Language can play a huge factor in shaping the experience you have on your travels. If you can’t speak the primary language it can become a barrier for simple things such as getting directions, ordering food, and more complex things such as having conversations. This was the experience I had traveling to Beijing where almost all the people I came across did not speak much English. I had trouble ordering my lunch (good old pointing didn’t work) and finding eye drops. I decided to check the Internet today to see how technology has evolved to help us conquer these language barriers. It turns out my timing was good.
In November 2012, Microsoft’s Chief Research officer demonstrated technology that translates English to Chinese Mandarin in real-time. Watch the youtube video (start at the 7:30 mark).
There is another technology in the form of a smart phone application for iphone and Android that has some early potential. I was first introduced to it by a friend who demonstrated the app called “Word Lens”. The application allows you to point your smartphone’s camera at a written Spanish word and instantly convert it to English on your phones display. Very Cool. Unfortunately Chinese is not yet available, but language such as French, Italian, and Spanish are. For more information on Word Len’s I’ve include a link to the application on the Apple store click here. There is a video below with a live demo.
We are nearing another holiday season in Vancouver. The pace at office begins to slow down and become more social and relaxed. The Christmas trees and decorations at the office, retail stores, public spaces, and apartments lobbies signal the season has begun. In Vancouver cold weather, rain and sometimes the chance of snow are also part of the experience. You might be doing last minute Christmas shopping, going to parties for your work, going to parties for your friends, or you might be throwing a party of your own. On Christmas day most shops are closed except movie theaters and Chinese restaurants.
It was this time a year ago when I was filming and traveling through Shanghai and Singapore around the holiday season. I had escaped the holiday obligations for gifts with friends and family back in Vancouver. In Shanghai there were Christmas trees and decorations up at the hotels and malls.
I was fortunate to know my local friend Jeff who invited me to a local party in Shanghai. The entrance would be a respectable gift for a secret Santa and some booze. I purchased some quality tea from the Shanghai museum. The host of the party lived in a good sized apartment and offered us some beer and food. We looked at some photos on his television and then put on fights from the UFC. Later we would do secret Santa where I won a hot pot set, which I traded in for something I don’t remember. I was lucky to get a ride back to downtown Shanghai from the apartment which was about 30-40 minutes from the person I gave the hot pot set to. So it all worked out and felt very much like a Vancouver Christmas experience.
I arrived in Singapore several days before Christmas to spend time with my Grandmother, cousin, Aunt, and new nieces. I must admit that there is no replacement for spending the holidays with your family. We had a Christmas tree set up with some gifts already there. A signal that I was running out of time to get gifts for my family in Singapore. I had plenty of time to explore the central areas such as Little India, Orchard Road, and the Marina Bay. Marina bay had lights set up to recognize the season, Little India didn’t have much set up, and the Orchard area had a tree with bright lights. There were huge crowds out to take pictures of the lights and to publicly enjoy the occasion outdoors. My grandmother cooked us a Christmas dinner that we ate at home. After the dinner it was business as usual with the family winding down getting ready for bed. I went out in search of some action by going down to Marina Bay area. I was disappointed to see that it was very quiet, everything was closing early, and it started raining.
After spending Christmas in these 3 different cities I see that it is recognized and celebrated similarly. The chance of a white Christmas is most likely to happen in Vancouver, but the usage of lights, christmas trees, the spirit of giving, and time with family and friends are common elements. Wouldn’t it be interesting to a get a glimpse into how it is celebrate in other cities around the world?
ChicVoyage in Asia is a collection of modern travel adventure documentaries showcasing must-see attractions, food, culture, nightlife, and unique adventures with local friends in popular cities in Asia.
Originally invited to participate in his best friend’s wedding in Taiwan Greg took the opportunity to extend the trip and see more of Asia. In December 2011 Greg went on a journey to cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Xian, and Taiwan. After a month and a half in Asia he returned to Vancouver determined to produce a collection of 6 entertaining, inspiring, and informative travel adventure films to share Asia with the world.
I never would have imagined the amount of time and passion it would take to complete a film project from beginning to end. Filming videos and putting together music videos for youtube is one thing, but taking video footage and producing it into a entertaining and professional show is a much larger undertaking.
I have a new level of respect for film-makers after going through the process of planning, filming, and post production. When I left for Asia I had an idea that I wanted to film video and eventually produce a travel show; however it wasn’t crystal clear what the format of the show was going to be.
When I got back to Vancouver I knew that I had captured some amazing footage and unique travel adventures in my month and a half. Originally I created a music video from my time in Asia, but it wasn’t the appropriate video to showcase the adventures I had. My friend introduced me to a travel adventure show called departures by two Canadians that inspired to begin working on the show.
To have the technology to be able to capture that experience in high definition quality and share it does satisfy something internal in me to build and share. Traveling and filming provide me an opportunity to pursue my passions and film provides the platform to document it. The actual process of producing a show provides additional opportunities to tell a story and invoke inspiration through visuals and music. I’ve always enjoyed music and I’ve hand picked tracks that are modern, fresh, and what I’ve felt are relevant for the particular country.
Here is a special personal recount of the experience in Beijing and Xian. If you like it please comment and I can write more about the other cities in Asia.
When I set foot in Beijing it was super exciting to be in the city to be able to film famous structures such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. What I didn’t expect in Beijing was the experience of going to the Centro Jazz bar in Beijing to experience the live jazz, the color ambiance, the smell, great drink, and company. This was one of my Beijing highlights and I manage to capture some of these elements on the film. Even though I’m no stranger to a the Chinese culture living in a dense Chinese population living in Vancouver BC Canada I did feel like an outsider not being able to speak Mandarin. I didn’t anticipate how little English would be spoken by the people I met throughout my trip in the hotels, bars, restaurants, and in the street. Catherine Lu and my good friend Linh were very helpful during my trip there and helped me find my way in Beijing and feel welcome. ChicVoyage in Beijing is a great introducing to Asia and great footage of the attractions such as Forbidden City are a given. What I believe is original about this adventure is including the experience of a night club in Beijing, riding through the Hutongs on a rickshaw bike, and getting a chance to experience some of the best Peking duck Beijing has to offer.
ChicVoyage in Beijing – Included in ChicVoyage in Asia
I had a short 2 day stay in Xian with the main goal to see the Terracotta warriors. I found Xian to be a city that is overcrowded with traffic and loose with the rules. You’ll find motor bikes riding on the sidewalk or taxi’s that only stop to pick you up if it’s convenient. I had a good first night filming at the City Wall, but spent over an hour trying to get a taxi back to my hotel. In the end I had to call the hotel to call a taxi to pick me up. The Terracotta experience more than made up for the first night. My tour guide Koko said I was extremely luck to get a chance to film all 3 pits at the museum as it is usually so overcrowded with people. For me seeing the Terracotta warriors was gratifying in the sense that I knew I had seen a unique worldwide attraction with a long history. I love the montage in ChicVoyage in Xian and I hope with the music I’ve picked you will enjoy it as well.
Trailers from some cities covered in ChicVoyage in Asia
ChicVoyage in Xian – Included in ChicVoyage in Asia