The next journey: travel filming adventures in Maui and Honolulu

It is a beautiful day in Bondi Beach Sydney Australia so I have to get out and do some grocery shopping and enjoy the beach. I’m staying at a sandstone surfer dwelling 300m from the beach. I’m still trying to find the right mix of text, pictures, and videos and get these updates out on a timely basis so please comment to provide some feedback on what works best for you.

The second travel adventure – It’s a bit longer this time

travel filming adventures

 This is my second major travel filming adventure. The first was a month in a half trip in Asia December 2011 when I traveled with an SLR camera and filmed a Travelogue adventure entitled ChicVoyage in Asia. I managed to film San Francisco, The Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas before I returned to the workforce in April 2012 and during the making of ChicVoyage in Asia I began to feel an attraction for Australia. During the rest of the year I was inspired by my sister and friend Denny’s bold decision to relocate their life from Vancouver to Toronto to think about embarking on a longer term trip where I had a chance to work and live in a different country.

So off I began researching and I came across a working holiday program that Canada offered to individuals. A working holiday program allows individuals a more straightforward approach to obtaining a visa to work and live in another country. These programs help streamline the process for obtaining a visa to work and live if you are under 35 with most requiring you to be 30 and under. I settled on a working holiday to Taiwan and along the way I would make stops in some of the most livable waterfront cities in the world in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

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travel filming adventures
Beautiful Sydney: Enjoy a beer by the Opera house

My first stops from Vancouver would be in the islands of Maui and Oahu in Hawaii.

What is it like being free from the corporate world and how was it spent?

After I informed my manager that I was leaving the company and the message got out I was invited to plenty of lunches and had an awesome send off party. Thanks guys. These types of social gatherings provide positive energy that I’ll bank on for any adversity I may face ahead. The first days of waking up are liberating because you don’t have to wake up to a schedule that you don’t control.  I formed a regular habit of sleeping late at 1-2am and waking up at 9-9:30am. My routine consisted of making myself fresh coffee, selling items on Craigslist , and trip planning.

To prepare for a more mobile lifestyle I traded in my 27 inch iMac for a 15 inch mac book pro for mobile video editing and work.

I now was now free to do work at good wifi spots through out Vancouver Canada. Some of my favorites included Urban Fair at Yaletown Roundhouse and Athletes Village. They offer what I call a hassle free wifi service meaning no passwords or time limits that Blenz Coffee shops do. Other good spots to check out include Giovanni’s Cafe at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, JJ Beans on Burrard (only location with wifi), Edge Cafe, and WholeFoods in West Vancouver. These places offer you good food, nice atmosphere, comfortable seating, washrooms, and free water. In my books definitely a step up from some coffee shops.

However freedom didn’t come without it’s responsibilities. The idea of leaving everything behind to travel and film the world sounds like an attractive idea, but what does it actually take?

For starters I had to purge any possessions that I wouldn’t be traveling with and pack enough to film, travel and relocate my life. Not an easy task. There are things like selling your car and major possessions, getting travel insurance, planning your trip, securing cash flow, and paying your bills. Planning for a trip requires project management skills. There are many logistical things to plan for. Other things I did:

travel filming adventures
sold my car. my baby
travel filming adventures
the sacrifice. Selling my car
  • upgrading my camera equipment and videography skills
  • tried to run my own SLR workshop
  • purging and selling major possessions
  • started a kickstarter campaign
  • had many lunches and dinners with friends
  • extensive planning for my potentially 1 year working holiday
  • a going away potluck party
travel filming adventures
Going away party. One of the best parties I’ve had
travel filming adventures
Going away party. One of the best parties I’ve had

Yes I was busy. Leaving work and the city does have its benefits. I recommend you try it. The trade-off is that it is super sad to leave family, friends, and colleagues.

The first stop Maui – the ocean front condo experience

I decided to make a pit stop on the way to Australia with my parents. The first stop was in Hawaii where I had an awesome stay in Maui at an ocean front condominium.  Words cannot describe the feeling of being at the oceanfront and experience perfect weather enjoyed from the Lanai (patio). Perhaps pictures and videos can. This google map outlines what the main attractions planned were and the red line and black spots track what we managed to visit.

travel filming adventures


View Maui in a larger map

Highlights of the trip and usable itinerary:

You can use the map above along with the information written here as a usable itinerary for yourself. I didn’t get a chance to complete everything I planned to see in Maui. Perhaps you might.

  • Snorkeling at Black Rock Kaanapali Beach looking for turtles.

The Black Rock is known as a popular destination for snorkeling and the Kaanapali beach. We drove in search of the Black Rock and found that there was free parking next to the Sheraton hotel with access to the beach. The beach was not crowded and the water was slightly colder than luke warm water. I took my snorkeling gear in search of turtles. I asked some people in the water for some tips and one person motioned to the area near the black rocks. Will I find a turtle? Watch the video to find out. Please excuse the production value. I’m experimenting with reducing the publishing time and still keeping quality, but it is difficult without some editing help.

Tip: there is free covered parking adjacent to the Sheraton hotel with beach access.

Tip: if you are snorkeling for turtles you will find more sea life near the black rocks

 

 

  • Waking up at 3:30am in the morning for a driving video tour up to the 4th highest point on the planet at the Haleakala Crater to enjoy the view and the sunrise

travel guides will suggest that you wake up and ride your bike up for the sunrise and ride back down. I recommend that you drive up in a car. There is a long stretch of uphill road to get there and although this means fun times going back the road is narrow. I’m proud of my parents for making the effort to wake up, however we just missed the sunrise.  Give yourself plenty of time to get up there. Google the sunrise time and use google map to plan to work backwards to figure out what time you need to leave. Is it worth it to drive up here?  If you enjoy adventure and panoramic views then yes,  but this is not as awe inspiring on the caliber level of a grand canyon. My official Maui travelogue video will feature video footage of the Haleakala.

travel filming adventures
Maui. We woke up early to catch the sunrise at Halakea
travel filming adventures
Maui. We woke up early to catch the sunrise at Halakea
  • Lunch at the town of Lanai where we enjoyed a local beer oceanfront

If you are staying in the Northwest of Maui chances are you will drive past the town of Lanai. I think Lanai is one of the few towns in Maui, and I’ve read it’s a tourist trap. What you will find there are narrow streets and a clusters of restaurants and tourist attractions along the ocean. Yes it is catered to tourists, but I suggest  you still visit. We went there once for lunch at the Kool Kat cafe and the second time for a drink at the Koa’s Seaside Grill. I will vouch for Koa as the beer was good, prices fair, excellent service, and prime time ocean views.

travel filming adventures

  • More on the experience of staying at a private ocean front condo

I found this condo through VRBO and arranged to provide a video of the apartment for a good deal on the accommodation. This non hotel experience worked out very well for myself and my parents. The apartment had kitchen facilities, laundry, pool, ocean front lanai, parking, and wifi. I think that going through the VRBO route ends up being better value and a better experience for a traveling family. Also what are the chances you will score an Ocean front view at a reasonable cost in Maui? If you would information on the place I stayed at please comment below.

  • Costco

I recommend making a stop at Costco if you have rented out a private space with a kitchen for your food and alcohol. You get a great quality and value. The alcohol generally works out to half the price for an equivalent bottle in British Columbia, Canada. If you have a Costco card in Canada it works in the US. Cool!

Tip: If you have an unlocked phone you can get a prepaid Sim card, which is invaluable for navigating the island and doing research. Hertz offered me a GPS device for $60 for 5 days, but a prepaid sim can provide audio navigation with unlimited data and voice for $2 a day with Tmobile.

Tip: if you are looking for recommendations on restaurants and business services use a website or smartphone app called “Yelp”

Honolulu

You will find this part if more brief. I spent much of my time filming condo apartments there.

travel filming adventures

I flew to Honolulu where I arranged for an awesome chic condo at the Ilikai Marina with an awesome view of the marina and the Hilton Lagoon. We took an inter-island flight with Hawaiin airlines and then took a shuttle from the airport. Watch out for some of those sharks that try to get you in their shuttle as soon as they spot the lost look on your face. Shop around first using the shuttle services listed by the phone in the airport. We paid about $22 for round-trip from the airport to our condo.

  • The scene at Waikiki

We stayed at the Ilikai Marina, which is a private condo building which is a 5 minute walk away to the Hilton Lagoon.  The Hilton appears to be the anchor in the Waikiki beach area and you can figure out how central your accommodation is to this hotel. The Modern hotel is in an adjacent building to the Ilikai Marina and features a cool pool and bar/lounge area worth checking out. It is an international crowd, very family and tourist oriented with a large volume of Japanese people as well as young and fit people at the beach.
travel filming adventures

  • A front row scene for the fireworks at the Hilton Lagoon

Our condo owner told us that the Hilton offers fireworks every Friday night, but we were lucky to catch them on a Wednesday night. You can see the fireworks by the lagoon.

  • My experience attempting to surf at Waikiki after a decade.

The beach is very crowded and hot at Waikiki. A suggestion is to bring beach chairs or towels and plenty of sunscreen. Rent your board from across the street from the Hilton for about $20 to save yourself some money. When I was there in May there were not that many surfers in the ocean. The ones that were there are quite far from shore and the waves are not that strong. After expending a lot of energy to get out to the area to surf I found most of my time was spent waiting for the waves. I also forgot to take off my sunglasses, which mean I was being careful not to let the waves knock them off.

Okay I’ve finally made it to the end of this post for now. If you enjoy this updates and would like to keep receiving them I would appreciate that you support our  kickstarter campaign http://kck.st/ZLc6xv. After the campaign is over (42 hours at time of writing) please email me to see how you can help.  I try to produce independent content so it stays clear of any external influences.

travel filming adventures

 

 

ChicVoyage visiting Beijing soon

Beijing is our first stop on a month and a half long visit to Asia in early December. Here is a little bit of research I wanted to share before the trip.

The essentials

China Visa

To begin, the first thing to do before booking your trip is to get a Chinese Visa. Here is a good site about the requirements for Canadians. From my experience, you can save yourself one additional trip to the visa office by printing out the forms prior to your first visit and get your passport photos completed. The visa office will only take a limited number of people a day so be there before opening time with your completed application. The  contact number for  the Visa office  is (604) 734 – 0704. The office address is 288-1338 West Broadway, Vancouver. You can also try avoiding all the hassle by hiring a travel agent to do this on your behalf.  Here are two contacts who can help you with this:

Sundeck Vacations
John Wong
604.728.0569
Richmond, BC

Travel Gallery
Betty Tan
604.879.6883
Vancouver, BC

Currency

The currency in China is called Yuan or Renminbi. One Canadian dollar as of today is equivalent to 6.09 CNY. I’ve been told by the local store where I got my China sim card that foreigners are limited to withdraw a certain denomination a day so it was suggested to buy at least $1000 CDN worth of Renminbi locally before I leave.

You will also want to visit your doctor to make sure that your immunization is up to date, and make sure you have travel insurance.

TIP: If you have an iphone I recommend downloading “Exchange LE” to convert worldwide currencies on the fly. If you don’t have an iPhone try the Fairmont’s currency convertor.

TIP: Check that you have the appropriate electric plug adapters for China. I was told by a London Drugs employee that most modern electronics such as Iphones do not require a convertor so save yourself some money.

Overview

Beijing is located west of North Korea between the Yellow Sea. Beijing is known as the capital of China, is the country with the world’s largest population and was host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Beijing’s has the second largest population after Shanghai with a population of 17.55 million people in 18 districts. It is the political, education, and cultural center of the country that offers many historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.

Beijing’s time is known as the China Standard Time (CST) and runs 16 hours ahead of people in the Pacific Time (PST) time zone, which includes Vancouverites. So currently looking at the iPhone world clock its currently 12:10pm. One way that I do time zone math is to add 12 hours to the current time, which would be the same time but you exchange the pm for am and then add the additional hours.

12:10pm + 12 hours = 12:10am plus 4 hours which equals 4:10am

Beijing is known for its flatness with only 3 hills found within the city limits. The configuration of Beijing is that of concentric rectangular shaped ring roads. Most of the tourist sights are located in what is called the old walled city and enclosed by ring road two.

Beijing districts
Beijing districts

picture courtesy of wikitravel.org

XiCheng District – this covers the northwestern part of the central city and includes the Beijing Zoo and National Concert Hall.

Dongcheng – this covers the north eastern part of the central city. This includes the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Beijing Central Station

XuanWu District – Southwestern pat of the central city

Chongwen District – Covers the south eastern part of the central city and includes the Temple of Heaven

For more information about the inner suburbs please check out Beijing wiki travel.

Highlights of the tourist attractions Beijing:

  • Tiananmen Square – This is located in the Dongcheng district. Wikipedia calls it the third largest public square and is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. It has cultural significance as it was the location of several important events in Chinese history with the most recent being the protests of 1989.
  • Forbidden City – Wikitravel claims this is the most important palace that was home to the Imperial court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This site was protected during the Cultural Revolution from the Red Guards. Detailed information is available in the China Travel Guide
  • National Stadium – Better known as the Birds Nest this is located in Chaoyand district and is the symbol of the 2008 Olympic games.
  • Da Dong Roast Duck – Located in Dongcheng district Da Dong was recommended from a local who used to live in Beijing. Currently ranked as the # 3 place to eat in Beijing on Trip Advisor. Summarizing the variety of latest reviews from Trip Advisor I expect high prices, excellent Peking Roast Duck that is carved at the table, drinking, laughing, good food, upscale location, and free drinks waiting at the bar. Can’t wait!
  • Hutongs – These are narrow street alleys that are on the outskirts of the Forbidden City and I’m told visiting Hutong’s are a way to experience how the local Beijing Chinese culture and how they live.
  • Temple of Heaven – Located in Chongwen district my readings confirm that this is a worthwhile place to visit, a symbol of Beijing, and is a larger palace than Forbidden city. The reason is that Chinese emperors considered themselves sons of heaven and did not want to live a palace large than what was built for heaven.
  • Summer Palace – Located in the Haidan district it is known as the largest and most well-preserved Royal Park in China
  • The Great Wall of China – Our trip to China is not complete without scheduling dedicated time to view the largest man-made monument ever built. In 2007 the great wall was listed as one of the world’s wonders of the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it has special cultural and physical significance to the heritage of humanity.  In 220 BC during the Qin dynasty the wall was built as a fortification defense against the invading Mongol’s. It is 8,851.8 km and can be see seen from Space. According to TravelChinaGuide, the most information rich internet resource I’ve come across, the Badaling section of the great-wall is the most well preserved, and is located in Yanqing County 70 km north of Beijing.

Night Life

Based on the top Google searches for “Beijing Nightlife”, the Sanilitun bar street is most popular with ex pats and tourists as well as locals. Located West of Gongti North Gate in the Chaoyang district the MIX Bar seems worth visiting. What I expect is a mix of Western people and locals,  attractive women, and high quality sound and lighting. There are two floors with the first offering comfortable seating and the second offering French and Italian cuisine with music.

mix bar beijing
mix bar beijing

photo courtesy of clubzone.cn

The other up and coming area for nightlife is in the Hou Hai Bar Street. The Beijing impression calls No Name Bar  “hands-down one of Beijing’s best”. It is is located in Qianhaidongyan, Shichahai, XiCheng district by a lake.  It is known for scenic views, a welcoming atmosphere popular with locals, and a hidden gem due to no name on the door.  I’m expecting friendly staff, good modern music, a long drink list, and to make a reservation.

That should cover the Beijing plan for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and will tune in for the post visit blog post with the pictures and HD video footage of must see attractions, restaurants, and nightlife for Beijing.

Cigar Lounges, Scotch, steaks, in Montreal. Where is the best cigar lounge?

So I discovered on the weekend that Montreal has been grandfathered by the city’s changing law, luckily Cigar lounges in Montreal have been spared. I first discovered the cigar during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  On my way through Yaletown, I stopped at a cigar store called Reveluction. I wondered in there and a guy named Neo helped me pick out a cigar and allowed me to light it in the store. Very cool.

I didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning— all I can say was I  had a good experience and I would try this again when I was at home. On my patio one day, I light a cigar up and I decide to go for a stronger draw; the result was I got a good burn happening.  I could actually taste the flavours of the cigar and I didn’t feel like I was inhaling smoke. I knew I was doing something right. I didn’t finish the cigar that night, but I was hooked.

Now that you have the background on how I discovered cigars Iets look at our options for chic cigars lounges in Montreal. I followed up some suggestions from google  by checking out good old Yelp. I got the list and filtered out for the highest rated lounge. The lounge was a restaurant called “Queue De Cheval”. It had 35 reviews and averaged about 3.5 stars.  I decided to check the website out myself to get an idea of how established they were.

Queue De Cheval
Cohiba Robusto Starbucks
Cohiba Robusto Starbucks

 

 

  • Well reviewed on Yelp. 35 reviews averaging 3.5 stars. Could be higher, but not other options with 35 reviews
  • Meat lovers paradise. Prime selection of dry-aged steak cuts and home made sausage.
  • Great experience on the website makes it. With a level of detail down to their own customized Jazz track in the background, they have thought about the details to increase the chances of a great customer experience. Other things going for it include great presentation an educational, yet enjoyable experience learning about their cigar selection.

Cons

  • Numerous reviews on Yelp stating that that the good and wines were overpriced
  • Review describing the food as not very good.

http://www.queuedecheval.com

http://www.dailyxy.com/daily-xy/city-survival/top-cigar-lounges-montreal/

For now   based on the information available on the internet Queue De Cheval appears to be the best option to try. We ask any insiders what their thoughts are?

Another cigar lounge Stogies

Another Montreal Lounge i was interested in was called “Stogies” on 2015 rue Crescent. Out of the restaurants on the link below, Stogies seemed to meet the profile for my first cigar lounge in Montreal. Stogies only had three reviews on Yelp, but I decided to check the website nonetheless. The website seemed quite simple— I clicked on cigars to see what they had and got a message basically telling me I wouldn’t be able to see their vast cigar collection because I was accessing the website from outside of Quebec. There was a number to contact. With three reviews a lack of transparency (that Queue De Cheval was able to provide) I decided to move on.

Pros

  • Diverse selection of Cuban and Dominican cigars and cigarillos
  • Great drinks. 101 different martinis and more than 20 brands of single-malt scotch
  • Forefront of the cigar scene in Montreal
  • No cutting fee

Cons

  • Claims of poor service
  • Lack of information

Whiskey Cafe  

I checked the Whiskey Cafe on Yelp, which had four reviews . I visited the website curious to see the cigar selection; I click on their cigar lounge. Very disappointing. Only photos of the cigars, no educational explanations or accompanying pictures to get me excited.

More information
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g155032-d710637-r15204010-Whisky_Cafe-Montreal_Quebec.html#REVIEWS