TF Top 10 Tokyo Themed Cycling Rides

With Autumn finally here after a long hot and humid Summer it’s time to get on your bike again and work up a sweat without being completely drenched in it as happens in the overly hot and humid Summer months in Tokyo.

These ten rides are not just simply routes (though they could be of course!) but themed ones which can be adjusted however you see fit. The distances and times given are approximate (especially numbers 1-5 which were completed in a non-smart phone era) and include the travel to and from the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre so they are just a guide to give you an idea.

Here then, in no particular order, are the Tokyo Fox top 10 Tokyo themed cycling rides…

1. Yamanote Line Loop: Distance: 35 km; Time: 8 hrs – A classic ride circling the green coloured line (map-wise!) either clockwise or anti-clockwise and taking in the core of Tokyo’s major stations and urban centres.

Part I

Cycling The Yamanote Line Cycling The Yamanote Line

2. A-Z of stations: Distance: ?? km; Time: 9 hrs – A simple concept. Cycle around Tokyo stopping for a photo at a station for each letter of the alphabet. There aren’t too many B’s or C’s and there are no stations beginning with the letters L, P, Q, V or X so that’s five less stops to do!

Prelude     Part I     Part II

Cycling The A-Z Of Tokyo - Part II Cycling The A-Z Of Tokyo - Part I

3. On the trail of John Rain: Distance: ?? km; Time: 8 hrs – The fictional work of author Barry Eisler has a long association with Tokyo. Many other novels have been set here but the links here are from the earlier works and the original bicycle tour of the many bars, restaurants, cafe’s and hotels which feature throughout the books.

Prelude     Part I     Part II

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4. Tokyo’s Top 25 Sights: Distance: 130 km; Time: 12:20 hrs – The most epic of tours due mainly to the inclusion of Odaiba and Tokyo Disneyland (over in Chiba) in ‘Fodor’s Tokyo Top 25′ guidebook.

Part I     Part II     Part III

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5. Along the Kanda River: Distance: 25 km; Time: 5:30 hrs – Starting at the Sumida-gawa River and finishing at the lake in Kichijoji’s Inokashira Park. Be aware that this river cuts through the heart of Tokyo and so many, many gates are encountered and you can’t ride for too long before you have to slow down and go through a gate to cross a road.

Prelude     Part I

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6. Ten Shrines of Tokyo: Distance: 76.31km; Time: 7.25 hrs – Emperor Meiji selected these as the most important shrines in 1868 after he had moved to Edo and renamed it Tokyo.

Part I

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7. Tokyo’s Most Haunted Sights: Distance: 85.5 km   Time: 9.51 hrs – Japan is maybe not as safe as the locals suggest due to earthquakes, typhoons and other natural phenomena. On top of this there are also many stories, rumours and myths about Tokyo being inhabited by folklore creatures, ghosts, gods and other such evil spirits. This ride incorporates them into one perfectly spooky Halloween ride which I re-wrote for an article in Metropolis magazine last October.

Part I     Part II     Metropolis Hell On Wheels Article     Metropolis Link

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8. Gourmet Snack Track Trail: Distance: 53.26 km; Time: 8.29 hrs – Japan is famed for its great food and this journey took in a handful of its most traditional gourmet food shops including soba, monja-yaki and taiyaki.

Part I

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9. The Wolverine Tokyo Trail: Distance: 53.59km; Time: 3.38 hrs – Take the very same route that the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) takes in the 2013 film where the idea of geography is completely abandoned in favour of the hero just zig-zagging across the city.

Part I 

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10. The Godzilla Tokyo Tour: Distance: 82.8 km; Time: 6.43 hrs – A mix of statues, filming locations, shops and so on relating to the giant radioactive lizard.

Part I

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Now stop reading and get on your bike! Happy cycling!

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TF Top 10……Annoyingly Noisy Japanese Sounds!

Japan has a reputation for being a quiet and respectful place and, on the whole, it generally is whether you are enjoying the peaceful respite of a tranquil temple or even just sitting on the train. However, on closer inspection there are a fair few examples of Japanese people going against the typecast of them being shy, quiet and reserved. Time then to be ever so picky and make a list of these everyday sounds as Tokyo Fox yet again pigeon holes the local mannerisms and cultural aspects!

Here then, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox top 10……annoyingly noisy Japanese sounds!

1. Shop Touts – Staff stand outside trying to drum up business by shouting at the top of their voices about the discounts available in their stores and on occasions some of them even have a megaphone to shout down to annoy the passing pedestrians. Shoe shops seem to be the worst offenders and their workers are often given little step ladders to stand on just to draw more attention to themselves.

2. Variety TV Shows – Naturally Japanese TV is not geared towards foreigners but those of us with Japanese wives or girlfriends sometimes have no choice but to sit through these ubiquitous terebi shows featuring annoying celebrities, shouting presenters, screaming girls and gasping audiences which are all topped off with silly sound effects and over-the-top reactions. TV has never been so dumbed-down as it is over here. Sadly, there’s no respite during the adverts either which are just as awful with all those horrible high-pitched female voices trying to sell you products in the least imaginative ways but what’s worse is that the stations turn the volume up a notch or two during these breaks. More details here

3. The Emergency Services – The sirens may be louder back in Britain but what annoys me more here is the running commentary from one of the fire fighters in the back of the engine as they race through the streets to get to their destination as fast as possible. Isn’t the siren (which absolutely everyone recognises!) enough for people to know they have to make way for this important service without the (usually) indecipherable words being shouted out from within the vehicle. This even seems to happen at night when the roads are fairly empty!

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4. Election Vans – There always seems to be some kind of election campaign going on whereby these vehicles (sometimes with white glove-wearing ladies waving from the windows) tour the streets of your neighbourhood pumping out messages which can interrupt whatever you’re doing. It’s a very old-fashioned way of campaigning but with so many other kinds of campaigning restricted this is one such option to supposedly get people to vote for you despite the unimaginative speeches which tend to feature very little information on policies.

5. Sniffing – In the western world blowing your nose in public is ok but sniffing is frowned upon. It’s the opposite in Japan! Neither are particularly joyful to listen to but having to listen to someone constantly sniff their horrible snot back up their noses every minute or so can be very grating when it continues in your presence. One can usually be a bit more tolerant of kids (who don’t know any better) doing this but Japanese adults really should know better.

6. Station Announcements – If you happen to be standing on the platform waiting for your train in the wrong place then you may be nearly deafened by the public address announcements bellowing out at you from above. This could easily be forgiven if it was important information about delays or whatever but usually it’s just informing you of the most obvious unnecessary information.

7. Slurping – It’s actually customary for Japanese to make a slurping sound when eating their noodles. It’s supposed to heighten the taste and by bringing lots of air in with the noodles you can eat them hotter and improve the flavour. All fair enough I suppose but knowing that still doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear someone really putting all their effort in to sucking up those noodles.

8. Pachinko – These parlors are everywhere. They’re unbelievably loud, popular and smoky places with people often lining up outside hours before opening in anticipation of spending their whole day off sat in front of what is basically an ultra modern pin-ball game. The amount of electricity wasted on these sad places must be ridiculously high but they’re not going to disappear anytime soon as this industry provides revenue which is way greater than all of the legal casino’s of the world put together.

9. Local Government – Regular announcements on public loud speakers can happen anytime between 7am and 10pm and includes all manner of fairly trivial matters which very few probably listen to. Warnings to old people in particular to be on alert regarding fake calls saying a relative is in trouble and needs money wiring urgently have been doing the rounds in recent times. Other such vital reporting can include changes to refuse collections or city hall being closed the following day due to it being a national holiday. Useful for some but for many others it’s just pure unnecessary noise.

10. Karaoke Boxes – Of course you don’t usually go to these places for a bit of peace and quiet but there are the odd ones who do use these rooms for other reasons such as a cheap nights sleep! Everyone thinks they can sing amazingly well when they have a microphone in their hands but few actually can pull it off and as you walk the corridors of these places you can often hear some Japanese person murdering Aerosmith (‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing‘ is one of the most popular English songs in Japan) in a thick katakana accent.

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Bonus: Advertising Trucks – The sole purpose of these noisy trucks is to just drive around the most populated areas of Tokyo. They usually just have a giant photo of a boy-band or squeaky-voiced J-Pop girl band on both sides with their latest hit being blurted out at high volume. Irritating and bad for the environment. It’s even worse of you’re unlucky enough to be stuck in traffic next to one!

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TF Top 5……Tokyo Movie Locations Where You Can Stay

Whilst its probably possible to spend the night at the Wolverine temple or outside the Grudge houseTokyo Fox certainly doesn’t recommend it!! There are far more appropriate and more conventional ways to absorb the atmosphere of a handful of films which have been shot at various places in Tokyo. Last month featured the top 10 movie locations where you can stay and earlier in the year there was the top (double oh) 7 Hotels featured in James Bond films. Now, its time to bring you a list of movie-related places where you can stay in Japan’s capital city.

So here, in no particular order is the Tokyo Fox top 5……Tokyo movie locations where you can stay

1. Hotel New Otani (from $217 per night), 4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku.

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You Only Live Twice (1967) – This hotel plays the part of Osato Chemicals exterior for a few brief moments on 24, 28, 36 and 41 minutes respectively. The nearest station is Akasaka-Mitsuke. Its small, but peaceful gardens round the back are worth a visit for anyone wishing to take a break from the concrete jungle. More details here

2. The Park Hyatt Hotel (from $507 per night), 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku.

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Lost In Translation (2003) – Featuring throughout the films 97 minute entirety, this is where the characters Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johanson) stay and the 52nd floor is the New York Grill & Bar where a fair few scenes were filmed including when they meet for the first time on 23 mins. This place is a great one for the lunch set menu (5000 yen) with the salad and dessert buffet spread being sufficient enough in itself! A delicious main course of grilled Australian beef or lamb is also part of the deal and the aforementioned buffet is laid out on the table where Bob and Charlotte first meet. More details here

3. Hotel Okura (from $237 per night), 2-10-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku.

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Walk, Don’t Run (1966) – Cary Grant’s swan-song was mostly set in and around Toranomon during the 1964 Olympic Games. On his arrival in Tokyo on business, he turns up at Hotel Okura in the first minute but is unable to get a room there so goes to the British Embassy where he sees an advert for an apartment which he soon fast-talks his way into sharing with Samantha Eggar. More details here

4. Imperial Hotel (from $337 per night),  1-1-1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku.

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Wasabi (2000) – Appearing on 47 mins this is where Hubert (Jean Reno) books into ‘pretending’ that the young under-age Japanese girl is his daughter with the irony being that she actually is, not that she knows it! More details here

5. Nakagin Capsule Tower (from $51 per night), 8-10-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku.

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The Wolverine (2013) – Logan and Mariko disembark (52 minutes) from the Shinkansen in “Nagasaki” though in reality it’s a combination of Fukuyama and  Ginza where the Nakagin Capsule Tower appears as a love hotel which they check into. The interior of these tiny apartments could be seen in episode four of the BBC documentary ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire‘ (2006). The building is a fine example of Tokyo modern architecture and now you can actually stay there thanks to airbnb websiteMore details here

Bonus: Karaoke-Kan (from $17 per night), 30-8 Utagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku.

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Lost In Translation (2003) – Those wanting to experience a night at a movie location on a shoestring budget should get themselves into rooms 601 and 602, which featured on 46 minutes, and is where Bob sings ‘More than this’ by Roxy Music. You’ll have to check out at 6am though as that’s when it closes each night…or morning if you prefer! This particular idea for a cheap nights stay in Tokyo actually featured on the ‘The Travel Show‘ (Episode 31) on BBC2 last Friday (19th Sept). More details here

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Contributing To J-Soccer Magazine

Issue #13 of J-Soccer; Japan’s number one English language football magazine hit the streets recently and, despite an inadequate knowledge of the game in this country, a certain Tokyo Fox managed to feature quite heavily throughout its pages.

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My J-Soccer story began in late 1991 when Gary Lineker agreed to a two-year move to Nagoya Grampus Eight which would start the following year once he’d finished his Spurs contract. That was the first time I had ever thought about the J-League, and indeed Japan,  but little did I know that that wouldn’t quite be the end of it! Crisp thief Lineker didn’t actually start playing for Grampus until the inaugural season in 1993 not that I was able to keep any track of what my hero was up to in the Far East.

A decade later and, having been absorbed by the 2002 World Cup, I first moved to Japan and whilst living in Matsudo (Chiba) I attended about half a dozen games for nearby team Kashiwa Reysol. Although they never achieved anything better than a draw and suffered a miserable season I had formed a bond with them. I very much enjoyed the games as I could support the team without ever really having the deep emotional attachment that I have with Leicester City.

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I have only seen them once (at a so-called “home” game in Tokyo in September 2007) since moving to Tokyo (via a six month period back in the UK) due to a mixture of distance, timing, work commitments, idleness and so on. In some ways I’d be better off changing team but, unlike one of my friends (who changed from FC Tokyo to Omiya Ardija because the formers kit was starting to resemble the colours of his teams rivals back in Britain!), I really couldn’t do such a thing.

I may have become a disloyal b*stard when it comes to truly following Reysol and the J-League in general but I’m always interested in hearing about it and thanks to the medium of Twitter I have almost inadvertently become involved with some of the English speaking community who have a strong passion for football in this country.

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As someone who is happy to contribute the odd article here and there to publications of my choice I was keen to come up with something for J-Soccer magazine. My options were fairly limited though as I couldn’t write anything J-League related which is why I decided to write about the Japan Football Museum which I re-visited in my research for the story as, despite having been there three times before, the place is one which continues to update and change.

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There’s a couple of other bits and pieces from me in this latest issue including my thoughts and feelings on Japan’s performance at this Summer’s World Cup in Brazil. The editor asked for a few lines to be penned on this matter but a paragraph turned into much more and before I knew it, I had reeled off a much longer review revealing my disappointment at how well the Samurai Blue fared in South America.

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JSoccer magazine is available in print or as a Pay-What-You-Want PDF from jsoccer.com

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Tokyo Toray Pan Pacific Open 2014 Tennis Tournament

Scotland voting no to independence has been the big story of the day and thanks to Andy Murray’s tweet yesterday in support of his country going it alone, tennis was in the news albeit not for anything to with the actual playing side of it. My major worry of this whole Scottish referendum was the threat that Murray may no longer be representing Great Britain so I was just thankful, as I set out for my annual Toray Pan Pacific day out, that he’s still on side as England and Wales aren’t exactly flooded with talent!

Like Murray, Japan’s Kei Nishikori is seemingly the sole competitor for his country (yes I know Kimiko Date-Klumm is out there too, and she’s been an amazing pro, but she can’t go on forever try as she might!) and having very recently reached the U.S. Open Final you would think that the sport of tennis would be at an all-time high. You probably wouldn’t know it though based on the crowds at Ariake Collosseum in Tokyo for this tournament. Maybe that’ll change when the Rakuten Open men’s tournament gets under way here in a couple of weeks time when Nishikori will compete. Anyway, that’s my annual swipe at the poor crowds in Japan’s capital out of the way for this year!

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This was my fourth time to attend the Toray Pan Pacific Open but there was a slight change in scheduling this year which meant that Friday was quarter final day rather than the semi’s. This meant that I could have actually gone to the final on Sunday (21st) but the quarter finals seemed like better value for money as it was a bit cheaper (3000 yen) and the chance to see a greater number of singles matches was more appealing as this is not exactly the most prestigious of tournaments!

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I decided to skip the opening doubles match and the majority of the first quarter final between Dellacqua (AUS) and Muguruza (ESP). I caught the end of this fiercely contested match with the latter triumphing by two sets to one 6-3 6-7 6-3. I would’ve seen even more of the match had I not stopped outside to see an on-stage interview with 5-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis (along with her doubles partner) which was a nice bonus for the day.

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First up for me on court was recent U.S Open ladies finalist and number two seed Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) who won this tournament in 2010 and could well be on course to win it again having defeated 8th seed Suarez Navorro (ESP) 6-3 6-3.

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Top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany didn’t take too long to despatch Slovakia’s Cibulkova (whose serve involves a strange sounding grunt!) in the third singles game of the day but I felt the 6-3 6-0 rout was a little flattering.

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The final tie of the day followed on and involved the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia who I had never seen play live before. Her opponent was 7th seed Safarova (CZE) who she made hard work of finishing off in the first set having initially raced into a 5-0 lead. She eventually regained control and won in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

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You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2013 tournament review here

You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2012 tournament review here

You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2010 tournament review here

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TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt I (2002)

Back in September 2007 I did a 22 metre bungy jump at Yomiuriland in Kanagawawa which was billed Bungy Jump #4 so what about these other three jumps I hear you say! Well, five years prior to that I was travelling around New Zealand for a few months on the back of a years working holiday in Australia and on Sunday 24th March 2002 I was in Queenstown on the South Island. Thanks to the journal that I kept at the time it is now possible to recall the events of that day in a three part series.

“The most challenging day of my life got off to the worst possible start when I woke up at 4.30am and couldn’t sleep again as I sweated the next four hours out tossing and turning. Fearing I may bring up any breakfast later on, I decided to skip breakfast having finally  got out of bed just after 8am. I was the first person at the AJ Hackett centre where I had to be weighed. Was I keen to jump or just get it out of the way?! 64 kilo’s was my weight which was written on my left hand. I sat in the waiting area and felt quite calm probably due to my blatant ignorance of the bungy jumps being relayed through the TV screens.

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The minibus then took us on a 25 minute journey to the world’s original bungy site at the Kawarau Bridge. On the way I didn’t stop talking which might have been my way of coping with nerves. This was the jump I’d thought about most and if I could handle this then I’d ideally be prepared for the jump which would follow at the far bigger Nevis Highwire. The journey to the bridge had obviously taken its toll on my body as I weighed only 63 kilo’s at the next weigh-in!

An American guy called Chris and I were first onto the bridge and after stepping through the railings we simultaneously sat on the floor entrusting the instructors who were strapping us up using just an ordinary towel around our ankles. While this was happening, loads of Japanese tourists were peering through the railings and snapping away at us with their camera’s which is probably as close as I’ll ever get to rock-star status!

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Another instructor appeared on the scene and as I was wearing my Leicester City shirt I got involved in a strong discussion about why we were doing so cr*p that season. Not really the time for pondering how the Foxes had fallen into crisis but I guess it stopped me thinking about my imminent first bungy jump.

By now I’d been given the signal that I would be the first of our group to jump from 43 metres above the crystal waters of the Kawarau River which I had taken trouble to avoid digesting too much! I hobbled out to the edge of the platform and had to put my toes over the edge which was the defining moment when it really hit me. No time to think though as I waved to the camera. The instructor quickly did the countdown…5…4…3…2…1…

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I crouched down and dived off into the air as if I was diving into the swimming baths. Within a second or two of my leap into freefall, the bungy cord came into play leaving me bouncing around for a while which I did celebrating and shouting my head off as if I’d just scored the a last minute winner in the cup final!

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The adrenalin rush I felt from achieving one third of my feat (two more jumps to come later that day remember!) was fantastic and I felt free and enlightened. From my leap at 9.52am I was pulled into a little dinghy about 90 seconds later where my belly and legs were wobbling but as soon as I was back on land I was fine and climbed the stairs to the viewing platform just in time to see Chris take his jump.

I got to see the video of my jump in the office immediately after and was also given my t-shirt and certificate before having to wait around for everyone else to complete their jumps and for the bus to take us on the second, much bigger jump. In the meantime I had something to eat in the form of an apple which was adequate enough in the circumstances. On reflection, I felt my first jump was over with too quickly and I was a little disappointed that my splashdown only involved getting my hands wet rather than a good dipping!”

TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt II (2002) will appear soon!
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TF Top 5……Movies Made In Malaysia

The Malaysia tourism board launched a largely successful worldwide marketing campaign back in 1999 called “Malaysia, Truly Asia” but when it comes to appearances in movies, this south-east Asian country has rarely played true to itself and has instead filled in for other countries on the rare occasions production has moved there. It’s a shame that Malaysia hasn’t been given more time on the big screen but watching these films will still showcase the splendour and beauty of this exotic country and give (some) movie fans a thirst for wanting to feel the aura of the locations where the films were shot.

Here, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox Top 5……movies made in Malaysia

1. Entrapment (1999) – Starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones, this is perhaps the most famous western production to have been made (and set!) in Malaysia. feature some beautiful shots of Malaysia. The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur was heavily featured in the most action-packed scenes in the movie. The Melaka River can also be seen in the movie. However, this movie did manage to annoy some Malaysian movie fans with its depiction of distances between famous landmarks. More details here

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2. The Sleeping Dictionary (2003) – Set in the 1930’s, this film tells the story of a British man (Hugh Dancy) who learns the local language and culture from his sleeping dictionary played by Jessica Alba. You can see it here. The majority of shooting was done in Malaysia with Sarawak and Batang Ai the places used in this movie which angered some critics due to its historical inaccuracies such as the White Rajahs actually being in control of the region at that time rather than the British who took over after WWII.

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3. Indochine (1992) – This won the Best Foreign Language award at the Academy Awards in 1992 and it follows the lives of French plantation owner Élaine, her adopted daughter, Camille and her lover, Jean Baptiste. Despite taking place in Vietnam, a lot of the film was shot in Malaysia with Penang, Sham Alam, and Ipoh being used to recreate the French colonial era. Of course temporary sets were also built to replicate the 1930’s period.

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4. Anna & The King (1999)  – Of course this story is ‘set’ in Thailand but due to the protests of historical inaccuracy from the Thai Film Board it had to be filmed in Malaysia. Protracted negotiations and rewrites resulted in 20th Century Fox finally moving the production, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat, to the likes of Penang (Bangkok harbour and some street scenes), Ipoh, Parit, Langkawi and Selangor. More details here

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5. Beyond Rangoon (1995) – Depicting the events during the 8888 Uprising in 1988. You can see it here. It’s main star Patricia Arquette loses her passport at a political rally and, left to her own devices, she gets caught up in a fight for democracy as she and leader U Aung Ko travel through Burma as they try to escape to Thailand. The film, which has an emotional score by Hans Zimmer, was mostly shot in Malaysia with some scenes captured in Thailand. More details here

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