Posts tagged “tourism”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Japan’s Smokestacks Draw Industrial-Strength Sightseers [] – [This sub-culture is exerting economic influence. I'm looking for the American equivalent.] What started as a fringe subculture known as kojo moe, or "factory infatuation," is beginning to gain wider appeal in Japan, turning industrial zones into unlikely tourist attractions. It's the Japanese equivalent of going sightseeing at industrial stretches along the New Jersey Turnpike. Unlike the tourists who visit the factories of Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese manufacturers, the kojo moe crowd has little interest in the inner workings of the plants. They get excited by the maze of intricate piping around the exterior of a steel plant or the cylindrical smokestacks sending up steam. [A book on the topic] lists 19 questions to test one's kojo moe credentials, including "Do you like Blade Runner?" and "Can you stare at a factory you like all day long?" Now, industrial regions across Japan are working to create factory sightseeing tours.
  • [from steve_portigal] Stop Blaming Your Culture [Strategy + Business] – [A must-read. This could become the article on the topic, a companion to Porter's classic What is Strategy? REad it and pass it along.] Fortunately, there is an effective, accessible way to deal with cultural challenges. Don’t blame your culture; use it purposefully. View it as an asset: a source of energy, pride, and motivation. Learn to work with it and within it. Discern the elements of the culture that are congruent with your strategy. Figure out which of the old constructive behaviors embedded in your culture can be applied to accelerate the changes that you want. Find ways to counterbalance and diminish other elements of the culture that hinder you. In this way, you can initiate, accelerate, and sustain truly beneficial change — with far less effort, time, and expense, and with better results, than many executives expect.
  • [from steve_portigal] Steve Portigal to write book on interviewing users [Rosenfeld Media] – Interviewing users is fundamental to user experience work but, as Steve Portigal cautions, we tend to take it for granted. Because it's based on talking and listening, skills we think we have, we often wing it. Sadly, we miss out on many of the wonderful opportunities our interviews should reveal. So we're thrilled that Steve, who's contributed regular columns to interactions and Core77, has signed on to write a new Rosenfeld Media book, The Art and Craft of User Research Interviewing, to help UX practitioners really succeed with interviewing. Steve's book will focus on helping practitioners to better understand users' perspectives, and to rely upon rapport as the main ingredient in successful user interviews.
  • [from steve_portigal] Intel Teams with, Black Eyed Peas Front Man [Intel] – [Is there a nomenclature convention emerging? If your corporate title is surrounded by quote marks, you may not receive the same HR benefits as others. Although it looks like he's got a badge? See you at Friday's Beer Bust!] He’s best known for being a multi-platinum music artist, producer and front man for The Black Eyed Peas, but is also an innovator, technology fan, entrepreneur and philanthropist. With today’s announcement at the Anaheim Convention Center, the seven-time Grammy winner has added another title to his multi-faceted resume: “director of creative innovation.” As an extension of his insatiable fascination with technology, which plays a significant role in his professional and personal lives, will engage in a multi-year, hands-on creative and technology collaboration with Intel Corporation. He already sports an Intel ID badge, which he proudly showed off at a news conference in Anaheim, where Intel is holding an internal sales and marketing conference.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • LA Gang Tours: An opportunity to save a life, create jobs and rebuild communities – The mission of LA GANG TOURS is to provide an unforgettable historical experience for our customers with a customized high-end specialty tour. We will provide customers with a true first-hand encounter of the history and origin of high profile gang areas and the top crime scene locations in South Central, Los Angeles. Each tour bus for LA GANG TOURS will have a guide from the South Central areas who has gained hands-on knowledge and experience of the inner city lifestyle. The objective is to create jobs for the residents of South Central, Los Angeles; to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions. Your participation allows the success of a cease-fire agreement between three of the largest and most notorious gangs in L.A. history.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Interview with hamster hotel proprietor – Short audio is worth a listen as the interview veers necessarily into "What *is* normal?" territory
  • French hamster hotel lets guests live like rodents – Visitors to the hotel in Nantes can feast on hamster grain, get a workout by running in a giant wheel and sleep in hay stacks in the suite called the "Hamster Villa".

    It is the latest venture from owners Frederic Tabary and Yann Falquerho, who run a company which rents out unusual venues to adventure-seekers. Both architects, the men designed the room in an 18th century building to resemble the inside of a hamster's cage.

Shave Ice Paradise (or Dystopia)


A uniquely horrible part of our trip to Kauai was stopping here for a shave ice. This place was staffed by a gaggle of poorly trained, incompetent, aggressive, rude teenage girls. They stood behind their window and acted as if the people on the other side were not human, but merely objects. One stood there talking loudly about her social plans for that evening, ignoring the long line. Another complained about the line, and how much work she had. “I hope this fucking line goes away soon! I’m so sick of people!” she yelled to her friends, not 18 inches from the fucking people who were waiting to give her money. Everyone was made to feel as if they were inconveniencing these girls’ lives. One man received his shave ice in a foam cup with a leak; he went back up to return it or get a new cup and they were horrible to him; he shouldn’t expect anything from them since he only spent a few bucks!

This place is in the Hanalei Center on the north side of the island. Do not go there.

We only saw one other shave ice place on the whole island, Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice in Waimea. The experience there was great. This place here sucks.

Hawaii, especially Kauai is a tourist economy; people were appropriately awesome in most places we went to. This place was off the scale in the other direction. Please stay away.

Further, on our Asia trip

It’s interesting to try and capture and document and share as rich an experience as our two week trip through Asia. I took hundreds of pictures and have been posting the best ones here, here, and here, trying to tell a small story with as many of them as I can. It’s sort of a scattered way to narrate what we saw, but it’s also manageable from my end; little pieces, the visual does most of the heavy lifting, and it’s mostly chronological. As I write this I’m a little more than halfway (I believe) through the pictures, so that database on flickr, if you will, should continue to accrete.

But of course, there are lots of experiences that don’t get documented in the photos, other observations, feelings, or conclusions. My recent Core77 article takes one slice at that, but let me try and add some more.

One of the best things about the whole trip was the local connections we had in each city we visited. We didn’t manage to link up with anyone in Bangkok (and we were there for less than 48 hours, I think), but we had a fantastic time with people in Hong Kong, Bangalore, and Mumbai. First of all, these were all professional connections. But these were friends, if not at the beginning then certainly by the end. “Work” was a way to have made these connections (most of which had existed over the Internet pretty much for a couple or years or so), but it didn’t feel like “work” to spend time with them.

I realized that I’m personally pretty lame when people come to visit from other countries; this may simply reflect the culture I live in, I don’t know. People took time off work to come hang out with us, to show us around, to take us places we wouldn’t know to find, to show us how they lived, what their homes were like, what their lives were like. They really opened up to us and shared stories that made us feel connected. We got relevant suggestions for books, stores, souvenirs that were not simply standard tourist advice, but came from people who “got” us and what excited us about their city. One person brought us an extra cell phone that we borrowed for a few days, encouraging us to make international calls since they were free on their plan. And it didn’t seem like it was work on their part; I felt like the time spent together was very mutual.

What a world we live in, in 2006. I can get on a plane and go somewhere on the planet, and I’ve got a connection with someone there. I’ve experienced this Internet-enabled phenom many times before but somehow this seemed the most dramatic.

Separate from the intentions of these friends, the hosting played out differently in Hong Kong and in India. We felt very comfortable on our in Hong Kong, the transit system is amazingly well-designed, there is a lot of English available, and we only had one difficult travel experience. I actually was the most relaxed I had been in months. So the good times and the help we received was a bonus. But India was different – the friend who hosted us and helped us feel relaxed and comfortable played a major rescue-type role for us.

We didn’t like being in India. We never felt comfortable on our own.

It’s probably not too strong to say that we hated our time in India. In fact, we changed our flight and came home a day early, deliriously happy. It’s actually been hard to think about and talk about India, giving me a bit of chest-tightening PTSD every time.

All this would have been different if we could have spent all our time with our wonderful hosts. Those times felt great. And I fear hurting their feelings by sharing our negative experience when we were not with them.

And maybe our negative feelings reflects on us, I don’t know. Lots of people who visited before told us that India was an “experience” but not necessarily a positive one. Others I’ve met since speak positively about it – people who spent more time rather than less time – there’s an adjustment process we didn’t get to go through. I guess all of what I write below would be dramatically different if we spent 3 weeks or 3 months in India rather than about a week.

I feel like we have travelled a reasonable amount – I guess that’s just me normalizing our experience. We haven’t been to Kuala Lumpur, but we’ve been to a fair number of places over the years. We are curious and like exploring and just seeing what’s up.

So anyway, what about India was problematic for us?

There are a number of things that often get cited as problems with India: traffic, crowds, pollution, poverty. Those aren’t necessarily fun things, but I don’t think that was it. I’ve seen traffic, and pollution, and crowds (and certainly have not seen such poverty). They can make a new place like India overwhelming, tiring, dramatically different from home. But they wouldn’t ruin a trip.

The fact was that we just could never be comfortable (except in our hotel rooms, or with people who we had arranged to be with – our friends, or the conference). It just seemed that every interaction, big or small, was fraught with uncertainty and so much extra work. You can’t do anything – get from A to B – get some food – go see a tourist attraction – without a large number of small interactions that are unusual, that are “off script” (at least the script we carry in our Western heads), and that require some amount of negotiation that we had no preparation for.

Much of it had to do with feeling like you were going to get scammed around every corner. And the amounts of money were trivial, but it led to a feeling of being out of control, not being able to relax and enjoy something because your guard had to be up.

Example: we go to a temple (the Bull Temple). We had a driver that day, so he stops, and lets us out. We walk past the people selling stuff and ignore them. We approach the temple entrance (it’s like a room filled with a big statue with one end opened), and there is a chair and someone telling you that you have to take your shoes off. So we do that, and leave them outside the temple. As we walk in, someone joins with us and begins talking with us. a young kid. I don’t care what he’s telling us, I’d just like to look at it, but suddenly we are in a “scene.” In hindsight (and perhaps reading this) you can probably identify coping strategies to deter this, but we couldn’t at that time. It took too much “work” (or think of it as energy, if you prefer). We could not enjoy looking at this big black statue of a bull, we couldn’t look at each other and discuss it, we were forced by our need to stick to social norms to sort of politely acknowledge the information. Can’t hang up on telemarketers? Don’t go to India. At the end of the bull the boy says “I guide you now you give me money?” and then the woman with the chair for taking your shoes off and on also demands money.

It wasn’t clear up front that this would require money; you don’t know when or how you are entering into a transaction, you are a bg white target, and you don’t know the rules. That pretty much sucks.

And this goes on everywhere that tourists go. It goes on outside the front of the hotel where you ask them to get you a taxi or a driver, or whatever. You can’t figure out who is playing what role; they all have uniforms or not uniforms, and you don’t know what is going to happen next, so it requires vigilance. You go to the airport and people descend on your taxi and start unpacking your bags and carrying them away. We had to learn from that and prepare for the next time and stop them from doing that if it were to happen again. No one intervenes on your behalf. The taxi drivers don’t care. They don’t close the window when beggars run up in traffic and stick their heads in the cab and start asking for stuff.

It made walking down the street an incredibly daunting experience – not because anything so bad happened to us, but the fear – and it was indeed fear – of an unpredictable unmanageable encounter that could be just around the corner.

We saw a fair number of beggars – small children that would make a pathetic hand to mouth gesture with little piping voices as they clutched at sleeves. They staked out corners and when you waited for traffic to come they would descend. There was nothing to make them stop. It wasn’t frightening, but it was annoying and intense, and it was frightening how I began to see them as pests rather than people; how I began to dehumanize them and wanted to swat them like flies for their minor but persistent annoyance. We didn’t give money, I think for fear of being assaulted, and with that whole “oh, you’ll just be encouraging them” fear lurking. It was often very sad, especially as we walked back to our hotel with leftovers from a restaurant one night. Do we help someone if it means the difference between suffering and less-suffering, only for a brief period of time? I’m sure the moral answer is yes, but we were in self-preservation mode through our foreignness, our discomfort, our naivete.

There was a marked lack of a counterpoint to the odd interactions – the lack of pleasant interactions with strangers. In most places you go, you probably can have someone smile at you, or at least give friendly but not servile service. Again, on our own, we didn’t have that in India hardly at all. The facial expresses we were greeted with looked – to our Western eyes – like a hostile stare. I don’t presume to intuit the feelings behind how we were looked at (though there was a lot of persistent staring that is not appropriate in our culture), but it’s hard not to take away the feeling that you’re trained in – that you are being viewed with dislike. Mostly by men – there are a staggeringly disproportionate number of men on the streets and a woman may find that difficult and uncomfortable – again, even if nothing happens.

We had a nice elevator chat with fellow travellers (from the UK, I think) at our hotel. We were greeted by young children lining up at the famous (yet amazingly crappy) Prince of Wales Museum who seemed excited to see white people and waved and called “hi” – first the girls in one line and then the boys. The “hi” and wave passed down the line as we walked by and it was incredibly charming. And amazingly rare. I think another little child smiled at us as we ate a meal.

(By the way, it was really really crappy – faded dioramas that were covered in dust, lots of dead animals, sad bent railings, with a few lovely new architected wings at the end of the trail)

And the lack of general welcomingness takes its toll. And so it’s easy to look at the lack of development, the poverty, noise, debris, chaos, and filth and be critical, but I kept reminding myself just what was bothering me.

I know there have been tremendous economic shifts that have impacted North America and India in terms of jobs and so on, but I really can’t see how that is working. I wonder if there’s just huge class distinctions so I don’t see the white collar as a tourist. But you look at this place and you think “there’s no way.” There are so many people and so much poverty and illiteracy that you can’t think of the total population as a market, or as a workforce or whatever. Mumbai is one of the world’s largest cities, and it has amazingly low – for example – numbers of people who have been online, ever. It’s not London. It’s got some of what London has, but it’s a lot of different things on top each other. As I’ve written, you’ve got IT parks and poverty right next to each other. You can look at the IT park and say, wow, things are changing. And they are, but you can’t forget the weight of the stuff that is missing. I will say that there was a remarkable lack of denial about all of this – you can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading about these problems (and many more).

As an aside – reading the newspaper was fun. The politics are so dramatic and so complex, it was fun trying to figure it out, as well as see the latest scandals and gossip around the Bollywood stars (scandal being a relative term; it’s a very conservative culture).

Back to my screed: it’s hard to find a chain store. It’s hard to find an advertising message that isn’t incredibly naive, like it’s advertising to children. Reminders of the purity, safety, and quality of products – implying that if you have to think about that, maybe, well just maybe, that isn’t what’s being delivered at other times.

This is just one experience; I know business people from the West travel regularly to Bangalore and other cities to work with their colleagues. I don’t know how that works; I just feel so skeptical. It’s a hard place to go to.

My India pictures reveal stunning images: hovels; a lovely Donald Duck trash bin on a shopping street that is probably the dirtiest thing you’ve ever seen; an international airport that looks more decrepit and chaotic than you can imagine.

I’m not an economist or an international development expert and I wasn’t conducting business in India (though we attended a conference and visited Microsoft Research, so we saw a bit), but for much of the time I had to gape and wonder how this thing we read about is happening.

One last thought – watching what you eat was crazy tough. I learned to shower facing away from the water to minimize what I swallowed. Could you drink fresh juice? What about X? Or Y? There were so many different complex food choices that came up. I opted for caution over exploration, and I still got a little bit sick. Sadly, I also got sick of Indian food (not ill, but rather my desire abated). On our last night we found a restaurant with an amazing looking buffet of every kind of food, including Indian. I had to pass, with great regret, knowing that a week hence I would give anything to be a guest at that banquet. I just could not deal with the thought of the flavors and spices and sauces. Which I truly love.

Brief trip report

We’re now in Mumbai – the last of our four-city tour. Since posting last, we spent two hot and fun days in Bangkok, had an interesting and great time in Bangalore (best parts being an interesting conference, a visit to Microsoft Research, and some really wonderful hosting/socializing/touring). We got here last night and have benefitted similarly from some great hosting/socializing/touring. In fact, we’re out in the suburbs where tourists would never go, visiting a friend in her home.

There’s just so much to see and think about and write about. I imagine blogging non-stop for weeks upon end when we return (not possible, I suppose). I’ve taken hundereds of pictures and will see if the technology I’m using at this moment will allow me to easily post a couple of recent ones.

In control, out of control

Another dispatch from a public Internet terminal. In this case, the Samsung e-lounge at the Hong Kong airport. We’re headed to Bangkok in an hour or so. Nice free service, but their custom browser blocks pop-ups, so I can’t check my email as I normally do via I can see the messages, I just can’t open ’em.
Anyway, we had one of those experiences that is so typical of what you hear when people travel overseas – a miscommunication, a rip-off, etc. We checked out early this AM, and planned to head to the train station (the Kowloon station) and take the Airport Express train back to the airport. We had prepaid (with an Octopus card) for return trainfare. It’s quite handy; you can actually check in for your flight at the train station in town and drop your bags and all that. The train is fast and comfortable.
We told the hotel dude that we were going to the train station for the Airport Express, he came out with us. The taxi driver asks us something, I say “Kowloon Station, Airport Express.” He says “airport?” I say, no, Kowloon station. The hotel dude has caught up at this point and says something in Chinese. We figured he clarified it and we were off. The driver is talking in Chinese to his mounted cell phone (set on speaker phone) and then he apparently is speaking to us. He waves some money around, says a phrase twice, and then shows me a number on a piece of paper. How much to get to the station? We can’t really tell what he’s written, and not sure why this is happening (I know we sound like total suckers here, but hey, it’s what happened. Does it help that it was 6:15 am?). I guess taxi drivers are the only segment of the service business in Hong Kong with no English.
Anyway, we pass the train station. He is taking us all the way to the airport. Instead of $35 or so (HK), it’s now going to be $XX00? We have no idea. What do we do? How do we clarify, or confront, as moments pass and the situation veers from what we had anticipated? How do we deal with our own social norms? Are we being ripped-off, or just a bad communication?
Other types of people would no doubt have pursued some sort of resolution. We didn’t. We felt helpless and frustrated and did nothing. It was vaguely expensive and we were lucky to have cash on hand to pay for the final fare. But really, we got to the airport, we lost a little money, we lost a little control. I kept thinking that as our trip proceeds through Thailand and then India this sort of willful? miscommunication and loss of control due to language and white skin and general foreigness will continue. This was trivial, but it felt traumatic. Perhaps a good lesson about dealing with the mishaps, or simply the haps, of the rest of our trip.

Hong Kong Groovy

Just a quick note-from-the-field. We’re here in Hong Kong and have been for several days. Really a great city to be a visitor in; if nothing else (and there is lots that is great) the transit system is really incredibly well thought-out.

I’ve taken a huge number of photos already, eaten some interesting food, seen some great architecture and signage. I’m initially struck by the post-SARS hyper-awareness of the potential for disease through bad hygiene – through many public service announcements and warning signs and admonishments about various things like wrapping up your spittle and so on.

We leave for Bangkok tomorrow quite early, so we’re just doing our last few things today.

Not much content here; it’s hard to compose much of relevance at a public internet terminal in a museum. I can’t wait to share photos and stories here and on flickr in more detail!

A brand journey at the 5hotel in Calgary

Last month we stayed in Calgary for a few days to attend the Calgary International Film Festival. We stayed at the 5, a newly remodeled hotel that used to be the Hawthorn. Most info about hotels in downtown Calgary referenced the Hawthorn, and we found the website through a redirect. The website seemed pretty nice.
5 Five Calgary Downtown Suites Hotel, Alberta, Canada - Inside 5 10 21 2005 12 52 30 PM1.jpg
Kinda cool design, palette, nifty logo. Seemed like they were doing the JetBlue/IKEA thing of taking a commodity and adding design and more thoughtfulness to the overall experience, and finding a way to charge less for it. There were photos of the rooms (not currently available on the updated website), descriptions of all the amenities (free WiFi, breakfast), and the price was good. We decided to stay there.

When we booked our shuttle from the Calgary airport, the woman behind the counter growled in an intense Scottish brogue “Yeah, that used to the Hawthorn, and before that the Prince Rupert. I was finally getting used to calling it the Hawthorn and they changed the name. What a stupid name!”

The shuttle drops us off around the corner from the front door (which is not exactly door-to-door service that we paid for, but that’s a complaint for elsewhere). It doesn’t look like it’s the Five.
It looks like the Hawthorn.

The front door, at least, is a little more clear what hotel we’re at.

Unless you happen to look up. Serious naming/branding confusion!

A few days later I find a card in the lobby. The card has the new brand scheme and reads, in part “Over the coming months, Hawthorn Hotel & Suites will transform into 5 Calgary Downtown Suites.” Okay, so this is an ongoing project. But the entire experience is confusing; it doesn’t suggest transition, it is just a mishmash of radically different brands. This card was sorta hidden; one had to be poking around to stumble across it. It’s the only place they acknowledge the transition; the rest of the time the hotel presents all this as if it’s normal. But really, it was just odd.

The room number says we’re at the Hawthorn.

But the apples say we’re at the five. Apples? They took the trouble to order brand stickers for apples, but they couldn’t change the door numbers? I was really surprised.

Finally, I was a total sucker for the website branding, like I said, expecting JetBlue. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was like when we’d visit a distant great aunt in an apartment building in Winnipeg in the 70s. It was seriously dated, and not well-kept.

The kitchen featured a stove from the Mesozoic era.

And really cheesy cupboards.

An access panel in the bathroom was old, dirty, and loose.

Not to mention this disgusting vent in the bathroom.

The living room was typical of the “suite” – outdated, poorly maintained. I think we found some remnants of painter’s tape from whatever remodeling they had done. Who knows how long it had been there.

Anyway, it worked out fine (although their free breakfast was disgusting and they never had enough staff or food to handle the traffic flow even on a weekday), but I was struck by how different the hotel experience was from what the branding had led me to believe – or what I had let myself believe based on that.

Where’s the Mall?

Simon Malls shows amazing chutzpah with this Black Friday ad, placing the viewing of the Statue of Liberty in horrific context. “Very inspring. Now, where’s the mall?”


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