In the 1980s, when a movie director realized that their hero had to cover a large period of time where they got fit in jail/got loved up-got married-got sick-got dead/became a black belt in karate/learned the merengue, they deployed the MONTAGE. You know, like in Rocky, Dirty Dancing, Up, Casino: do it right and it’s thrilling and audiences love you and you keep Steve Mnuchin out of your parking spot at Geoffrey’s in Malibu. Do it wrong and you win a Razzie and your handprint at Graumann’s Chinese Theatre gets cemented over with Donald Trump’s.
Well this is the montage moment of the past two weeks of our trip, the bit where I got fit and learned the merengue. No, seriously. It’s the absolute reverse. Imagine the Rocky montage where he jumps backwards over the bench and goes downhill and gets despondent and flabby. That’s this bit. Time’s moved on and we’re Daaaaarn Aaaaander in Oz, but my blog’s stuck in Japan. It’s Big In Japan, like Britpop.
After Kyoto, we did Nara. This is the ancient seat of the Emperor and boasts 1500 deer and the World’s Largest Wooden Building. Holy McWhirter, here it is:
And while you regain your breath, I can tell you that this is ONE THIRD smaller than the original which burnt down in the 1700s and had to be entirely rebuilt, apart from the Big Buddha’s lower third which is original (even Ancient Gods struggle to burn off their massive arses):
Nara’s deer are famous throughout Japan, says our guide, because you can make them BOW for snacks (I didn’t mention that I know humans back home that would happily do that). You buy a packet of Deer Cookies (shityounot) and say ‘Bow’ in a loud ‘I’m A Extra In Harry Potter’ kind of voice, and they literally bow their stinky heads to score the scran. It’s only just the right side of absurd.
Next we swung by Osaka. Unlike Kyoto (Voiceover: “Guys, this place is so purdy we should keep it for BEST”) Osaka was blasted back to the Pleistocene by Allied bombers in WWII. So everything’s new, tall, hard, lit up. Our hotel room was high enough to see into everyone else’s hotels/offices and we got the full connection/alienation thing that modern cities specialize in. Too far to see naked bums though, if that’s what you were wondering.
Universal Studios Osaka rocks and Osaka Aquarium rolls, but a special montage mention must go out to our digs, The Ritz Carlton Osaka, which was like a chintz labyrinth encased in a futuristic sci-fi skyscraper, a mashup of the sets of Bladerunner and The Shining. We walked for about an hour to find the main restaurant, only to discover that it’s an artificially daylit faux-Victorian conservatory fully equipped with it’s own Santa’s Grotto. It’s also the only gym I’ve used with wall to wall shag-pile carpeting.
This is the bit in our reverse-montage where the hero goes from being fighty and lean to languorous and lacksadaisical. The Philippines is a bunch of islands rotating round the sprawling megalopolis of industry and vigilantism that is Manila and we were glad to spend a mere two hours there, en route to THIS:
Pamalikan is the name of the island and it means ‘Come Back To’, which is apt, given that we’d decided to come back here about 5 minutes after we’d arrived. It’s a total cliché and you’d hate me if I wanged on about it any longer but DANG DIGGLY DANG this is Paradise.
Eddie made busy with the staff who he’d forced to dig out a couple of massive crabs for him in minutes. They’re called ‘Shadow Crabs’ which makes them sound waaaay more ‘Stealth/Avengers’ than they actually are, given that you can catch them so easily.
My third-born wasn’t satisfied with the big guys though. He was here for one thing and one thing only: HERMIES. The picture below is one of his elaborate ‘Hermie Homes’. Ed is basically their Public Enemy Number One. He’s a global hermie scourge, a one-man hermie Isis. Until now, he’s been a ‘catch and release’ kinda guy but in Pamalikan, a staff member (also called Edward) taught him to fish using a smashed hermie on a hook as bait and now he’s all about the fishing. It’s Event Horizon for the Hermit Crab.
We did find this massive hermit crab, which was bright orange and hairy and extremely faithful to the concept of hermitism in that it didn’t budge a millimetre when investigated. Which is probably a good thing because I would’ve wet myself.
Our montage continues as the intrepid travellers land back in Manila en route to their next destination; relaxed, sunburnt and stuffed with club sandwiches, with four hours to kill before the onwards flight. On the subject of Manila, I’m here to tell you that the collection of establishments near Manila airport named ‘City of Dreams’ may just have been nominally oversold. Yes it’s very shiny on the roof but the air pollution is so bad that the whole experience of hanging out there is like sucking the tailpipe of a gold Ferrari. And that’s not meant to sound sexy.
It doesn’t get much better inside. There’s a ‘Dreamworks’-themed play area called ‘Dream Play’ (you can’t miss it – it’s right next to the casino where everyone is chain-smoking) that is unbelievably cool on paper but had every single sentient child in Manila (and their parents) in it when we arrived. Of course we had to pay a million pesos to get our whole sorry crew through the gates, in order to confirm our nagging suspicion that this was the sort of ‘dream’ that you have after a nice cheese fondue whilst watching ‘Saw II’. I lasted twenty-five minutes and I swear I can still hear the screaming. Our montage ends with our hero necking a very stiff drink and getting on a red-eye to Oz.
To be continued…