Fun facts about Tokyo’s subway

In the subway tunnels under Tokyo, 1am – we sat on the carriage and watched a Japanese salaryman fast asleep and snoring, collapsed like a ragdoll, briefcase at his feet. We were delighted to observe a slice of Tokyo’s famous workaholic culture, so we invented for him a whole backstory…

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Khao San Road culture

What is this place, the infamous Khao San Road? And more importantly, why did you end up here, even if you didn’t mean to?dav

Basically, it’s everything that a party-oriented backpacker loves about Thailand, distilled and westernised and easily accessible. It has food, accommodation, and drinking, without the hassle of having to navigate the mighty urban labyrinth (and it is a labyrinth!) that is Bangkok. It’s a party street, without the red-light-districtness of Soi Cowboy.

You’ll be surrounded by travellers just like you. Most locals don’t come here; just those who work in the tourist trade. From anywhere on Khao San Road, you could turn a corner and run into a street food cart (most famously Pad Thai whipped up on the spot, and sliced fruit served with a skewer). Tuk-tuk drivers stalk passers-by with their eyes like vultures, asking to take you around, probing with that infuriating catch phrase of “hey you, where you go!?

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People watching in Paris

Fashion

If i’m feeling lazy on a particular Sunday in Australia, when I want bread from the shops but don’t feel like getting dressed, I’m going out anyway. I’ll wear thongs, pyjama pants and my favourite band T-shirt, that ratty one I’ve had since a teenager, with all the holes and stains, but still rocks. I never see people dressed like that in Paris, wearing their beloved worst. Almost all my travel clothes are sporting holes from wear-and-tear in Asia, and my converse, stained orange from Cambodian dust have the soles falling out, but I love those clothes anyway. Besides the homeless guys on the streets, i’ve never seen a Parisian wearing anything from the ‘forgotten’ section of their wardrobe.

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Human fasion, dog fashion.

Even kids from the suburbs, plastered insanely head to toe with Adidas logos and black and white stripes are all designer. Jeff and I invented a game in Amsterdam, as we sipped a beer at a cold roadside bar and watched the crowd walk by; Jogging or dealing. Guess if a person blanketed in Adidas tracksuit gear was a jogger or…well, the name is self explanatory. In the suburbs of Paris, this game is harder than it seems!

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Dog with a jacket. Fashion. Don’t ask about the trolley!

I once saw a lady with one of those shopping bags with the handle and wheels, made of fur.  I like the glasses in vogue here, rounded Harry Potter spectacles, translucent and coloured fluoro red, green, yellow. My favourite, however, is a dog I saw wearing a leather jacket.

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Fashion wizard

On the metro

Rush hour on the Paris metro is a free-for-all. To stand on a platform and watch the flow of commuters fill the platform, empty into the next train, and repeat the process two minutes later is like watching the blood pump through Paris’s great beating heart. People pack like sardines onto the carriages during rush hour, their faces and hands pressed absurdly against the window.

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Sardines, rush hour

Station announcements warn of pickpockets and though I’ve never seen one before, Cindy has told me stories of metro theft. Cindy’s friend Romain once was riding the metro, looked to his watch to check the time, only to catch a thieving kid in the act trying, ninja-like, to undo the strap and make off with the prize. Everyone understood when he explain why he yelled at a kid on the metro.

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Metro musicians

At times, a carriage of passengers reading or talking amongst themselves will be treated (or plagued) to an announcement from another passenger, with a microphone, amplifier and battery crudely duct-taped to a small trolley. These are the unofficial metro musicians, and their instruments vary from slick and polished brass three-pieces, electric violin, frenetic accordion polka, bizarre plastic kazoo/keyboard contraption, even one lady who bravely stood up and sang a capella. Donations if you think they’ve brightened your commute; avoid eye contact if they polluted the silence of your carriage, and you’ve had to put your iPod in to cover another badly sung version of Champs Élysées.