Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 11

Part-11-Header.jpgWith a visa in my passport, some yen in my purse, a small carry-on bag as my luggage and a birthday to be had, I set off on my first Japanese adventure!1_noted
Ok, so my trip was solely to Tokyo and only 5 nights long with the first 2 days being a solo adventure to begin with. But yay! Tokyo in winter! (which was surprisingly warmer than Busan).

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Getting from the airport to your accommodation is usually the biggest stress, but I made it, having pre-booked everything though (plan-a-lot-Amy). But then there’s still that moment (or many) when you come out of the subway and slowly do a 360 on the spot trying to orientate yourself in a foreign place while your internal GPS keeps saying “Connection lost. Connection lost. Turn back now.” But then you pull out your phone and things make sense. I don’t know how old-school travelers used to manage before Google Maps. 
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My hostel’s location was great, overlooking the beautiful Ueno Park which includes dams with ducks and also the zoo, and made for an easy landmark for getting back to it. The downside to the hostel was the strict policy for silence within the dorms which seemed to carry up to the common room and kitchen which was filled with people and awkward silence. No chill.  

DAY 1 – 21/01: Akihabara Anime District
I guess the advantage of not really knowing too much about a city is being able to be so much more surprised by what you aren’t expecting. I don’t know much about Anime or that Akihabara is like the homeland of it, but I went to explore with an open mind. I first got “lost” in the 9-floors-of-everything electronics store of Yodobashi which proved to be a sensory overload with so much stuff everywhere! I did stumble upon the Wacom tablet section and found a stationery level. I spent a good 6 hours in the area exploring the comic book stores, vintage console shops and the many arcade/ SEGA buildings (I had a go on Mario Karts too), found an artisanal market and tried my first bowl of ramen in Japan – food heaven!4_Akihabara

DAY 2 – 22/01: Asakusa and snow
I explored what I’ve decided is one of my favourite areas, Asakusa, an area with what felt like mazes of traditional-feeling street shopping with interesting curios and food. There is also the beautiful Sensoji Temple when you make it out of the maze. I even saw some (very cold looking) people dressed in kimono.5_AsakusaI also got to experience Tokyo in sleet and then snow. It’s the most snow I’ve been in before, including walking about 10km over the course of the day in pretty miserable constant windy snow-stormy weather. Despite this unpleasant weather I pushed on and made it to the Ginza area and through more angry weather, later made it to Tsukiji Fish Market (although mostly closed as it’s primarily a morning market and it was well after noon already for me). But I made it, and by the time I finally got back to the hostel all cold and wet, the city was falling deeper into a stormy night white landscape.

DAY 3 – 23/01: Biiiiirthday
I’m officially in my late 20s now! But what a way to turn a year older – welcoming in the new day by sipping on sake with a friend who had just joined me, and then waking up to a magical sunny and glistening Japanese winter wonderland outside. The difference in weather from the day before was amazing!
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Besides the rather treacherously icy walkways, it was the perfect setting to visit the white Sinjuku Gyeon National Garden to eat birthday cake while attempting to walk through snowy slosh. I also got to see Tokyo’s snow covered rooftops and parks from the 42nd floor of the Metro Government Building. Our busy day also included visiting the Meiji Shrine, finally going to Harajuku (much anticipated!) and sipping on birthday cocktails in this iconic quirky “kawaii” fashion area before heading to The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku for a crazy show. This was 90 mins of bright lights, robots, large floats, loud music, people in weird costumes, dancing, singing and corny story lines all within a rather tiny area but totally worth it. A great strange Japanese experience for the books. 

DAY 4 – 24/01: Final fun 
My last full day in Tokyo was spent at the zoo in the morning (I got to see my first panda! As in a panda, he had no friends) before heading to the Shibuya Crossing to walk across one of the 5 cross paths of the famously busy intersection (to the other side of the road – a bit of an overhype but a must do). 7_ZooWe chose to walk from Shibuya to Harajuku which was a great experience that would have been missed had we taken the train. Along the way we found the Disney Store which looked like a castle and further on we found an Alice in Wonderland-themed store hidden through a tiny door into 3 floors of Alice-themed decorations and things. Last stop: Harajuku (for one more time) for more street exploring and shopping. My Harajuku trophy was a “Temaki Cats” shirt with cats in sushi hand rolls on it. I’m chuffed. There was also a large H&M sale on, so that’s one way to use up left over yen notes. Ching ching shop shop. 

After my whole [awesome] trip, I unfortunately came back with 0 beer labels for my journal. Not that I didn’t drink any beer, but all the convenience stores seemed to stock (besides seriously impressive pre-made convenience meals) were cans only. No labeled bottles. So I left with just some sake in pretty boxes. 

8_Sake

Thanks for scrolling!
The final installment of Part 12 to follow soon… Sad face.
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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 10

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Over the course of just six weeks, I will have traveled to Phuket (Thailand), Seoul (Korea) and Tokyo (Japan). Somebody pinch me!
It’s also been my first Christmas spent away from home, but also the first one spent with my boyfriend, and in winter! And although we’ve welcomed in the new year together a number of times already, it’s the first year it’s been just us two. Aww.

Sat – Mon 16 – 18 December 2017: Phuket wedding weekend
When a family wedding is taking place at a stunning beach resort in Phuket, you make sure you get your butt to Thailand, even if all you can get is one day off work. What an amazing whirlwind of a weekend adventure though!
2_Phuket-round-2
SUMMARY: Friday: leave from work to fly for 10 hours, arrive at the hotel by 2am Saturday. Sleep a bit, then a reunion with my family after 10 months apart and enjoy a beach and beer day. Sunday wedding, Monday afternoon fly back to Korea, 10 hour transit. Tuesday: rush from the airport at 7am, catch a train home, toss bags and catch a bus to make it in time for school at 8:30am while running on 3 hours of sleep. Done. Not to mention enduring the temperature change from Korean 0°s to Thailand 28°s and back again. 

Sat – Sunday: chill time
What better way to catch up with your brothers and parents than drinking beer by the pool? A reunion with family, and my old friend Chang (we met in August, remember?). Quite unreal to suddenly be in shorts and being able to swim again and not be buried under multiple layers and scarves. We went kayaking out to an island off of Kata Beach, swam a LOT, sipped on coconuts, ate Thai green curry, walked along the beaches and paths and ambled through the street markets with my mom. 

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Sunday: Wedding day
The afternoon came with looming clouds on one side of the sky and sunshine and rainbows on the other, as the 50-odd guests arrived for my step-brother, Simon and Anni’s ceremony. With a 3 piece band playing in the background, the bride and groom were soon standing in front of their beautiful beach backdrop. The reception to follow was just as gorgeous, light-hearted and fun with every bit of amazing Thai hospitality and catering too. The most stunning and special wedding I’ve been to yet. Congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs/Dr Cloete! No pressure for the rest of us siblings…5_Wedding
Tuesday: Hong Kong layover
Getting back to Busan involved reluctant family good byes, an hour taxi ride, two flights and a midnight layover in (an impressive) Hong Kong International. But all I wanted to do was sleep before having to deal with kids in the morning. I also had to do a wardrobe change from a t-shirt back to thermals and a padded jacket.

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Saturday 9/12: Dog cafe
Back in Busan… The bucket list frenzy continued. One weekend I got to tick off two more things: going to a dog cafe (for petting, not eating – just to clarify) and getting a Korean manicure/gel nails.
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The dog cafe was an interesting experience. We were surrounded by a mixed collection of dogs of different breeds and sizes but all had a rather spoilt attitude. They clearly know everything is centered around them and you’ll find that the humans are the ones desperately seeking attention. The dogs basically amble around with the attitudes of disinterested cats. Until, however, someone new comes into the cafe. Then suddenly there is barking and frantic running to the entrance. This often takes away any of your hard-earned efforts to seduce a pup to come and cuddle with you as they fly off your lap (and sometimes, the table) to inspect the new intruder. We also had a little show by the owner who gave the giant fluffy dog a piggy back around, and later pushed a collection of dogs around on a trolley. 

Sat 23/12: Songdo cable cars
With my boyfriend here from Australia for two weeks, it was a good opportunity to tick off going on the fairly new (June) cable cars together. It was worth the effort of the train and bus transfer to get to Songdo Beach, which is scattered with sculptures above the water and a sky walk snaking over the water too. 6_Songdo
The queue was almost nonexistent to go in the regular cable cars, while the glass-floored cars had a queue that’d make you consider scrapping the idea. A lovely afternoon date, which I’m sure is even better by night. 

Mon 25/12: Christmas
Instead of spending Christmas eve in my little flat, we decided to treat ourselves to a penthouse hotel apartment in Seomyeon with no less than a pool and hot tub outside. We heading out to see the Christmas lights in Nampo-dong but were unfortunately met by hoards of other Christmas-goers and could barely move so we decided to tap out early and go to Galmegi Brewery instead.
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Sat – Thur 30/12 – 04/01: Seoul New Years Adventure
Probably the coldest I’ve been in Korea. Man, Seoul was icy and it seemed to enjoy playing in the negative digits, down to -8° often and a bit of snow on the first night. But it didn’t stop us from doing most of our exploring by foot and only catching the subway a couple of times – the advantage of our hotel’s great location near the historic city center.8_Seoul-new-year
Sunday: I couldn’t believe my luck to find that The Seoul Illustration Fair fell on the weekend that I’d be in town! A bit of a sensory overload with so many stands of local illustrators with so much cool work to look at and business cards to collect while trying not to want something from everyone.
Highlights: We adventured around a lot and got to see much more of the city than the first time we were here and happened to stumble upon cool spots as we went along.
Places we went: Myeongdong shopping street (in search of the Hello Kitty Cafe – which we found had closed down – sad face), Changgyeonggung Palace, Insadong Art Street (one of my favourite areas), Ihwa mural village and Gangnum Station. We also attempted Lotte World but the lines to the roller coasters and rides were just too long.
New Years Eve: Braving the cold, we left our cozy hotel room at 11:45pm and headed down the street to watch the Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony at midnight. The streets were closed off, there were some performers and large crowds but the countdown was 
anti-climatic and the crowds dispersed straight after it into a mini stampede. 

Friday 05/01: The great depart
(Back in Busan) Goodbyes in a long distance relationship are the worst. But it was also the last one for us in Korea as new and interesting things lie ahead. But for now, it’s another 3 months apart. Meh. depart-1.jpg

Thanks for scrolling! Part 11 to follow soon…Follow-me

Geoff the Gerbil

Jeff-the-Gerbil
 The final artwork for a T-shirt design competition

This little guy started as a late night of doodling in my journal with a black Copic marker…

I’ll call him Geoff the Gerbil!


Geoff-shirt

Let’s hope he does end up printed on shirts…


PROCESS PICSJeff-the-Gerbil_Slatem^^ it’s a gif! Stick around for a second before scrolling…

D1 D2D3D4moleskineStraight out my Moleskine

23dom: Week 3. 07/02/15 – 14/02/15

Day 16. Saturday. 07/02/15
#CRIKEY

Day-16

I often get these big and wonderful ideas, this is my current adventurous tangle of practicalities. Watch this space…


Day 17. Sunday. 08/02/15
#WHAT NOW

Day-17

This is based on a recent experience I had while visiting family friends and being asked to “un-Uncle” my one uncle figure and call him by just his first name. It’s rather difficult to unlearn such set “norms” that have always been so since I was little. This is one example of many.


Day 18. Monday. 09/02/15
#AMAWOOFWOOF

Day-18

Hmmm, does it make it any better that I can admit that I can be one (from time to time only, obviously…)?


Day 19. Tuesday. 10/02/15
#CUTSDEEP

Day-19

This is the second time I’ve managed to cut my finger with a sharp knife while preparing spinach (of all things). This time at least it didn’t end in stitches.


Day 20. Wednesday. 11/02/15
#ONE

Day-20

Still early days and counting. One month together yet one month apart.


Day 21. Thursday. 12/02/15
#JUNGLEHEADED

Day-21

Today’s thought is a continuation from Day 16, in which my brain is a mushy mess of thoughts and confusions, of excitements and doubts about the future, foreign countries and hearts. Made me think of the fab song by Wankelmut & Emma Louise: My Head is a Jungle (Give it a listen. Let it get stuck in your brain too! My gift to you.)


Day 22. Friday. 13/02/15
#JUST

Day-22

I got thinking about the formalities of making plans with old friends, new friends and people in between and how one goes about deciding on what kind of “date” you would care/be able to do based on your relationship with that person. Simple coffee dates by no means [always] hold a negative connotation, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to go on an extended lunch date or similar with certain people, I mean you’re setting yourselves up for a commitment of being able to hold long[er] conversations, choosing what to eat (mothatrucking pasta vs the greek salad, darling) and then still eating it awkwardly in front of each other while trying to determine the difference between awkward silence or eating silence, oh… and then the bill. Honestly, sometimes just going for coffee is a WAY less stressful/awkward/intimidating/ idunno invitation… sometimes you’re just a coffee date to me.


Day 23. Saturday. 14/02/15
#VDAY

Day-23

The distance between us is only half of the Earth, no biggie.
Also the last day of the 23dom series… and it’s Valentines day (23 days after my 23rd birthday!).


Let me know your thoughts about 23dom, the posts, your own experiences of being in your confused 20’s, being a creative and anything in between… I’d love to chat (and maybe do a follow up similar series).
To keep up to date with my latest artworks, follow me on Instagram @shmaymee.

23dom: The beginning of a documentative series

23-cover_SlatemThere seems to be an increasing number of Buzzfeed posts or Elite Dailies on social media focusing on the trials, confusions, good thangs, bad thangs and general common traits supposedly experienced in your 20’s.

In particular though, my timeline has had a lot about being 23 (because many of my friends have been chugging away at this age for some time already…. #hipsters). Posts like: “23 reasons nobody likes turning 23”, “23 real-life struggles of being 23” and the likes…

So as my 23rd birthday approached, and the 23rd of January drew closer, I decided I’d record my own experiences, thoughts and understandings for the first 23 days of being this young/old/present/absent.

My idea is to document/doodle/illustrate/write/collage the most significant thought or happening of the day – and date it – to capture these initial days of being a 23 year-old, living by myself in Johannesburg, entering my second year post-varsity and with a fresh (but long distance) relationship on my mind.

The intention is to blog and Instagram the image, a tagline and then a brief explanation/ expansion about the day, each day.

The twenty threedom title plays on the word freedom (because we’re in the age of independence) and the Afrikaans word dom (meaning stupid or clueless – because we don’t have it/much/most/anything really figured out right now).