Travel story

Unique Architectural Holiday Stays

Why stay in an identikit hotel when you could stay somewhere truly extraordinary on your next trip? A metallic barn balancing in mid-air? A wooden sphere suspended amongst the trees? A crazy Dali-esque tree-like structure? Or perhaps a house without walls, only screens and stained glass windows? You travel the world to discover new, exciting and exotic places – why shouldn’t you stay in one too? Book your flights, order some international travel insurance and jet off to one of these incredible holiday rentals…

The Balancing Barn – Suffolk, England

The multi-award-winning Balancing Barn, located a few miles inland from the beautiful Suffolk coast, dramatically cantilevers over a descending slope so that half of the building is in mid-air. This not only results in an exciting piece of architecture but fabulous views over the neighbouring nature reserve, lake and surrounding garden, helped by the huge full-height sliding picture windows. Roof lights and glass floor sections add to the feeling that you are part of the surrounding countryside and the reflective steel tiles on the exterior provide a mirror image of the outside space. A magnificent building in beautiful surroundings.

“The Balancing Barn – Suffolk, England”

The Onion House – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

How can you have a house without walls? When it’s enclosed by screens and stained glass and located in the warm but breezy climate of Hawaii. Even the roof panels are translucent. Designed to make the most of its lush surroundings, the Onion House, so called because its two arching domes with overlapping panels are said to look like the layers of an onion, is nestled within a tropical paradise. Pools, fishponds and gorgeous gardens surround the unusual house and its high terrace enjoys spectacular views of the sea.

“The Onion House – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii”

Hang Nga Guesthouse – Da Lat, Vietnam

It’s not hard to see why this utterly unique guesthouse is popularly known as the ‘Crazy House’. Within a town populated by French colonial villas and modern concrete buildings, the Crazy House really does stand out. Described by many as a ‘fairy tale house’, it is like the love child of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. Resembling a giant, warped old banyan tree, its complex, organic structure is dotted with sculptured aspects of nature, such as spider webs, animals, mushrooms, and caves. Each room has its own animal theme, including an ant room, kangaroo room, and tiger room and much of the furniture is handcrafted and built into the rooms. If you don’t fancy staying in the Crazy House, you could visit the museum instead.

“Hang Nga Guesthouse – Da Lat, Vietnam”

Free Spirit Spheres – Vancouver Island, Canada

Billed as ‘tree houses for adults’, Free Spirit Spheres are handcrafted wooden spheres suspended from a web of rope within five acres of Vancouver Island’s coastal rainforest. Each sphere is tethered to three trees and accessed by a spiral stairway and suspension bridge so you are truly suspended up in the treetops. The rooms are small but perfectly formed, with a double bed, sofa, microwave, fridge and sink and you get to be rocked to sleep each night as the sphere gently sways in the breeze. Bliss.

Travel story

Trip to Guam

Just uploaded photos from my trip to Guam to my photo gallery.

I felt like I was still in Japan because everyone there is a Japanese tourist, and a lot of advertising is in Japanese.

At least the beaches had clear water and weren’t crowded with people, unlike in Japan. I even got a sunburn. which was great considering that Tokyo is starting to get really cold.

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South Korea – The Saga Continues

We planned on going to a night club in Suwon, but on the way a Korean guy tried to get us to go to a “club” he was working for. We said what the hell and sat down at a table there after negotiating the price. The first odd thing i noticed about this place was a tiny dance floor, and many tables inside this large room. Men in suits walked around with small flash lights, shining it at customer’s tables. The suits working there would take a girl and sit her down at a table of guys where she had to talk to them. It was like a hostess club where girls were payed to talk to guys. At first we just talked to them, but whenever i asked about this being their job and what they really thought about it, they pretended they didn’t understand. We had made a mistake, this wasn’t a normal club. We especially didn’t like being around girls that were payed to interact with us. We didn’t need the help. So when they sat the next pair down with us, we just stood up and left.

We also went to Lotte World. A theme park that’s a clone of Disneyland. The logo is even the same with Disneyland’s Cinderella’s castle surrounded by an incomplete circle. And they even sold round ears like Mickey Mouse that you could wear on your head, even though Lotte World’s mascot was clearly not a mouse and has pointed ears.

but the rides were fun. And barely any time waiting in lines as it was a monday. I heard that on weekends it might take a 4 hour wait to get on a ride. Interesting difference.

afterwards we did some shopping in Namdaemoon and Dongdaemoon. Spotted a lot of cheap, fake brands like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Calvin Klien, and saw some nice belts, bags, wallets and stuff like that. Fakes are classified in terms of quality from S class, which is the highest quality and indistinguishable from the real thing to B class which is great quality but not perfect, and C class which is not as good, and there are probably a D and F class which are poor quality and easily identifiable as fakes.

It seemed like a lot of things in Korea were fake. A restaurant next to my hotel was called DisneCake, and even wrote the name in the same font as Disney. There was a Chicken Hut, with the same logo and colors as Pizza Hut. A lot of popular Korean songs that koreans think are originally from Korea, are actually covers of songs from Japan. And before I went to Korea this time, I assumed it was just a stereotype that most Korean girls alter their face with plastic surgery, but I actually met a few girls who have and plan on doing it. So i guess it happens more often than I thought.

It was in interesting observation because I had always felt like Japanese people I interact with are usually more superficial, and thus fake. And by that I don’t mean their entire identity is focused on meaningless superficial experience, but i mean during at least initial interactions with people in Japan, conversations will be so superficial that we can’t really get to know each other. People in Japan disclose information about themselves very slowly, and they usually don’t disclose as much as people from other countries, especially “western” ones. So because of my cultural perspective I am very sensitive to excessively superficial interactions when I prefer to really get to know someone. So I also feel a level of social fakeness when interacting in Japan, at least from my cultural perspective. Though many Japanese would be used to this and reserve their “honne”, their inner thoughts and true feelings for close friends behind a veneer of polite, excessive respect known as “tatemae.” But I felt more socially at ease in Korea, the standards of tatemae were not as high as in Japan, and i could talk to anybody about anything it seemed. and a lot of people in Korea seemed genuinely friendly, and genuinely sad to see me leave even though our interaction was very short.

Travel story

A Stint to South Korea

6 day trip to South Korea was sponsored by Energy Up 6 which kept me alive every day and Korean Soju which nearly killed me each night with its 27% alcohol level. I didn’t sleep at all for the last 3 nights except for one or two occasional hours on a bus or train, but we were beyond mere exhaustion and nearing a sleep deprived dementia. At one point, Akemihiro and i were on the train and he took out his cigarettes and almost started to smoke, until i reminded him we were on a train! at least it wasn’t the airplane.

In Myeong Dong we ate a pizza with blueberry crust which was much better than it sounds and then we went to the Lotte Duty Free shop in Myeong Dong. When we arrived at the 10th floor Akemi said, “I’m a local here, only you are a foreigner.” and he was right. everyone here was Japanese, all the staff spoke fluent Japanese, even all announcements were in Japanese. Though Akemi informed me that there were some grammar mistakes in the announcements, which was extremely unacceptable for Japanese as this was a very high class place so every detail should be perfect. Yeah, Japanese really love their obsession with perfection. Akemi bought a Duppont lighter there for about 900 USD. I can’t imagine making a purchase like that, i’m more practical, and don’t have that kind of money, I also don’t smoke. A girl we met later showed us her 20 cent bic lighter. Akemi informed her it was cute but he could buy 5000 of those.
Later that night we met a friend of Akemi’s, Kay and some of her friends. Though Akemi told me how much Korean girls love Japanase guys, I didn’t realize how obvious that would eventually be. We drank at a restaurant late at night with Kay and her friend. I tried to talk with everyone and enjoy the evening with a few drinking games and casual conversation. But Kay’s friend kept talking to Akemi about Japanese relationships, actors, and Japanese porn. And that’s fine, she kept asking him these questions because he’s japanese, but I’ve been living in Japan for over a year, so i also have some input in these topics too. and so finally, she asks Akemi, “what’s your name?”

and..reluctantly, she then turns to me and asks the same question, but it sounded more like, “oh do you have a name or somethin’?”

We had mostly a lot of fun interactions in Korea though. Late one morning at a bar, a girl who couldn’t speak much English, dialed a number and gave me her phone. Expecting someone korean with barely any English ability, i answered with “what’s up dawg?” (Just for fun Akemi and i had been referring to everyone in korea as Dawg, bro, and dude) and to my surprise it was actually an american korean guy, who told me that “yeah, i am from the America.” She then dialed another number and said “chinese” so i started talking to this other guy in Chinese for a minute before passing the phone to Akemi, who asked, “how old are you?” “are you a university student?” I then informed him, “hey that’s her dad.”

She chewed noisily and spat in front of us. A breach of manners we would never see in Japan. To discuss this fact without anyone understanding us, we spoke Chinese.

Akemi: ???????
me: ??????????

and it’s easy to see how a girl’s lack of manners can seem so unattractive in Japan. I considered the idea that there’s possibly some american guys who appreciate a girl who can be rude and break social norms out of bad habit or just for fun. But Japanese usually can’t appreciate things like that.

Another breach of etiquette i hadn’t noticed but Akemi pointed out to me was that in Japan, a girl only looks in a mirror, checking and fixing up her hair in the presence of boys if she isn’t interested in them so it was quite rude from a Japanese perspective when we noticed that in Korea a lot.