taj Mahal is a definite winner, as is Fatepur Sikri, a nearby deserted city that thrived before Agra, but died due to water shortages. Early morning is best.

Scarymonster - the Dubai option is open to you too, of course, and anyone else thinking about venturing out to these parts. I'm not sure summer is the right time to come, though. Temperatures here hit 45 - 50 degrees centigrade between June and August. Better to come for a spring break.

And FP again, the World Cup horse race is on tonight! It's like Royal Ascot, champagne, hats and all!

Happy trails.

EffPee said...

WOW And double WOW. Thanks for all those tips. And enjoy the gee gees the 'nite. Dubai seems like the place to go. Shall do some pondering.

Mnemonic said...

If you have a stopover in Singapore, go to The Night Zoo (and I don't like zoos normally). It's set in a tropical forest and you can take a very silent and darkened open-carriage tram ride round it and then walk on the pathways threading through it. This includes a rope bridge for the brave and all the paths are underlit gently. The animals are separated from people by ha-has so there are no visible bars of any kind. It's got sloth bears, slow lorises and all manner of nocturnal creatures going about their lives and all the natural insect and undergrowth life and sounds of the tropics. Take your insect repellant!

bethnoir said...

Hi FP,
I haven't ever been outside Eurpoe either so I am afraid I can't contribute to that discussion, but I have to agree about the inclusion of Japan in the list.
I really hope Dorian includes them this week. It's also lovely to hear people talking positively about a band I've felt slightly ashamed of liking in the past.

I'm hoping for Life in Tokyo. By the way, the Cure were amazing. How Robert Smith still sounds, and Simon Gallup looks so good after all these years is a mystery to me :-)

EffPee said...

@ Mnemonic - great zoo tip. Frogprince would be on for that also as he loves loves loves animals. He went on business to Thailand (I was too chicken to accompany him - it was weeks after the Tsunami. I very much regret it now as he had a marvellous time) and went to an elephant sanctuary where he bought up ALL the bananas and was nearly stampeded by hungry elephants.
@ Beth: I'm playing all my old Japan CDs - got a great 3CD boxed set off ebay to replace the vinyls-in-my-parents-garage. Their songs still sound so fresh. Amazing. at the time, most of my pals were "Durannies" but I was sort of proud to be a "Japannie" and wore a black men's suit with dark purple velvet kung fu pumps. Which must have looked rather fetching. I did the white make up and dark lips thing too. If you still love them, then treat yourself to the 9 Horses album "Snow Borne Sorrow" with Sylvian on vocals. I really recommend it. Glad the Cure were on form. I would have been genuinely upset to hear they'd lost it. Still one of my favourites. One of the highlights of our holidays on Rhodes last year was the fact that our friendly Greek barman was a total Cure fanatic and played Cure songs every time we toddled down for our evening Margerita. As you do.

nilpferd said...

I've had the privilege of being the guest of friends in Southeast Asia on several occasions and I think you certainly get more out of the place if you can get to know the people who live there, rather than just travelling as a tourist. So I'd recommend seeking out homestays or guesthouses where you can interact with the locals. As mentioned above, Chang Mai is a lovely town, well worth visiting. I spent some very enjoyable time in Malaysia travelling between Penang and KL, in comparison I must say Singapore struck me as somewhat frigid.
On a sun drenched hilltop in Penang, overlooking the sea, pausing at a friend's place for tea, I was suddenly overcome by an urge to just- stay there.

glasshalfempty said...

FP, I can really recommend Japan (the country, that is!), which I visited for the first time in March last year. I arrived at Yokohama, and followed the famous Tokkaido road through Kamakura to Hakkone in a mountainous lake district. The giant bronze Buddha at Kamakura is astonishing. (Hokusai's famous woodcut 'The Waves at Kanagawa' depicts this coast, now popular with surfers, and I am fortunate to own a Hiroshige print from the '53 stations of the Tokkaido Road' series. So I was thrilled to see the unchanged views of these famous 19th century artists, with my own eyes). The countryside was beautiful, with breathtaking coast-to-coast views from volcanic peaks reached by cable car. Not the least of these views was the constant distant sight of the enormous Mount Fuji, which we also enjoyed during boat trips on Lake Ashi. I took the bullet train to Kyoto, which still preserves some of the feel of old Japan in the protected Geisha district of Gion (again, a treat if you enjoyed the book Memoirs of a Geisha). The temples in Japan are extraordinarily varied and beautiful - and the zen Buddhist Golden Pavilion or Rokuonji Temple is one of the great wonders of the world IMHO. I enjoyed outdoor nude bathing at a (segregated) bathhouse fed by natural hot springs, cherry trees (of course), wonderful home cooked bento boxes, and the very English sense of humour of the Japanese. The whole experience was incomparable. Do it. (Oh, and if you can go via Bangkok and visit the Royal Palace, that's another must-see!!)

TracyK said...

If you make it to Japan, obviously Tokyo is a must. It's an amazing city: Shibuya is full of the coolest teenagers on earth and Harajuku is full of those wonderful freaks and geeks. Go see the 'Sunday gang', as Stuart Murdoch calls them in I'm A Cuckoo, lining the way to the Meiji Shrine.
Take a day trip down to Kamakura, once the capital of Japan and jam-packed with little temples and massive shrines. At the end of the village you come to the edge of the Pacific and the little island of Enoshima, a very popular place to visit. Climb the narrow tracks up to the monkey zoo at the top of the island, munch on a dried-squid-on-a-stick and buy a white arrow for luck.
If you go to climb Fuji-san to catch the sunrise, I recommend exploring the 7 springs in Oshino the day before, astonishingly beautiful and the clearest water ever. It's in the centre of Yamanashi, a very rural prefecture. They will dip out a huge peach from a large barrell of icy water, hand you a bowl and knife and you can contemplate the glorious views.
Hiroshima was our favourite place: unbearbly moving, visiting the outstanding museum and peace garden. All Japanese schoolkids must visit Hiroshima, and you will doubtless be stopped by kawaii little J kids who want to practice their English. Take the ferry over to Miyajima, with its red 'floating' torii, temple, manju cakes in the shape of maple leaves, sandwiched with custard, red bean paste or chestnut puree. Stroke the tame deer that wander the streets: we saw a man companionably sharing his fan with a stag, while another woman trimmed anothers' eyebrows.
Kyoto was hugely disappointing for me: very modern and ugly, in the way of most Japanese cities and the many temples scattered far and wide across the city. The trip down the rapids of the river in a traditonal boat was fab though, lots of birds and wild monkeys in the trees.
Ah, to be in Japan in hanami time. Avoid in the summer though, the humidity is no fun.

DarceysDad said...

fp, back on your playlist:

Thanks for Boy Hits Car. New to me, like it a lot. Can anyone enlighten me about them?

And re choice of Japan song - DEFINITELY the instrumental Canton for me, but the Worcester Wonderboy got there first so I'm living on donds this week. (Can't see Our Guru picking The Vapors and having to explain it in print, can you?)


FP-San. said...

TracyK: So that's Japan sewn up. Thanks for taking the time. I do believe mah man and I will make it. We're both keen. I just have to get my head round the flying which is NOT my favourite passtime. Turbulence turns me grey in the face. But I can't put it off forever. I do manage short flight within Europe - my longest being to the Canaries (well whoopeee sh_t!). I feel motivated now.
@Darce: I didn't know them either -good discovery for me too. I would LOVE the Vapours to make the list. That's such a great song. But then again I'd love Carl Douglas to make it too. Hah! Major strop if Sylvian and Co. don't get a nod....

DarceysDad said...

fp - 2 birds 1 stone - why not avoid the prospect of too long a flight: break your trip to Japan up with a Dubai stopover / short break?

FP said...

Darce you're a genius. Very glam idea. Ehm. Does Ryan Air do those destinations???


TracyK said...

Heheh, no it doesn't, but JAL are very civilized, they sooth your fears. My fiance absolutely loathes flying, so much so that we always have a pointless row when we arrive at the airport. I find giving him chewy sweets at certain points (certainly take-off and landing) helps distract him and at least stops him grinding his teeth. I'd never flown before we went to Japan, so I am really lucky that I LOVE it, everything about flying.
Japan is just one of those places where you actually feel you are in a totally foreign country, which is getting rarer. I read the Guardian travel article fom this weekend on camping in Hokkaido, and the writer mentions a family who insist on driving him all the way to his destination while hitchhiking, even though it's twice as far. That sort of courtesy and kindness is so typical. Just a few words of Japanese will make them fall over themselves in excitement too. You just know it's a different world when you see all the windowledges at Narita with beautiful orchids resting on them. Can you imagine that at Heathrow?!

bethnoir said...

Hey FP, thanks for the album recommendation, it's straight on my list :-)
I've just been watching dodgy old Japan videos on youtube (that Communist China Jason linked has amused me no end) and decided I do need to buy it all again on CD, getting out the records from the very high shelf is too much like hard work :-)

glasshalfempty said...

tracy, agree about the effect of a few words in Japanese - to get FP started, here's what I used:
Hello – konnichiwa
Yes, OK – Hai
Thank you – Arrigatou
Goodbye – Sayonara
Good morning - Ohio
It really doesn't take much...

TracyK said...

Also essential..
So-so-so? - Response to anecdote, means "Well I never!" Should be said slightly incredulously.
"Atsu-atsu, ne?" - "Hot, isn't it?" japanese uses reptition for emphasis, so atsu=hot, atsu-atsu=boiling hot. Bestu-betsu means side by siude.
"Honto?"- Really? Has an absurd rising inflection, much beloved of gossiping women.
Sugoi! -Excellent!
Sugoi, ne? - Isn't it excellent?
Kawaii! - Cute! Beware, sounds very much kowaii, which means scary.
Ni biru, kudesai - Two beers please. Kudesai is very useful.
... doko des ka ...? Where is...? Randomly inserting an English noun often works, eg "Station (eki) doko des ka?" works fine.
Gambatte kudesai! - Keep it up! you are doing fine! General encouragement.
Ie (ee-ay) No
That pretty much saw us through 2 years of confusion. Never underestimate the power of mime either. I once bought anti-dandruff shampoo and deoderant for a friend who was similarly language hindered but was less keen on acting out an outbreak of scurf and pit-stink.

FP FP San said...

Stunning vocab list there. Now I really have no excuse.

glasshalfempty said...

Yes, mime is both great fun as an icebreaker, and a pretty good form of communication. It takes some gall, sometimes tho'. In the Azores recently, I needed some goats milk. So in a supermarket, I made a complete spectacle of myself with index fingers for horns, and a good 'meeeh' sound. After the laughter subsided, the request was understood!

glasshalfempty said...

Just to whet your appetite, fp, here's a few snaps from my trip last year, at

FP said...

Cheers GHE. Your goat mime reminded me of my Dad getting to Roissy airport on his own. You get the picture - both arms outstretched and say Brrrrrrrrrrr!!!

ejaydee said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I'll massively dond the Taj Mahal and Tokyo. Kyoto itself maybe wasn't much but the temples around it I really loved. Sadly I've forgotten all the names. There was this park in Tokyo, err close to a Korean restaurant... I'd like to see Angkor in Cambodia.

Frogprincess said...

Cheers Frenchy. Wasn't some of the Tomb Raider film shot at the Angkor temple? Seem to remember it was impressive. My impressions of Japan are gleaned from a mixture of the films 'Black Rain', 'Lost in Translation' and for some reason 'Blade Runner'. I must get over there.

FP said...

Just to say officially that I was rather horrified by the lyrics to Souxie's Hong Kong Garden (see Dorian's "asia" article. I've never listened to them. if that's meant to be racist then I un-nominate the song. But if it's mean to be a protest against racism then that's OK. I wonder if Sophia Coppola really listened to them when she included the song in the soundtrack of "Marie Antoinette"? Golly.