#2080 | #TokyoDiaries – BEST DRESSED KIDS OF DISNEYSEA

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DisneySea Tokyo
Tickets booked on Klook – fuss free, no queue, instant confirmation. Occasionally discounted. More here.

Konnichiwa and all that. Hello from DisneySea, the most alternatively happy place on earth (the happiest being disneyland), best theme park in the world, the place where wardrobes are taken seriously and intensely. I suspect this is more a Japan thing than a Disney thing, because the past three times I’ve been to theme parks in Japan (tokyo disneysea, osaka USJ, tokyo disneyland, and this is my fourth time), the cosplaying going on has been a real and legit thing.

Last October, when I was in Tokyo Disneyland with my boyfriend and friends (anniversary trip, how has three years passed us by so quickly?), one thing that quickly stood out to us was the consideration with which each person dressed – disney-bounding with their favourite characters, matching with their friends, so on and so forth. I myself went as Tiger Lily, with my motley cast from Peter Pan (Shane as capt Hook, Martin as the eponymous Peter Pan, Warren as a lost boy). But we had nothing, I tell you, nothing on the kids.

So this trip, here we go. My schizo alter ego as a street/fashion photographer (read: nonexistent) photographed the best dressed kids of DisneySea.


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All pictures are taken on a Nikon D750, lenses – nikon 35 f/1.8 and 85 f/1.8, save for that one iPhone photo somewhere in there.

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Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Freakin love this costume – and it seemed many people did too. The Alice character was very popular this time round is what I’m saying. And it helps that this kid is pretty cute too.

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A match made in heaven!

It’s Woody and Jessie from Toy Story ◡̈ Pretty pleased to have been able to capture this shot of their backs, looking at one of the rides.

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Random cute kid with a mickey hat.

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DUFFY BEAR!!!

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One thing that really ticked me off in Disneysea were all these posters advertising Duffy bear, and Duffy’s Friend Stella, who’s dream is to be a dancer. Hello? Why cant Duffy be Stella’s Friend Duffy?! Sexist! But then my sister pointed out that all Disney Princesses are main characters with lame ass princess who function as little else than stock handsome love interests, which is a fair point i guess.

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Another Alice, holding her Stella bunny toy. Love Stella, i think she’s a newish character.

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Super cute Pinnochio

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This dude, dunno what he’s supposed to be. Half duffy half donald? Still cute though.

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It’s a very happy Daisy Duck!

A slightly less committed Alice. Alice themed dress but not a full out costume – might be smart, cos then she can re-wear it outside disneyland? Cute kid.

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Not really a cosplay but i like her jacket and hat combi. Future fashionista, this one.

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Same – Love the smize.

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“Can I take your picture?”
“Hold up… ok, I’m ready.”

A very serious and gentlemanly Woody. Haha!

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A really happy Donald Duck! Looking at him makes me happy too LOL

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A significantly less happy female Donald. Maybe cos her parents didn’t buy her the Daisy costume?

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Either Chip or Dale.

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This Elsa was seriously BRINGING IT. I mean, look at that smize! Future ANTM winner right here. Jeez. Can’t deal.

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My one iPhone photo was of this kid who dressed up as Snow white. Don’t think she understood what a photo was tho. She was really confused.

And my ABSOLUTE favourite dressed up kids:

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This sibling pair – Mad Hatter and Alice. Mad hatter has a little white cap with bunny ears (don’t know if you can really see it from here) and he even has that mad hatter clock. His sister is Alice, obviously, with a slightly out of character Olaf bag, but who makes up for it with that incredibly awesome pocket watch necklace!!!! LOVE.

This post was originally going to be titled Best Dressed of DisneySea. But you know, theres no point even trying. The kids win. They always do. The winners of every Disney trip are the kids who’s parents are hardcore willing to spend a ton on their kids costumes. Loving it. You stay wacky, Japan.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures – DisneySea guide to come! x

x
Jem

This was part of a Tokyo work trip with Klook – a travel activities booking site. Tickets to Disneysea were also booked on Klook!

#2075 | Sunnier days

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I dont think i actually did a post proper on my January maldives diving trip. I suppose I will, one day. Not today. Today is closing on a rather exhausting note: a late morning start because of a book I just could not put down last night, a series of work related hijinks, bashing through the bramble of my thesis-in-progress, and then the last three hours of my night, spent paying respects (but more so just being there for a friend) at a wake. It all seems so grown up and adult. I miss the times when my greatest worry was bumping into a pufferfish or stepping on coral underwater, while simultaneously holding the knowledge that the sentiment is fluff and nostalgia. I like being grown up, part of me does, because being grown up comes with benefits like freedom and age-related respect and money. But I like my adulting doled out in small, manageable doses. Not the type where people try and fail to pay for mortgages and stress about where to live and also, the type where people get old, and expire at the exact moment when you realise the gravitas of death.

I remember the statistical truth of once having felt that I had it all put together, but i no longer feel the reality of the truth. Perhaps this is thesis, stage four, talking. But surely it has gone on for too long. Is there ever a point where you wake up and think that you’ve got it all figured out? I laugh at my younger self who felt like I did, once: it now seems naive. Perhaps it is that, at also the 1am ennui pressing itself upon me. Another thing: the imposition of age, the wearing down of invincibility. I now feel it in my bones, a grumbly protest, whenever it hits midnight, like some perverse reverse cinderella. My greatest goal now is to nap my life away. And from, you know, chats, conversations, confessions, it seems that this goal is not specific to me but to the stage of adulthood in general.

ah. happy days in the sun.

x
jem

#2066 | #LAdiaries – One Cold Night in DTLA

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The Broad Museum, Los Angeles
Wearing: Her Velvet Vase

My time in Los Angeles was very short, and very sweet. My first time in the city of angels, and for only four and a half days. And no Disneyland! That’s how you know I’ll be back, no disneyland. Ha. I am so predictable as a basic girl in her twenties. I was there on a work trip, as mentioned before, and in my Griffith post I mentioned us not actually having any scheduled free time. But what free time I did have, I made the most of. Consequently my short sojourn in Los Angeles felt like a good block of time spent doing many different things (half of which full credit goes to Airbnb’s wonderful itinerary). Today’s story revolves around this one cold night I had alone in DTLA, after my half-day Airbnb Experience with The Adventureman had ended. I’d found myself back in the city feeling the soft lapping of jet lag and skin kissed by salt and sun. I thought to myself, four days in LA. No time for naps. I can nap when i’m dead (a sentiment I actually heartily disavow on a regular basis, me being a girl who loves my sleep). And so I showered, changed, and headed out again.

My remaining half-hour of sunlight for the day was spent in an uber with a lady driver who had a personality bigger than the sum of our carseat space. She sang ditties nonstop, had no idea where she was going, and then told me that it was sad, real sad! that her GPS was full of shit! A real tragedy, she said again, shaking her head at me, in between breaths of singing along to Bruno Mars. It was like living in a reality tv show. I didn’t really know what to say, so I shrugged and smiled. It’s sad, she said again, then dropped me off outside The Broad.

Im not someone who loves to spend my entire day indoors in a museum when traveling, but I have to say, some of the best museums Ive seen have really blown me away. I snuck into The Broad on my media pass (dubious looks from the guard, but he waved me through anyway) and it was a nice, easy museum that was also very enjoyable. It’s small, for one, just two storeys, and each exhibit is properly explained in real-speak. That is to say, the way a friend would explain it to you, and not in some highfalutin art speak. I wandered around on double speed, moped a bit about having to skip the Yayoi Kusama exhibit (a 1.5 hr wait was too much of a luxury i couldn’t afford), and left after slightly over an hour.

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“Contemporary Art”

When I emerged it was dark. Dark in LA is not like Dark in Singapore. There are dense city lights you chalk up to light pollution, but the stars shine so bright you forget for a moment everything you think you know about science and the sky. From The Broad I basically ran down the road to the Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall, something I’ve wanted to see for almost five years now. Architecturally it’s a wonder, but you forget all that then you’re faced with the hall. You just stand before it, overwhelmed. Touched? Is it too silly and cheesy to say I felt my heart clench? But it did, and so I will. Some things just take your breath away. Though fair disclaimer – I’m the type who cries at everything. The first time I saw the Eiffel tower at twenty one, I sobbed. Little girl dreams come true and all that.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was everything I hoped it would be from the outside. People slowed as they passed it, to look up in wonder. Sighs were heard. Other people smiled. The occasional tourists brushed by me holding everything from iPhones for selfies to huge DSLR for mood shots. I gave myself ten minutes to gape at the Hall – I had agreed to meet the rest of the Singaporean media at In-And-Out for our first iconic burger experience in half an hour. But ten minutes was all I needed. When something is as innately beautiful as that, you don’t need much skill. You just need to be impressed, let yourself savour the moment, then snap once.

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the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall by night

One day, I told myself, I’ll watch a concert in there. My uber driver honked.

Half an hour ride. It takes half an hour to get anywhere within the city, it seems. I have to admit that the ride there was cold and disappointing. Where was the bustle of the movies, the charm of the streets? Outside the car it was quiet and dark. The stars shone on. The pavements did not. I wondered where all the people were, and something floated back to me as if from another life: a friend casually telling me that you party in LA, at the house of someone if you know someone who knows someone.. bar culture isn’t as strong as it is back in other cities while I looked on in envy. Well, I thought. This is me, looking in from the outside. I know no one, and so the city turns from me.

I do have a flair for the melodramatic, if you hadn’t already guessed.

In and Out appeared so suddenly I must have dozed off in the car. A yellow and red neon monstrosity! The famous Sunset Boulevard. Still feeling mildly underwhelmed, I went in and got seats for the four of us. Somehow defending an empty booth as a single asian girl against hungry Americans seems every bit as iconic an experience as any other. Glares all around! I kept my head down and looked at my phone. I act big when I’m on home turf but abroad I’m always so afraid someone will come and punch me for no good reason. I watch too much TV, I think. And the rest arrived, and we had the famous burgers they talk about, “animal style”.

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In-n-Out Los Angeles

I am heartbroken to be the bearer of unpopular opinion. The burgers were alright. We all stared at each other while eating, making eye contact, waiting for the first person to whimper or moan. It’s always a strange and communal experience, eating messy food with people you cordially know. We got much friendlier later, but these were early days, hours. Finally, Adele spoke up. They’re.. okay.

What a relief! We agreed that they were neither the best nor worst burgers of our lives, and I volunteered my own experience at Shake Shack in New York – mindblowingly average. Do I just not have the right kind of taste buds? Who knows. In-n-Out was really cheap for what it was though, and the old school American diner experience was enjoyable if only because we (I?) pictured myself in a different time, different age half-subconsciously when munching down on my chow. I told my friend this later and she looked at me in disgust. You’re crazy, she said. Those are the best burgers in the world. Ah, well.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard post-meal we all seemed half hopeful. Herein lies the avenue people write songs about. Make movies about. Herein lies the avenue where things seem dead past 7pm. What was going on? We made small talk, wondered where all the people were, agreed that there had to be more to LA than this. Privately I felt personally let down by the city, let down by pop culture, let down by what hollywood had led me to believe. No lights, no bustle. Druggies on the road, neon signs indicating a special kind of ‘pharmacist’. Cause and consequence. The most exciting thing we saw was a 24/7 grocery store – because everyone loves grocery stores. What kind of peanut butter can you get in America that you can’t get elsewhere? Is what i’m saying.

On and on we walked. It felt like we were afraid to give up and go home, because to do so would be to give in to the city’s rejection of us. We could be fun. We could be exciting. Why wouldn’t it open up? At least, that’s how I felt. Only four days in LA, and I’d be damned if I were to waste a night and go home early just because i couldn’t find something new to try.

We passed a comic book store and a couple of people lingering outside, smoking, laughing, and talking. Again I felt the sense of being left out wash over me. I walked over and asked them where they were going, what they were waiting for. There’s a comedy show starting soon at the back of this comic shop..

Lo and behold!

But the comedy show was sold out. Next door, however, had yet another show that had started fifteen minutes ago, that still sold standing room tickets for five bucks. Yes? Yes? Obviously. We went in.

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Enter: the best five dollars I spent in LA. The Nerdist School Stage, which was the name of the comedy improv club we went to, was fantastic. I personally love comedy shows, but I know they’re not necessarily for everyone. A lot of people are adverse to comedy shows because of the heckling, and Improv both eases that fear since the comedians use their own material, and grants you access to comedy anyway.

Three shows, we watched, and the last of which was performed by this group called Beyond The Disney Vault. Where the rejected disney movies live is their tagline. They consist a group of improv actors and musicians (pictured above), who start the show by asking the audience for a word. They then improvise an entire MUSICAL, complete with original song, harmony, and actual character script, on the spot.

It was incredible. I could not even begin to comprehend the kind of talent an individual would have to possess, as well as the kind of insane chemistry with the rest of one’s troupe, to be able to invent, harmonise, and stitch together a coherent piece of work on the spot. And in case you suspect the musicals were pre-written, the audience word thrown out for our show was “Boomerang”. How do you anticipate that?

An hour later, we stumbled out of the club and into the cold, raving and amazed. We were down to two: Kenath and Adele had left earlier, citing jet lag. Serene and I wandered around a bit more, me half reluctant to call it a night, ready to go some more, her wanting to get back to the apartment to Skype her kid. We settled on a workable compromise: called an uber, and asked her to detour and drive down Hollywood Boulevard so we could see it from the car on the way home. It was like a free tour – the old lady who picked us up was so excited to explain the history of the different buildings up and down the avenue of the stars, we couldn’t imagine a better way to have seen the Boulevard. And things were actually happening on that street, people were snapping photographs of the stars on the floor, there were movie theatres, shopping malls. But we sped past them all, gaping at the lights and people, semi-grateful we were able to relax and admire from the darkness of the car.

A left turn onto the freeway. Hollywood Boulevard over in ten minutes and behind us. As the freeway opened up to fluid traffic and the harmony of car sounds, I felt, rather than saw, the city dim around me and cleave to the star spangled sky. Amazing, amazing. Still high from the comedy show rush of exhilaration, I thought of the evening and what we’d done, what we’d seen. Moments of highs and lows, the emotional arc of discovering downtown los angeles. And I thought to myself: not bad. Not bad at all.

x
Jem

#2063 | #seabugged

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We have reached the age where we obsessively document everything via the cloud. This is in part a millennial preoccupation and in part a subset of Apple’s plan to cheat us of our phone space with ridiculously large iOS updates so we’ll have to purchase their cloud plans. Half of our memories now exist in lower resolution shadow copies online, categorised by hashtags and photo albums. We tell ourselves that this, too, is okay since it’s really the memories that count. We tell ourselves, we tell ourselves.

Mid-december a bunch of us did a day dive trip in the name of practice and buoyancy. Both metaphorically and literally. Morning in, night out, yada yada. In reality it was just an excuse to get together and splash around. We all knew we’d see no fish. Visibility in Bintan is a nightmare, it’s like swimming in milk. I think it was my first refresher dive after the Survivor Episode that was Tioman’s PADI open water, trying not to drown, and so there was a mix of excitement and panic there, and a lot of hand holding.

The dives themselves were awful, a mix of bad organisation and unprofessionalism. But at the end of our three dives we sat by the hull, feet dangling off the edges, drinking beer and watching the sunset, and we talked a lot of sentimental bull about how life was good to us and how friendship was the golden elixir of life, etcetera. Georgina, being Georgina, started asking for a group hashtag. After ignoring her for two hours failed to work, we started throwing up a couple of names. You know the basic requirement for hashtags – they have to be catchy, cute, and no one else in the world must have used them before. No biggie. It was a nightmare. Obviously the job of coming up with one fell on Marcus and I (both of us being English TAs in NTU) and yet every suggestion we had was shot down by the others because they do not know what they want. Suddenly my life in advertising dealing with clueless clients came all rushing back to me. PTSD! PTSD! And another flash: Seabugged?

What?
Seabugged.
Sea Buck?
NO. Seabugged. Like the little seabugs that bite you in the water, except we’re the one’s who’ve been bitten. By the meta seabug.

Everyone loved it and I was revalidated as a useful English graduate. Yet another thing to add to my ever growing resume of useless abilities and skills. Nobody is allowed to joke about this except me, of course, but it is what it is. And from there that’s what we settled on: #seabugged. What millennials we are. And how wonderful.

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x
Jem

#2061 | #LAdiaries – Airbnb Trips: The Adventureman

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Malibu, Los Angeles

Following the announcement that caused a tizzy the world over, I signed up for my own Airbnb Trip Experience. More accurately, I got signed up – two weeks before I boarded for Los Angeles, I got a text from Elaine (from Airbnb) asking: So.. what are your thoughts on surfing?

If you’ve been a reader for awhile now you’ll remember that I learnt to surf on the Gold Coast, which I promptly realised that I both a. Loved and b. Sucked at. But you know me – just because I cant do it well dont mean i wont like trying. So obviously I replied LOVE IT without realising (in retrospect, a bit stupid – should have suspected it) that it meant that I would be going surfing. I was booked for The Adventureman by Quinn Carson in Malibu Los Angeles, a half-day version of the 3 day lifestyle immersion that he actually offers on the Airbnb app. I knew none of this till much later: all I knew was a time, date, and meeting point + notes on appropriate attire and a general idea regarding the nature of my activity. So an eighty dollar uber ride from Downtown LA later, and hola Malibu!

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Malibu is gorgeous and also where the rich and famous live. “That’s Jessica Simpson’s house,” my uber driver pointed out, gesturing vaguely at a huge white structure as we sped past. Not remembering what Jessica Simpson actually did, I nodded and rearranged my face to look impressed. Finally he deposited me along a private looking beach, which i was genuinely impressed at, and drove off.

And here came my first fun fact, courtesy of my Airbnb Experience Host – all beaches in Cal State are public. This of course annoys to no end the rich people who want to think that their beachfront houses come with, well, private beaches. And it is hilarious because all I could imagine while trying to surf was the picture of a rich old man sipping his tea and trying to enjoy his 6 billion dollar view while determinedly trying to block out the fact that some noob looking asian tourist is crashing into waves right before him. Ha!

(Yet another example of the weird things you find out when you hang out with locals that differentiate your experience from the typical tourbook one. The knowledge that you’re the bane of some rich dude’s existence thanks to Cal State law. We must all rebel in the small ways that we can.)

Previously mentioned Airbnb Experience Host was called Quinn, and he and his friend took us for the day. We were a strange, assorted group from all over – there was a tv presenter from Auckland, a fashion editor from Germany, two journalists from Italy, a tv-writer from New York. And then me, the postgrad student blogger? instagrammer? online presenter? bookworm??? Even I dont know what I am. English majors, you will quickly find, have big philosophical struggles with issues of identity. But we were all level at that point, facing the waves, and going oh shit.

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Even to a total newbie, surfing is a bucketload of fun. Most of the people in the group hadnt surfed before, so Quinn brought us through an on-ground (on-sand?) lesson on the theory of the thing, and told us that we’d probably forget it all once in the water anyway. Spoiler: we did.

The actual surfing lasted over an hour, by the end of which we were all wiped out. Update: half a year later, I still suck at surfing. Half a year later, I still enjoy it immensely. And what better ice breaker than watching each other wipe out in the face of a monster wave? I must tell you that literally nobody looks good wiping out. Everyone makes an incredibly hilarious and stupid face. The hope is that as you go on you wipe out less and less, and so the frequency of people seeing you look ridiculous is diminished manyfold.

Seven tan lines and a head of copiously salt-drenched hair later, I dried off with the rest of them and we drove to a spot in the mountains to have a picnic bench lunch. Happily chomping on my sandwich, I looked around and realised that I would literally never get to sit around and lunch with so many varied people from different cultures and backgrounds otherwise. Those of you who’ve been long term readers know that a big part of why I love Airbnb (and travel, in general) is the opportunity to meet and understand new people, mostly in the form of my live-in hosts. And with this new Airbnb Experience feature, it seems that group has expanded to other travellers who have similar interests – or at least, similar attitudes when facing new experiences that could potentially be very embarrassing. Ha! See above: re wiping out.

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The second half of the Adventureman experience was hiking – something which I definitely did not realise beforehand. I actually hate hiking because I am terrified of falling down and breaking my face. In case you haven’t realised, I am extremely clumsy. But 2016 was all about pushing boundaries, and so despite fleetingly considering making a run for it, I chumped up and attempted the Malibu Creek State Park hike to the soundtrack of Quinn rattling off his favourite spots and memories from place to place.

Malibu Creek State Park is actually absurdly beautiful, and I found myself grateful that I’d been brought here because I don’t think I’d choose to go of my own volition. Lots of movies were filmed there – like Tarzan Escapes, Love me Tender, and Planet of the Apes. You can actually see the rock wall thats so heavily featured in Planet of the Apes, and the number of people taking selfies with it was actually pretty hilarious! Strangely enough, I never saw LA as much of a nature place – I knew they had a huge beach culture, of course, but my impression of LA had always been pop-culture based: griffith, DTLA, urban lights.. very curated, very specific. Never would I imagine going to LA, putting on some boots, and just going for a hike, though come to think of it, my American friends are very outdoorsy. Is this what being a local is like, then? In that hour long hike I saw everything I never had the option of doing. Back home, in the city grid and grind that I love and live off, the option to just get in a car and go frolic in some nature an hour out from the city was never really possible. Not that I’m complaining – different cities lead different lives. But experiencing the adventure man life for a day was pretty great, for a change.

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And that’s what Airbnb’s Experiences represented to me, I think. Going one step further and not just living in another person’s home, but experiencing life in their boots. I wrote a piece on a different Airbnb Experience last month, one with a south african author who uses the Experience feature as a vehicle on social commentary. That, to me, was something you’d never be able to do on your own, and something innately valuable to understanding the cultural and deep seated political issues embedded in a country’s history. This one is more straightforward, and doesn’t try to impart any moral lessons. But both do similar things in allowing you to live out the life of another person in a slightly being-john-malkovitch way. And both promise to be extremely unique and immensely enjoyable.

I speak from personal experience when I say that I hundred percent recommend The Adventureman to anyone headed the LA way. From what I understand, Experiences will be rolling out to cities all over the world soon too, so perhaps one day I’ll see you guys in a Hainanese Chicken Rice cooking class in Singapore? Who knows. But till then, surfs up. x


Airbnb Experiences is now available on the updated Airbnb app.

x
♥jem