Blog - April 2010 Archives
April 2010 Archives
April 22, 2010
Trip to India - Chennai
Almost 2 months have passed already, and you might know already if you watch my Flickr photostream. We had a very nice vacation at the beginning of March to go to India! We went for the south, entering by Chennai (aka Madras) and then visiting Pondicherry and Auroville. I will be presenting our highlights from each of these places.
I want to keep it short but with a week to recount, almost 500 photos in total, and so many things to say, it's hard to decide where to start. Let's try starting at the beginning.
We left Tokyo on February 27 before noon to arrive late night in Chennai after a transit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where we enjoyed kaya toast (coconut jam which I love). On the plane we had a lot of fun watching a Hindi movie called "Quick Gun Murugun" (trailer at YouTube), a super-Indian western where the vegetarian hero fights against a bad guy who's starting a chain that sells non-vegetarian "McDosa"(!) (dosa is an Indian crepe). Just hilarious!
Upon arrival at the Chennai International Airport, we needed to exchange money to rupees, and we were confused by people telling us different things. One would tell us that the rate is better once out the gate, but the prepaid taxi booth is inside the gate and someone else would tell us we couldn't come back in after. The prepaid taxi guy offered to exchange our money at a rate that didn't seem very good (Rs. 4000 for ¥10000) but told us he paid better than the Thomas Cook exchange nearby, we went to verify and he was indeed giving us about Rs. 500 more. So we exchanged money and got our prepaid taxi booked. A guy led us all the way out of the airport and to a line of people who were waiting for the taxis that kept coming in. We got our taxi and the guide guy asked for a tip but we didn't have any small change yet except for a lonely Rs. 10 that we decided to keep for the driver, the guide seem to tell the driver that we don't tip, neither seemed too happy.
Anyway we made it to our hotel, Sea Shell Residency, a 3-star business hotel where we stayed for about ¥5000 per night. It was alright clean but more than anything the staff was very nice and helpful. We only stayed 2 nights but even days after we had checked out they were happy to keep our luggage and even call a restaurant and taxi for us.
One thing that was a bit hard to get used when speaking to Indian people, but that was at the same time amusing and charming, is that when saying "yes!" they tilt their head from side to side. It looks a lot like they're saying "no" but at the same time they're saying something like "sure no problem!".
At 5:30 in the morning we were waken up by loud adhan (Islamic prayers) coming from a nearby mosque. Hear what I recorded in the dark:
We then got ready while enjoying a bit of Indian TV (there was a daily yoga program with a long-bearded guru wearing red) and the complimentary continental breakfast. On our first morning when breakfast was delivered we asked if we could get Indian food the next day instead, and the room service guy seemed more than happy to tell us about their Indian menu. The next day we got 2 vadas and 2 dosas (quite an amount of food) for only Rs. 100 or ¥200!
So on our first day in Chennai, we had plans to meet the family of a very nice co-worker who had invited us (although he's currently studying for a MBA in Japan). We had to meet his brother at the hotel at noon, so before then we took a walk to Spencer Plaza, a large mall about a 10 minute walk away.
So we had the great pleasure to be greeted into an Indian home, and eating mom's dosa! We ate two or three each, as well as many delicious Indian sweets! Everyone was so nice and welcoming.
Then we were brought back into town, while looking at the colorful streets.
We enjoyed some shopping at Citi Centre, a very nice recent shopping mall, and then we hired a Rickshaw to take us to Parathasarathy Temple and then Marina Beach. The driver seemed to care to take us through small streets where we could see cows! There wasn't much at the Temple except for some ladies outside who were begging for some money. I ended up like this before I knew it. :)
Marina Beach felt quite nice, everyone had recommended us to go, saying that just everyone goes to the beach at the end of the afternoon. We couldn't relax for long though, as soon there were three kids who kept following us, we weren't sure whether to trust them but it turned out that they just wanted to have their photo taken. Great smiles! :) There was a guy on a horse too, and we saw him on the newspaper the next day!
In the evening we went to a place called Amethyst, a café and shop selling clothing and various things, the whole is aimed at foreigners and therefore more expensive than the average. We had a comfortable time there. Then we headed to the nearby Saravana Bhavan, a chain of vegetarian restaurants originated in Chennai. The food was delicious! In the entrance we found a large group of 12 French people waiting for their turn. It was fun to talk to strangers in French in such a far away place!
An unforgettable moment... When walking on Nungambakkam High Road, not far from our hotel, trying to find the way to Amethyst, there was a small dog who was first following other people but then started following us closely. There are many homeless dogs on Chennai streets. So we kept walking hoping that he would leave us alone (we wouldn't want to end up with a bite, we heard that dogs in India are calm during the day but can be scary at night), but he stayed very close. So we ended up getting a rickshaw... and as we drove off the little dog just kept running just as fast as us on the sidewalk. I guess he liked us...
Watch part of a rickshaw ride:
To be continued...
April 18, 2010
Curry and Farm Party 2: live report
Yesterday was a day of curry and indies music. We woke up late and went to have "lunch" at about 3 PM at Culcutta Café@和ちゃん in Higashi-Nakano. It was our first time there but friendly chef soon started talking about India and also showed us her toy elephant's photo diary of a trip from a few days ago. She serves various Indian curries. That was really good and we will surely be going back!
Just a few hours later at 19:00, we were off to have more curry, at an event by Indian food unit Masala Wala held at Enban in Koenji. For ¥1600 you get all you can eat curry, a drink, and also some live music. When we got there we could catch a bit of a rehearsal of band conti, featuring one of the guys from Masala Wala on sitar! Later there was a show of two guys playing improvised drums and percussions under a blue sheet. Very Enban! The curry was really great too, so many kinds of food! There was also vada, "chicken 65", pakola and more.
We really wanted to hear some more sitar, but we had another place to go, so we left just a bit past 20:00, heading for Gamuso in Asagaya where was being held Farm Party 2, an event organized by the great Tokyo Gig Guide.
We got there catching the end of a set by tsuma-saki, a trio of girls playing synths and drums. They were followed by Abikyokan, a band of three guys of different nationalities (UK, US, Japan) though this time they were accompanied by organizer Craig and another.
Next was Hosaka Akane, the main reason we went to this show! Her set was along the usual lines with a selection of her best songs, though she opened with a great new song, "uchū no korisu-chan" (translates to "The little squirrel in/from space", the last song in her playlist at MySpace). Also different from her usual shows was the audience's reaction, while her shows often have a quiet audience this time there was lots of laughing and even singing along to her cute melodies, surely thanks to the event's variety.
Last up was another band from the Enban scene (like Akane), called Living Astro. The band is a guy and a girl playing guitar, bass and various electronics. Their songs are mainly short, experimental and beatless. They were quite good!
Today we had some curry for lunch too..!
April 11, 2010
Sweet Sakura Revue 2010
This year's sakura season felt short, as we didn't have much good weather on weekends. Weather has been very strange this year, as we got more snow than usual, and even this week we got temperatures below 10°C, that's colder than Montreal.
Anyway, today we were lucky to get some 19°C that felt very good! So we headed to Asagaya to enjoy a little picnic under the cherry blossoms. We usually go to Asagaya jūtaku, but this time we found ourselves by the canal, where many other people were doing the same. This is still a much more quiet place than more popular parks.
Passing through Asagaya jūtaku, a residential area that had been set to be brought down to make room for taller buildings, we were happily surprised to see that it seemed still intact.
A few photos from Hamamatsuchō.
And below are photos from Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills a week ago.
My friends at GwaGwa made this gigantic cake! It was displayed at the entrance of Tokyo Midtown until last week.
April 4, 2010
The Great Attraction: report
Last night was the release party for Konishi Yasuharu's remix compilation "Attractions!". Titled "The Great Attraction", the all-night event featured 12 DJs, and was held at Sasazuka Bowl! That's right, a bowling lane! It had been a long time since I went to an all-night event, but I couldn't resist to this unique party.
The charge of ¥2000 included bowling, and free coke and popcorn all night! Actually those who bought the album at Tower Records could even get in for free, and while I wasn't one of those (I had bought it online already), I was very lucky to win a pair of tickets in a contest on Twitter!
The space near the entrance was used as a dancefloor, while the bowling lanes served their usual purpose. All large screens in the bowling lanes showed mondo videos à la Readymade! If only bowling always looked and sounded like that!
Konishi-san of course had a lot of play time, a total of 2 hours throughout the evening, in-between other DJs which included Tokiwa Hibiki, Hirabayashi Shinichi (Moodsville), Uchikado Hiroshi (Ballroom), Arai Toshiya, Jimmy Mashiko, Yoshinaga Shunsuke and more.
I played two games, my best score was of 103 which I was really happy with considering this was just my 2nd time bowling (Wii Sports doesn't count).
Scores were recorded through the evening as part as a tournament. Prizes were given to the best and worst bowlers. The top prize was of a large trophy and 20 records of Konishi's remix works! One of the prizes for the worst was Dragon Quest 4 played only halfway by Readymade's boss Hasebe Chisai. :)
Many thanks to Konishi-san and Victor for this great night! I hope it will happen again!