For Whom the Train Tolls

If there is one fault the Japanese railway has, it's the god damn tones they play so often I sometimes wake up at night in a cold sweat singing them at the top of my lungs. At first we thought it sounded like we were levelling up at every station, which was kinda cool. Then by day 2 it sounded like someone locked a bear in a room with a MIDI-keyboard covered in raw meat. Five minute long 8-bit symphonies at every train is enough to make a grown man weep. And if you completely lose your sense of direction, there is an overwhelming sense of being stuck in the Lost Woods.

You know how you'll run into someone you haven't seen a while, and you're all like "Hey, guy, we should catch up!", only to realize as soon as you leave wait actually no, fuck that guy, that guy's an asshole? That's what our hostel in Osaka was like. We actually didn't mind it before we experienced 5-star Hiroshima. With it's familiar scent of what can only be described as "musty fart" we sardined into the tiny elevator, which was essentially playing russian roulette with it's disconcerting heaving at every floor, and set up for the last time in our fun-sized room.

First point of order was Osaka city for lunch, which is kinda business-districty and not hugely entertaining. We got food at one of the many places where you submit your order and pay through a vending machine at the front, an efficient system that would never work in Perth. I imagine hordes of people accidentally ordering fourteen Cokes and demanding refunds.

We shopped for a while then headed to Namba, which was a lot more vibrant, colourful and like Shibuya (read: fun). Upon leaving the train station we saw an old man, utterly inebriated, dancing quietly to himself with two giant glowsticks. He was wearing earphones so as not to disturb anyone else. He even had a plastic bag for his empty cans. Now, seriously. Why the hell can't our drunks be like that? In Northbridge that same guy would've asked for a dollar then followed me for several kilometers shouting obscenities about my mother.

For nightlife, there's few better places in Osaka than Shinsaibashi, which is like the Vegas strip of shopping, clubs  restaurants, and Dotonbori, a series of delicious market stalls and all-you-can-drink local bars with cover charges. It is also, however, filled with prostitutes, which they forget to mention on TripAdvisor. They're not very discreet, beckoning to everyone they see like pushy salesman all over the main strip and river overpass, which we dubbed Whore Lane and Hooker Bridge respectively. Flanking them are a bunch of Japanese guys who dress like Yakuza or rap music video extras. I considered asking one if he'd follow me around and just act cool for 1000 Yen a day but thought better of it.

The New Town

Hiroshima is a gorgeous city, and one of my favourites. It has a character and resilience that resonates through its architecture as well as its people.  Our hotel, which we had managed to acquire online somehow by bashing our faces into the keyboard repeatedly, had a beautiful view overlooking Hiroshima bay and a lobby so extravagant it was dedicated to wedding ceremonies. Seriously, shit had an altar and a florist next door.

IMG_1683.JPG

The first thing we saw was the remnants of the A-Bomb Dome, an iconic city hall before the atomic bomb levelled the city in 1945. Bizarrely, as the bomb struck almost directly above the dome, the walls were left relatively intact despite the entire rest of the city being reduced to rubble. It serves as an eerie monument to the destructive capabilities of nuclear warfare. Bends solid iron like tissue paper. 
The Remembrance Hall and Museum are sobering experiences and leave you deep in thought for hours afterwards, with the many displays, exhibits and horrific testimonies taking you right back to the catastrophe that happened almost 70 years ago.

Lunch in Hiroshima was ordered on the riverside at a sickeningly cute little Italian cafe where I was disappointed for the fiftieth time at the Japanese idea of a single serving of pasta. Why do I keep ordering Italian food in Japan? It's a mystery of the ages. The cafe has an amazing view of the river and the sakura in full bloom and was a good place to ponder the events of the previous few hours. 

Nearby to the central park, Hiroshima has a giant shopping mall shaped like a tunnel. It was there I found a young hipster Japanese (redundant?) girl with crazy pink hair sketching caricatures of people for $15. I was suitably intrigued and perched ridiculously on the smallest stool on the planet while she studied my face and drew easily the best (and only) picture of me I've ever seen. She even got my exact posture of a fabulous ballet dancer attempting to take flight.

Next up was an attempt to visit Hiroshima castle where spent a good hour circling around the outside streets in futile. Japan hates jaywalkers. I had an absurd mental image of an army trying to take the castle only to be stopped repeatedly by tiny flashing red man lights. After crossing a bigass moat which I'm considering implementing at my next rental we went inside and got some ridiculous photos donning Japanese samurai armour (spot the tourist!) before climbing a million flights of stairs to get a view of the castle foregrounds and the city. Also, wind. We viewed lots of wind.

Too soon, it was time to leave Hiroshima. We had dinner at what I can only describe as Japanese Sizzlers (unlimited drinks bar!) and headed back to our 5-star hotel with a 5-star view and 5-star beds. I was not particularly looking forward to our return to our hostel in Osaka, which was roughly the size of a bento box.

Electric

Ah, Akihabara. It's called the Electric City for a reason, because it's a damn otaku paradise.

It's focused almost entirely on technology, games, manga and anime. We picked up some ridiculously good bargains in the multi-storied havens of figurines, costumes and accessories before heading back to Shinjuku for our final meal in Tokyo. One restaurant looked promising until we discovered the hard way that their special "buckwheat noodles" were ash-grey and served cold. I dubbed them "great depression noodles."

Delicious

Delicious

Next up was Osaka, which on first impression is somewhat more relaxed than Tokyo. There seemed to be far more traditional Japanese houses surrounding the city as opposed to highrise apartments and the people came across friendlier and less uptight than in the capital. It's still a bigass city, but you have to explore a little to uncover the secrets, whereas Tokyo has everything flashing in your face like you're inside a pinball machine. Although the sakura seem to bloom just about everywhere, which makes it super pretty. Truth be told there is just a lot less weird shit, which is good or bad depending on your perspective.

As usual we hadn't booked a place to stay and miraculously stumbled upon a decent hostel for like $25 a night. Breakfast wasn't included but anything you caught alive in your room could be cooked and eaten for free. Without any idea of a destination we went exploring and found ourselves at an ice cream chain, where a lot of pointing and gesticulating got us a dirty mound of dessert the likes of which Wendy's can only dream. Oddly enough, not having a destination resulted in us entering a state of "extremely fucking lost" and we spent the next few hours determining our location on the railway, which had almost no english signage, like the filthy tourists that we were. After some Bear Grylls navigation using our sense of smell and the position of the stars we sauntered back to our hostel and decided to head to Hiroshima the following day by shinkansen.

The shinkansen is, for all intents and purposes, a god damn aeroplane on rails. It's sleek and curved and shiny and basically it's a massive pointed white dildo. You have no idea it's rocketing along at 300km/h as you relax in reclining seats. It is, however, on land, which I discovered by way of motion sickness as soon as I tried reading a book. Oh well, it's only an hour to Hiroshima.

Forever Shame

Apparently we picked a bad time to see Shinjuku, because smack bang in the middle there was a proverbial wad of approximately six billion people huddled in front of a TV screen. We found out later that there was a TV network having a special, which denounced my idea that they "all came out to say greet us". It did make it pretty annoying to navigate, though.

Shinjuku is essentially the business and entertainment hub of Tokyo. There are so many department stores, bars, restaurants and seedyass "love hotels" we didn't know where to start, so we just walked around a lot and took in all of the crazy fashion. You see all kinds of shit in Tokyo, I think I know now where the clamshell dudes in Hirafu came from. Leopard print, platform shoes, tiny pink shorts and hair from all the colours of the rainbow. I saw a heavyset man with a leather jacket riding a ludicrously tiny pink bicycle without a single care. There are elderly asian men with massive mullets. It's refreshing, actually. We even saw a bunch of dudes I'm convinced were Yakuza, as they were heavily tattooed, smoking and generally being dicks to everyone, which is a pretty rare thing here.

We ended up at Shinjuku Park which is a beautiful reserve and apparently a picnic hotspot. White and pink sakura were abundant and I tried to restrain my giggling as I took way too many kawaii photos. We checked out Meiji temple, a crazy old place of worship and I think several HK martial arts films, and were relieved when the monks there didn't ask us for money. You have to wash your hands and then can go write a prayer on a piece of wood and place it on an ancient tree. I prayed for the JR railway to extend to Perth.

Imperial palace, the emperor's new pad, was another hustling tourist attraction. You can't see much from the outside, but there is this really bizarre thing where the traffic sound from the road cuts off completely as soon as you enter the grounds, despite being clearly visible. Obviously the emperor has advanced forcefield technology.

Then we went to Shibuya, which is like Shinjuku's cooler, younger cousin, and had dinner. We couldn't decide on a place so were almost relieved when a pushy guy with a menu decided for us. In the elevator on the way up, he said into his phone in Japanese "seat for 2 gaijin, they are oblivious". I looked at him and laughed and his face was terrified.

"You...speak Japanese?" "Sukoshi." I replied, which means "a little". He bowed his head and accepted his forever shame.

Desu desu desu

Is it wrong that due to my preconceptions from anime, gaming and the internet, that Tokyo is exactly as I imagined? It's a giant, sprawling steel metropolis that ranges from dirty backalleys with exposed wires to pristine superhighways flanked by skyscrapers. There are towering apartment blocks and monstrous TV screens. Absurdly sandwiched between it all are ancient temples and sakura trees. In a word, it's batshit-insane.

The trick to Tokyo is that you need to look up. Buildings are extremely tall and narrow and it's pretty hard to tell what is on any floor when you only have a rudimentary understanding of hiragana. Everywhere is like that bigass shopping centre in Saffron City from Pokemon Red. Does this place sell anime or blowjobs? Go up the stairs and find out! (it's sometimes anime blowjobs). There are cafes run entirely by girls in tiny maid outfits, there are places selling bucketloads of NES accessories like it's the early 90's and for some fucking retarded reason there is a whole bunch of places selling exhaust fans and coloured light globes. I don't know either, man. Tokyo.

Luckily it's super easy to get around, even for country hicks from Perth. Asians be praised for their public transport systems. Japan's rail line is a single giant, pulsating suit-wearing organism that prides itself on efficiency. Also it's cheap as shit. Basically, it's the exact polar opposite of Transperth. We bought our tickets for $2 and discovered how to get around in about 5 minutes, taxis be damned.

After discovering that by daylight my hotel room view was actually of the biggest damn graveyard I've ever seen, we decided to escape the creepiness (I've seen too many J-horror films) and head to Shinjuku, Tokyo's unofficial capital prefecture. Upon leaving the super polite railway system we were immediately accosted by a "monk" from "Bhutan" who decided to "scam the shit out of us". He placed prayer beads on my wrist and claimed I would receive eternal peace and happiness with a one time low payment for Y10,000 (like one hundred freaking dollars.) I rubbed his little bald head and kindly told him "Golly mister, that's neat-o but I'm broke as fuck." He wasn't too pleased.

We recovered from this with a fat, greasy buffet of nostalgia by way of Japanese McDonalds. Ahhh, the sweet aroma of an obesity epidemic.

Wheels on the Bus

At last, we had to part ways with Niseko.
We had one last run on the slopes, which mostly consisted of going down one-handed throwing snowballs at each other. If you'd told me on the first day I'd be able to do that, my response probably would have been muffled laughter as I dug my face out of the snow repeatedly. We took our gear back and tried to hold back tears. Goodbye little Heineken board, we had such sweet memories together, even when you tried to kill me.

I'M NOT GOING

I'M NOT GOING

Our last night we celebrated in an awesomely vintage little jazz club which was hidden behind a tiny fridge door, set into a mound of snow, kinda like a Hobbit house. I must've walked past it dozens of times. Inside the dimly lit venue are vinyls on the wall, a record player and a dapper as fuck bartender wearing the world's tiniest bowtie. Perth wishes it had a club this hipster. I ordered a Hot Buttered Rum which for all intents and purposes tasted exacty as I imagine Butterbeer to taste. Warmed my soul to my balls.

Take the red pill

Take the red pill

So began our hellish commute to Tokyo. Now, Niseko is about a 3 hour bus ride from Chitose, Sapporo's airport. Then we waited 3 hours for our plane, which was a further 3 hour flight. Can you guess how long it took the bus to get to our hotel? If you said 3 hours, congratulations on a primary school understanding of patterns, you presumptious jerk. 12 hours on buses and planes is pretty much what I envision the ninth circle of Hell to be like. My ass was numb and my legs had long since gone to sleep and started dreaming about beds and futons. We finally stumbled into our hotel at around 7pm and were immediately told that our booking was for the following night as our phone booking English-Japanese skills were about as effective as communicating by interpretive dance. I refused to accept this and Jedi mind tricked the concierge to get us our rooms early. Or, she found them herself, whatever. We'd made it.

Deep Fried

It's crazy how much Niseko changes at the end of snow season. The sun comes out and the streets empty, and there's a distinct vibe of everybody knowing something you don't. It first became obvious when an Australian dude walked past us in thongs and shorts, sludging his way through the ice. Okay, that's ambitious. Then I saw a Japanese kid gleefully eating a soft serve ice cream, halfway up the snow covered mountain. Mocking us. It was a tropical 7 degrees. Bah! We weren't going to let a little sun stop us.

Singlet weather!

Singlet weather!

We spent the next few days eating, snowboarding, drinking and sleeping. We cooked our own meat at teppanyaki, attempted to medically overdose on various types of ramen and even had the manliest brodate which included crepes, wine, candles and an attempt to not make eye contact. When we didn't feel like going out for food, across from our hotel was a heavenly wonderland called Seikomart. Seikomart, my lost love. I will always remember your magical $2 sandwiches, your freshly made curries and prepackaged macaroni and cheese. But most of all, I will remember your $1 jam sweetrolls. *sniff* Excuse me, I need a moment.

Nothing manlier than two dudes eatin' crepes It still seemed surreal to me that the people who stay here for winter actually live this life daily. I bet they've never had to spend a 44 degree day in a house with no airconditioning, fruitlessly spraying water into a pedestal fan. Bastards. Even if they do have to get up every day and shovel their driveways. Also, deal with entitled Westerners, like one I had met a day previous who demanded "FOOD AND BEER!" at the local cafe sometime around 10am. Still, I briefly considered stowing away in the basement of our hotel and emerging only when it had closed for the year, feeding off leftover snow and hitching free bus rides to get around. There was a Japanese girl who lived undetected in this guy's closet for like, months. I could be that Japanese girl. Probably be really sick of Mad Men by a few weeks, though.

Nothing manlier than two dudes eatin' crepes

It still seemed surreal to me that the people who stay here for winter actually live this life daily. I bet they've never had to spend a 44 degree day in a house with no airconditioning, fruitlessly spraying water into a pedestal fan. Bastards. Even if they do have to get up every day and shovel their driveways. Also, deal with entitled Westerners, like one I had met a day previous who demanded "FOOD AND BEER!" at the local cafe sometime around 10am. Still, I briefly considered stowing away in the basement of our hotel and emerging only when it had closed for the year, feeding off leftover snow and hitching free bus rides to get around. There was a Japanese girl who lived undetected in this guy's closet for like, months. I could be that Japanese girl. Probably be really sick of Mad Men by a few weeks, though.

  If there's one thing I absolutely recommend it is slowly cooking yourself in a natural onsen. Strip down to your birthday suit, slide into 67 degree volcanic water and achieve total Zen. It actually became too much after a few minutes and we had to half stand up to let the biting snow winds cool us down. But man, do you feel relaxed, even if the place does smell entirely of sulfur. We had to sleepwalk back to our hotel, which was dangerous because we tried to take a shortcut through fresh snow that almost buried us. Don't take shortcuts, kids.

 

If there's one thing I absolutely recommend it is slowly cooking yourself in a natural onsen. Strip down to your birthday suit, slide into 67 degree volcanic water and achieve total Zen. It actually became too much after a few minutes and we had to half stand up to let the biting snow winds cool us down. But man, do you feel relaxed, even if the place does smell entirely of sulfur. We had to sleepwalk back to our hotel, which was dangerous because we tried to take a shortcut through fresh snow that almost buried us. Don't take shortcuts, kids.

Petrol Sniffin'

You know what the problem with Perth is?
You can't go into Coles and buy 3L bottles of sake. At first I thought it was methylated spirits. Then I tried some, and still thought it was methylated spirits. But damned if it isn't economical.

Bad medicine.

Bad medicine.

Our boarding skill was now at the point where we could turn and gain some decent speed, so we took a day off to rest our aching old-man muscles. Turns out that flat feet is a common issue with snowboarding and the only relief for instep and arch pain is a custom pair of hard boots with custom insoles. My rental Burtons were sorely lacking in this department and I was altogether too stingy to invest in a whole new pair, so a rest day was in order. I hit the hotel gym to alleviate some of the rest-day-guilt and almost died when the one of the poles on the dip machine all but snapped off halfway though a set. "That is enough dips for forever," I decided.

Night fell and we went to one of the local pubs for their closing down celebration. As we came at end of season, lots of places were closed or closing and having ridiculously cheap alcohol nights. In the case of Wild Bills', Y300 drinks. 300 Yen. That is just over $3. Three fucking dollars a drink. I can't park my car in the city for $3. I can't buy a single non alcoholic drink from a service station for $3. The budding alcoholic in me was rejoicing.
We stepped inside and, despite myself, I was immediately reminded of somewhere familiar. "Holy fuck. I have found the Black Betty's of Japan."
There were bogans and weird smells and people warning us not to leave our jackets unattended. The nostalgia was so strong I almost cried. It could have been Lakers tavern. We headed to the dance floor where a slightly overweight Japanese DJ was setting the mood with club favourites like The Macarena and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". In the centre there were two Japanese guys, clothed in nothing but tiny clamshells on string covering their junk. They were heavily made up and groping their way through the club, winking not so discretely at us. "So. Japan, huh?"
The rest of the night is pretty hazy. All I really remember is making friends with some foxes and feeding them beef. The literal kind of fox, you seedy bastards.

Here foxy foxy

Here foxy foxy

Bubba

Day 2 of snowboarding. Many crash. Such bruise. My arse feels like I spent the weekend in prison. But I can finally get to the bottom without taking out a few small Japanese children on the way.

Pictured: Bowling Pins

Pictured: Bowling Pins

We met a girl who had broken her wrist on her second day here and had to take an ambulance to the hospital in Kutchan. It's the third person we've met in our limited time here with some kind of snapped appendage. Not exactly a ringing endorsement when our snowboard technique involves sliding down on our backs instead of on the board. But persevere we shall.

On our afternoon run I zoomed past a woman on the slope who was faintly sobbing and crying for help. After a heated debate with my conscience I skidded to a stop, ditched my board and walked over to her. The poor thing had dropped her ski pole on the ski lift, had come all the way down the slope and was just staring at it pathetically, on a hill way out of her reach. "My pole!" She exclaimed, pointing unnecessarily. Not a problem lady, I was born to help random citizens. I took a heroic running leap at the hill and promptly smacked my face into the side of it, sliding down like a tomato thrown at a wall. Undeterred, I kicked in footholes and slowly managed to get up, grab the pole and slide back down with my hands behind my head like I was modelling for Playboy. "You..you saved my life!" She stammered. I simply gazed into the sun and nodded, retrieving my board and suavely exiting with my hands on my hips. All another day's work for this guy.

eyy

eyy

Love, Hate and Snow

Oh God, snow hurts.

To the surprise of noone at all, I am incredibly uncoordinated and for some reason this was not at all beneficial when learning how to snowboard. After explaining to everyone I have never skateboarded, surfed or even mastered walking in a straight line I commenced my first lesson. Geared up like I was from Gears of War I spent my first 2 hours showing off my various creative techniques of falling on my face. After a particularly bad tumble at high speed where I rolled over like someone had set sv_gravity to 0 I considered that maybe my balance was somewhat lacking.

Battered and broken, we returned to our hotel and died a little inside before heading to a nearby village to buy me some new shoes. This 4 hour mission in the freezing cold involved a lack of maps, taxis and english, and included an angry travel mate, lots of swearing and finally, a new pair of shoes (which were about 10 metres from where we arrived,  whoops). We had to travel by bus to the nearest town, a quaint country village by the name of Kutchan. Unfortunately Kutchan does not have a massive amount of Western traffic and so we disembarked and promptly got utterly lost without 10 minutes. It took us far too long to realize what we should have done in the first place; gone into a restaurant and scream "TAKUSHI!" while waving our arms frantically. (Taxi, for those playing at home.) When we got back we returned to the slopes for a last dosage of punishment. As amazingly surreal as it was to board by moonlight, it took one run for my left arse cheek to protest violently at this decision. I stumbled back to my hotel to count my bruises. Maybe it would be easy for a coordinated person?

Bliss (image)

Hokkaido is so picturesque it looks like a Windows desktop.
The whole bus ride to Niseko I couldn't help but wonder that everything resembled a real-life 3D SkiFree. Even the multiple bear warning signs couldn't conceal my childlike squealing joy.
When we finally got out, I reached out and touched snow for the first time in my life. Hm.
I decided it feels like a white slushie. I soon regret wearing my tiny canvas slip on shoes which promptly soaked through the minute I stepped off the bus.

I am the King under the Mountain

I am the King under the Mountain

After 3 hours of driving through rural Hokkaido, consisting of nothing but farm houses and SkiFree yetis, entering Niseko was a head trip. All of a sudden I was surrounded by fellow bearded, laid back white dudes and a proportionately ridiculous number of people from the tiny isolated city of Perth. I could have been at a gig back home. An exceptionally cold gig where the slippery floor tries its hardest to break your neck. Step, step, sliiiide. Spot the tourists!

Goddamn postcard

Goddamn postcard

Off around the village we went, taking in the snow covered shacks, lodges and tiny quaint pubs and restaurants. There was a single set of traffic lights and the massive hulking figure of Mt Yotei right outside our hotel window. I wondered if these people just left their cars snowed in for winter as we passed vehicle after vehicle completely blocked by snow mounds. "I bet that's really inconvenient," said a small voice in my head. "I bet it's more convenient than sweating out of your ass," said a more obnoxious voice in my head.

It soon dawned on us that our thin Western jackets left us woefully unequipped against the biting cold, which is still infinitely better than melting in 40 degrees. Fuck you, sun. Time to spend some Yen, which is like what Australian currency would be if we only used cents. (About Y100 to $1 for those playing at home). We began browsing the many vibrant, colourful, punk-inspired snowboard and ski stores, and balked at the ridiculous gear prices.  Cue relief when we discovered that end of peak season meant 30% off. Soon we were kitted out in massive jackets, pants, gloves, balaclavas and goggles. I kept with my successful trend of eschewing all colours that weren't black. Unfortunately my attempt to be stealthy in all black clothing failed when I realized that snow is actually white. Then we hired boards, boots and helmets, the latter of which had increased sales of 40% since the Schumacher incident where he bumped his head skiing. Go figure. My rental board had a giant decal of a cartoon Heineken bottle, which was pretty neato.

After practicing my Japanese and winning the affection of approximately no one we met up with a friend, had a few local beers (Sapporo!) and called it a night. Pretty solid first day.

Shanghai'd

If Changi is huge, Shanghai is terrifying.

Arriving at the airport at 5am, there was nothing open. Nothing at all. It reminded me of a Sunday in Perth. In most of the areas I visited I was the only one there, which, coupled with the industrial barebones decor that resembled an underground maintenance facility, created a creepy resonance not unlike Fallout 3. Around an hour later the shops did finally open. And by open I mean the staff showed up and the roller doors lifted, but each store remained completely empty. It was a ghost town and I did not want to be the only customer. Odd.
 

Peak hour

Peak hour

After pondering the reason for this and coming to no good conclusions, hunger won out. I worked up the gall to go up to a sandwich bar and order the Kimchi noodles they had so appetizingly on a giant billboard behind the counter. The poor girl looked mortified and started rummaging frantically, stating "Kimchi!" over and over like it was some kind of death sentence. I immediately regret my request and added "Or, you know, if it's easier, just a sandwich". Her movements became no less frantic and she retreated to a freezer out the back. She emerged 5 minutes later with the precise contents of one sandwich in multiple frozen bags.

"Hm," I exclaimed. 
I am fairly certain the ingredients had been frozen for over a year but I tipped the girl $15 because I think it's the first sandwich she'd ever made, bless her soul. 
I then searched for WiFi so I could let my family and friends know it was quite likely I was going to die in this airport. Minutes after finding a terminal, I remembered that Facebook was banned in China, and that I was completely cut off. (E-mail, I hear you say? Well maybe it's obvious now but it's easy to be all high and mighty from your NON COMMUNIST PC. Plus e-mail is so 90's). After a futile attempt to locate a carrier pigeon I went to my gate and awaited the sweet embrace of death. Several painful flights later, which were the beginning of my experience of being the only caucasian for several thousand miles, I awoke to the northern Japanese mountains rolling beneath me like some crumpled silk sheet. The snow tipped peaks oddly reminded me of an Oreo McFlurry. All my troubles were forgotten (except I was kinda hungry for some reason).

Changers

Hi-res pic of butterfly genocide

Hi-res pic of butterfly genocide

Man, Changi airport is huge.

A 12 hour layover is a daunting endeavour, especially when you have less sense of direction and common sense than a Roomba. After arriving and promptly spilling out onto the streets of Singapore accidentally, I sheepishly reentered Changi and so begun my mission of trying to work out where the hell everything is in the self-toted "Most Interesting Airport in the World."

My first shuttle bus ride resulted in me immediately nonchalantly boarding the same shuttle bus as it left again. Trying to get rid of my bag was a monumental effort but I managed to convince the check-in counter I was, in fact, stupid enough to book a 12 hour layover and was not going to carry my bag for the whole time like some nomad. I headed to the main strip which, while well-signed, can be difficult locate anything apart from designer stores and cafes without wandering aimlessly in circles.

Wander aimlessly I did, until I stumbled across a "sleep zone" where I dozed into an armchair amid my own sobbing for 3 hours. 
Waking up decidedly less than rejuvenated, I located a masseur by sheer dumb luck. While the elderly asian man sensually massaged my bosom I began to forget the ridiculous amount of time I still had to kill in this airport.

After a hilarious incident where I accidentally brushed his penis with my sleeve three times in a row I left, limber and relaxed. I next headed into the world's tiniest butterfly park where butterflies looked at me with faint disgust until I stopped trying to catch them in my hat. I was starting to get hungry, but for reasons known only to the Changi gods half of the restaurants were closed for maintenance. I settled for Singaporean subway, which is like Australian subway only the chicken tastes like it was 3D printed. (So, I guess, exactly like Australian subway).

I was beginning to get sick of Mad Men which I'd now watched almost 5 hours of so I began to look elsewhere for entertainment. Seeing a sign for an airport cinema, I followed the arrows in disbelief and soon found out I'd missed the screening for everything except RIPD, which wasn't worth a second viewing even if it was free.
It occurred to me, not for the first time, that I had largely avoided the "planning" stage of this holiday.

After many "la's" and "aiyos" I ordered a delicious soft shell crab arrabiata from Spageddy's, a hilariously named faux-Italian restaurant. I immediately regret my decision of a beer as I have the bladder of a small child who has been fed nothing but espressos and creaming soda. Several trips to the urinal later, I checked in with friends and family on Facebook on what can only be described as a potato running Windows 98 and a 28k dial up modem (hyperbole) then sat down amongst a sea of sleeping asians to start an impromptu travel blog. There's one guy behind me pretending to watch TV but I'm convinced he's watching me type. I hope he can't read english. Yeah, fuck you, guy. Guess not.