Author Archives: Brad

72 Hours In Ontario

Over the weekend I took advantage of a stopover in Ontario on my way to Orlando. I managed to visit my family and friends in Acton and Toronto. While I couldn’t see everyone, I worked in quite a few.  

   
Also got to visit the awesome Christmas windows at Hudson’s Bay downtown after a fantastic lunch at Drake 150. The windows always gets me in a festive mood, and the food has always been great at this restaurant located downtown Toronto on Bay Steeet.  

    
   
Currently I’m headed to Orlando, taking the new UP Express Airport shuttle from Union Station. The price is a little steep at just over $27, however the trains are super modern and the trip is only 25 minutes long. Pretty impressed with it, there’s also free WiFi. I was going to use Uber, but didn’t want to get caught in traffic.
   
I’ve got a connection in Newark (ugh) then I’ll be arriving in Orlando just after midnight. Off to Universal tomorrow to see Diagonal Alley!

Shanghai Disneyland in Calgary? A visit to F & D Scene Changes

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This weekend I was lucky enough to take a tour of F & D Scene Changes  as part of Doors Open Calgary, an annual event that gives the public access to places around the city they normally would not be allowed to visit. What is F & D Scene Changes you ask?  They are a company that creates “projects that range from scenery for theatre, television and film to theme park elements, museum exhibits, and trade show and retail displays.” They’re located right here in Calgary, behind the Stampede grounds in a gorgeous historical building and I had no idea they existed!

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Imagine my excitement to find out in my very own backyard that they work on set pieces, parade floats and other amazing projects for Disney Parks, Universal, Cirque Du Soleil and more. Everything from design, lighting, welding, sculpting, prototyping, the list goes on. Talk about a hidden gem in Calgary.

During our visit, our tour guide was not allowed give us many details or even mention the name of some of their clients, including their Florida Client. We figured out pretty quickly that was Disney. We got some insider access and saw them working on projects for what I assume was Shanghai Disneyland Resort, as well as a new mall called Tsawwassen Mills (very similar concept as Vaughan Mills or CrossIron Mills .

Based on all the Shanghai Disneyland concept art I’ve seen, I could pick out a few things that were clearly headed overseas to the park. One was a smaller parade vehicle that had hidden Mickey heads printed all over it, another was the giant tree (we’re talking 40-50 feet high) that I assume will be the centrepiece for the Tarzan Show.Tarzan Call of the Jungle Show

They were even working on some concepts for a project based on a very popular “cold & icy” movie…..I’ll let you figure out which one.
It was really interesting learning about how they take the idea and have to figure out a way to engineer it so it looks good, is safe and can survive in any situation possible. They consult with engineers on many projects to ensure people are safe when climb, ride, carry, hold and interact in any way with their pieces. An example was that if a performer passes out in the middle of the show on a tree branch, will the weight of two additional people be okay to climb out to assist them. In addition, are there enough hand holds for three people to safely climb out and back.

Due to the nature of the projects they work on, we were not allowed to take photos of anything in the works. I did however take a bunch of pictures of completed projects they had laid out in their main office. They helped with the Little Mermaid rides at Disneyland & Walt Disney World, Transformers at Universal Studios, tons of other Tokyo & Hong Kong Disney projects, Broadway. Calgary Stampede…The list goest on. It was an awesome tour and highly recommended if you ever have the chance.

Here are some pictures of past projects they have worked on, very impressive!

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Beakernight: Everything is Awesome

This past weekend, Beakernight took over the Sunalta area of Downtown Calgary. What is Beakernight you ask? It’s described as “a massive outdoor gallery of art and engineering, including fire-spitting skee ball, interactive works, performances and experiences.” Pretty much super awesome stuff. Words can’t describe how cool it was, so here’s a bunch of photos from the event. Enjoy!

 

Cirque du Soliel KURIOS – Incredible & Amazing

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Thursday night I had the pleasure of attending Cirque Du Soleil KURIOS here in Calgary. It has been 10 years since I’ve seen a touring Cirque show, and I must say this was the most impressive one I’ve ever seen. I’m a big fan of the Vegas and Orlando shows, as they have purpose built theatres and can do much more in that environment compared to a touring show. Once you’ve been to the resident shows, the touring shows all seem to repeat themselves with different themes. With that said, KURIOS was completely different in the best way and blew my mind. The steampunk theme, unique circus acts and music all worked together to create an incredible experience. The score was infectious, I couldn’t get the main hook out of my head. So much so I got the album immediately. If you’ve never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, KURIOS is highly recommended!

Koh Lanta to Bangkok

After leaving my island oasis, I decided to head to Koh Lanta. A tourist based island but not nearly as busy as the most popular places like Phuket and Ko Phi Phi. I arrived after a bus that took two ferry trips and a quick walk to the hostel. I must say this hostel was quite a change from the others I had been at, very quiet with only a couple of people staying there. Nowhere near fully booked. To be honest I was a bit disappointed, as the reason I travelled to Koh Lanta was to meet more people and have a little more excitement before my trip home.

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I did make the best of the situation,and ended up hanging out with a couple guys from the UK and watched a football game. I also had dinner with group of girls I met at the hostel, but they were all headed out early the next day.

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I figured I’d like to see the island so the next day I headed out to rent a motorbike. As I became an expert on Koh Sukorn (ha ha, not!), I had the confidence to drive in a busier area. It was the best decision, as it allowed me to see a lot of the island without being tied down to paying for transportation each time I wanted to go somewhere else. I drove through the jungle and past beaches, shops, small towns and some other tourists. It was awesome, that is until the rain storm hit! I had popped into a local jewellery shop as my mom asked me to get her some silver or something, and a huge storm erupted. I hung out and talked to the shop owner whole I waited out the storm.

It kept raining so I gave up waiting and just drove through the rain. In the way back to where I was staying, I saw a sign for a mangrove swamp and fish farm. How could I resist? It ended up being really cool, walking along a rickety boardwalk through the swamp and out to a couple small fish farms on the river. I swear there was some type of shark in one own, but I’m not 100% sure.

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I also ran into a pack of monkeys as I walked back to my motorcycle, which was pretty cool. They ran off, but not before I got some video.

That evening a new person checked into the hostel, and we went to an Irish pub quiz night at a local bar. That was fun, but not nearly as awesome as hanging at the beach bar on the island.

The next morning I took a bus to the Krabi airport and flew to Bangkok. A quick 1.5 hour flight.

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It was nice that even though Nok Air is a super budget airline, they still gave us a snack.

After arriving in Bangkok, I grabbed the train to the area on Sukhamvit where my hostel was. I was tired, but wanted to see a bit more of Bangkok so I wandered over to the Soi Cowboy area, which is a famous red light district. As I arrived after all the temples and cultural things closed, I didn’t have many options!

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It was like a mini Las Vegas, with all the neon and scantly clad girls everywhere. I was there around 10pm, before things get wild. I also wandered around this amazing shopping mall that’s themed like an airport and each level represents a different part of the world like Tokyo, San Francisco and Rome. It was one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been to. Afterwards, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to bed. This hostel was also pretty lifeless, so that’s 2 in a row that kinda sucked. Not their fault, just a bit disappointing.

Went to bed then in the AM headed to the airport on the sky train, which was only about $1.50. So efficient!

The Simple Life

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Spending the past four days on a non-tourism based island has completely changed my perspective of Thailand. Most people arrive to the hustle and hustle of Bangkok, filled with very western shops and food all mixed with Thai culture. The same can be said for many of the well known islands. It’s like this for one main reason: people like familiar.
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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the same, until now. I’ve usually been on the hunt for the local McDonalds just in case I don’t like the food. Well, no longer! This island has nothing familiar, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No 7-11, McDonald’s, shopping or anything related to tourism. The handful of resorts of course have motorbike rentals and will help you arrange boat tours, but it takes some effort and that’s OK. Off the beaten path and worth the journey.

For example, today I woke up to the sounds of the jungle and waves crashing. No pumping EDM or motorbikes. It was glorious! I sauntered down to the beach and had pancakes with pineapple, along with some terrible instant coffee I enjoyed far too much. Then lazed around, backed up all my pictures and headed to a local festival in the middle of a boat race. It was filled with food, drink, and even some carnival games. I attempted to win a prize by shooting plastic caps at the toys, all while local kids watched and laughed at how terrible I was. I had so much fun!
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Just a laid back Saturday, with no rush or plan for anything. Failing to plan is….awesome. It may not work in the “real” world, except if you’re quick on your feet and come up with Plan B.
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Before we headed off again for the evening, Gallame (the bungalow owners daughter) and I explored the beach and drew pictures in the sand. Later that evening we headed up as a group to the festival again, grabbed some food and drink and sat on the beach. I had some sort of dim sum, plus a chicken and rice dish which was fantastic.
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I also rode the super sketchy Ferris wheel, which I thought may break due to me being a giant compared to these people. I’m happy to say I survived!
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We then listened to the live band, danced and had some drinks before heading home. Another day filled with so many cool things, and falling aleep this time with the windows wide open to hear the sounds of the jungle and sea for another amazing night of slumber.

Islands of Adventure

This islands is truly a gem. Off the beaten path enough to be quiet, yet with enough people to not get lonely. After my adventure yesterday, I had headed back up the beach to the Dugong Bar for dinner.

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FYI a dugong is an animal similar to a manatee. Apparently way back they were thought to be mermaids. The more you know!

Our Christmas dinner was on the beach, full of fresh prawns, chicken, salad, duck, Chang, good conversation and the best pina colada I have ever had. The freshly harvested coconut and pineapple help. It was so nice to spend Christmas with a random group of people that were so gracious.
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This trip has reinforced my faith in humanity, and washed away any doubts I ever had about people being friendly and helpful in this world.

During dinner I met a couple from Barcelona, well actually the guy is from there and his wife is originally from Russia. They are around the same age as me and were staying at the same resort. They were planning on doing an island boat tour on Boxing Day and asked if I wanted to come along. Of course I said yes.

After breakfast on Boxing Day we set sail on our own private adventure, and had no idea the awesome that was in store. Just the three of us and the two boat drivers.
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The first stop was an island meant for snorkeling. We weren’t allowed to get onto the island, which would have been impossible anyway as it was all cliffs. We hopped in the water but the current was way too strong. After a minute we were about 20 feet away from the boat and swimming proved to be pointless so we moved on to the next island.

This island was perfect and had a fantastic, untouched beach and great snorkeling. We wandered around the beach and collected shells. After about an hour we headed to my favourite spot of the trip.
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I’m going to call it the secret island, because there were no other people there except for a guy who lived in a hut. We wandered along the pristine white beach, making sure not to step on the broken glass. The one unfortunate thing about a lot of Thailand is there is garbage everywhere. People just don’t seem to care about keeping everything clean. Despite this, the incredible cliffs that rose from the beach added to the majestic feeling this place gave us. I kept saying how much the islands in Thailand remind me of the movie “Avatar”. Must be seen in person, pictures don’t do it justice.
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After what seemed like a short time, we headed over to another island for lunch and a beer. This island had people camping on it and was a little more populated. As we ate fried rice and fresh fruit, these giant wasps took notice and started to buzz around. We just kept moving, but I would not like to be stung by one of those guys!
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We swam, explored and lay in the sun until it was time to go back. As we had a one hour journey to the island, I looked up into the clouds, daydreaming and reflecting on all the amazing things I’ve seen so far.

Once I checked out of my resort, I got a motorcycle ride to the guest house I was going to be staying in. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the beds are so comfy.
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I have the place to myself, and it’s a quick walk to the Dugong Bar on the beach. I grabbed a quick bite and had a couple pina coladas but could feel I had way too much sun on the boat trip. I looked like a lobster and the sea breeze was making me shiver! I decided to head up early, drink water and pop some Advil while I watched TV. There was a documentary on about the tsunami, as it was exactly ten years to the day it happened. It was so upsetting, I actually cried a bit. Can’t believe such a crazy thing happened in this magical place, and yet they rebounded so quickly. Yet another humbling experience, making me even more gracious for everything I have.

After a bit more TV, I went to bed while listening to the sounds of the jungle, mixed with the super loud music from the festival happening up the beach. A minor annoyance but I passed out anyway and had the best sleep ever! More adventures await.

Christmas on a beach

As I write this post I’m sitting on the most gorgeous beach, enjoying the heat, humidity, crabs wandering by met feet and….rain! OK, I didn’t count on it to be raining but who cares. It will pass.

As promised this is the continuation of my journey to this remote isle. After getting off the bus at the station, there was some confusion to where I was actually going. Despite me showing the island on Google Maps, a lot of people had no clue. The more confused people got, the more determined I was to find this paradise!
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After almost being led to the train station on a motorcycle taxi (to an island?) a helpful Thai man booked me a severely overpriced private taxi ride to the pier. Once there, I hopped on a longboat and arrived in Koh Sukorn. A quick tuk tuk ride later and I had arrived.
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I was famished, so had some fried rice, a Chang and turned on relaxation mode. Unlike the past week, the next few days are all about R&R.

Christmas Eve was uneventful, just how I wanted it. I had big plans for Christmas Day. Had a good chat with a few couples from Wales, then headed to bed on my brick of a mattress in a room with a fan. No complaints here, I slept like a baby!

Today, Christmas 2014 I finally rode a motorbike! I figured why not learn on a quiet island. Let me tell you how glad I was to take the chance. I had a permanent grin on my face as I zipped around the island past beaches, rubber plantations, water buffalo, lizards and through the jungle to explore.
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I even found an abandoned resort with a super secluded beach.
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It was so freeing, perfect and I am hooked. Lesson learned: Turn fear into excitement.
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After doing a loop of the island, I popped into a bar I heard was owned by a Canadian man and his Thai wife. Best decision ever….I have never been greeted so warmly in my life!
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They grabbed me a beer, helped me top up my phone data, and invited me to Christmas Dinner. Wow! They also have a guest house they offered me super cheap, just because I’m Canadian and nice. Their young daughter was so excited too. Needless to say after tonight I’ll be headed there to stay for who knows how long. I just need to be in Krabi by Dec. 30. Best day ever!

Beaches, Longboats & Glowing Plankton

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The last four days have been a whirlwind tour of so many amazing things, I’ve hardly had time to write anything down.

I had only booked one night at Slumber Party on the Beach hostel online in Ao Nang, which is a beach area right near Krabi. It ended up being so chill that I stayed four nights! Once I checked in, I met a bunch of people and we all played beer pong, then went out to the local bar area and had an awesome time. It’s all a blur.
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The next day was not as awesome, and I wanted to die. Too much fun, so it was basically a write off. Luckily I didn’t have any plans so I didn’t miss out on anything.
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Monday turned into an incredible day that made up for Sunday. Although I slept in until about 10am, I had a full day of adventure planned. I booked a 4 Island Awesomeness tour with my hostel, but unfortunately not enough people signed up. They were super helpful and offered to book me on the 7 Island tour run by another company. Super sweet right?
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The tour took us to a bunch of islands, including Railay and Chicken Islands.
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We snorkeled, did deep water solo (cliff jumping), watched a fire show after we had a BBQ on the beach and ended with swimming at night among glowing plankton. It was like being in the movie “Avatar”…. Like seriously cool. I also thought about sharks for half a second, but couldn’t care less!
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It was an incredible day, which ended up with a pub crawl from the hostel. Even though I didn’t get home until 4am again, the next day was not nearly as bed as I took it much easier!
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I puttered around the hostel then sent a message to Jen, this amazing UK girl I’d met the other day (see marriage proposal pic). We made quick plans to head to Railay to explore. What a day it became. Not only did we run into a pack of monkeys, we explored the amazing Diamond Cave and climbed up into the jungle to the viewpoint and get close to the secret lagoon. The entire place is breathtaking, like everything else I’ve seen! By the end of the day I was covered in sweat, red mud, dirt and countless scrapes, cuts and bruises. This is the life!
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After we watched the sunset on the beach and took our longboat back to Ao Nang, we wandered up to some outdoor food vendors and stuffed our faces. I had a chicken shawarma, watermelon fruit shake, chicken skewer and potato chips on a stick. All for around $4.

I headed back to the hostel and was so exhausted I just read in my bunk for a while and went to bed. Our plans were to meet up again, but we were too wiped out to do anything that night.

As I wrote this post I was on a bus to Trang Town in the south, where the plan was to hop on a longboat to take a tuk tuk to my beach paradise for Christmas. It was an interesting day, I’d been on 2 different buses, and we kept stopping in random places and I had no idea where I was. It’s pretty cool to just go with it and see what happens! #soloyolo right?!?

To be continued…..
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