Around the World with A-Trak, Part XXI: A Taste of Asia Tour - Week 2

June 15, 2009

Halfway into my Taste Of Asia tour I flew to Bangkok. This was my first trip to Thailand and I wish I could have stayed longer than one day. I arrived at my hotel and found a washer and dryer in my room. Heaven! I got a couple loads going and worked on some beats as my socks got cleaner and cleaner. Then I went to explore the city a bit.

Just walking down the street of the hotel I ran into two elephants! How perfect is that? There's also vendors grilling street food everywhere so you're constantly hit with new sights and smells. We took an overground train to another area and visited some malls with all the electronics you can imagine. After a massage, I did my daily blitz of emails and label work to keep the machine afloat and then it was time for my gig. This club was different from the previous spots on the tour, it had more of a lounge feel to it, as opposed to the mega dance clubs that I was just coming from. What I like about playing smaller spots is that you're closer to your audience: they're literally right there in front of you. Gotta make sure there's no food stuck in between your teeth because they'll see it. When I play a city for the first time there's often the old school fans that come out with copies of my battle records from the top of the decade on vinyl, which is always touching.

Peep the Bangkok hotel:

The next day I flew to Hong Kong. Every city I went to, I had to fill out extra forms about swine flu. Listing the countries that I've visited in the last two weeks is more complicated than they think! Have I been to Mexico? Have I been to Mexico? Have I been to Mexico? No I haven't been to Mexico! Ah whatever, I comply with that stuff, it's for everyone's good. In Hong Kong the airport is pretty far out so even once I landed and went through all the immigration, customs, baggage and swine flu controls there was still a long drive to get to my hotel. By the time I got in it was already the evening. I've been to Hong Kong before though so it's okay, I didn't have the same urge to go explore. The party was hype, one of the better ones on this tour. It was a narrow sweaty club, another one of these spots that might normally have a VIP vibe to it but got a lot rowdier than usual that night. Actually, I gotta give a shout out to Kid Fresh and DJ Enso who have been throwing these parties and bringing our kind of music to this scene. They're doing a great job over there. Check out pictures from that party. The next morning before leaving town Enso took me to the area with the sneaker shops, I was looking for Jordans but alas, didn't find my holy grail. It's funny seeing how these shops run though, there's a whole bunch of them owned by the same people but they don't tell you. So if you ask for one sneaker there's always a kid who asks you to wait and disappears for 10 minutes. Eventually you realize that he's running through a maze to another shop while you think he's just in the back.

Macau is just a one hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. I didn't take many pics in Macau because it was raining too hard, but imagine the Las Vegas strip of casinos in Asia, a bit past its prime, and that's what it looks like. My hotel was owned by Jackie Chan. The floor in the lobby had transparent tiles with gold bars lodged inside them. The facade of the hotel had a neon unicorn on it. I think you get the picture. My favorite thing about Macau is the name of their currency: M.O.P. I was hoping the bills would have pic of Lil Fame but... no dice. The club was in a sort of mall and I was informed that although there is another club in that same mall, I shouldn't go to the other spot to hang out after my set because it's run by the triads. I saw some posters for a Fat Man Scoop show, the sub-headline said: multiple Grammy winner and international hip hop superstar. Go get 'em Scoop!

From there I flew to Osaka, Japan, the fourth city in four days. When DJs talk about Japan they always talk about the record shops, sneaker shops, the electronics, the toys, but people don't talk enough about the food! It's not about sushi, my friends. Sushi is good and all, but when you go to Japan it's just one small side of what you can eat. What I'm trying to say is I had some banging dinner and I like good food! It doesn't matter if I can't identify half of the stuff I ate, I agreed with it. In the early evening we stopped by a Dior Homme event, and then I did my show which was the best one of the tour. Those kids were so rowdy! You can get two types of audiences in Japan. Either an attentive crowd that doesn't scream much while you play and then claps at the end of a song (that's what we used to get at Kanye shows) or a wild bunch of rock & roll yahoos. That's what I had that night. I just wish I didn't have to climb down a ladder to get from the green room to the stage. I'm really afraid of ladders. I finally had a day off after this and went to do some shopping.

The last destination of my Asian tour was China: Beijing and Shanghai. When I landed in Beijing we were instructed to stay at our seats and two officer ladies wearing swine flu masks came on board with temperature scanners that look like toy laser guns and pointed them at everyone's forehead one by one. It's really the little things that remind you that you're on the other side of the world, you know? My hotel in Beijing was nothing short of superb. On my way out to dinner that evening I ran into the hotel manager who told me he was a fan of my hotel reviews and was happy (reassured, almost) to learn that I was going to film one there too. Then at dinner I was taught the official technique to eat soup dumplings. You know how they kind of explode in your mouth normally? You're actually supposed to bite a tiny hole in the corner like a drain, suck out the broth, only then dip them in the vinegar sauce and finally eat the dumpling itself. Halfway into the tour an extra leg of shows was added, I was soon going to South America before heading home, and since Beijing was the only city where I had consecutive days off that's where I had to apply for those visas. Do you want an exercise in culture shock? Try going to the Brazilian and Argentine embassies at the crack of dawn in China. It was quite the experience speaking broken Spanish to these Chinese officers through a slit in a door and being handed my very own swine flu mask. But thankfully it all worked out. There isn't a dull moment walking around Beijing. When you see people working construction it's really different because most of them can't be bothered getting permits through the elaborate bureaucracy, so you'll just see some random dude drilling on a sidewalk without any sign or barricade. The city planning is less dense than in Japan, but you still feel like everything is on a big scale. You walk by big parks, you see big stadiums, the streets are very wide. I was hoping to go visit some of the attractions like the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square but I actually got caught up with some deadlines back home and had to stay up working through the night a few times to stay on the same time zone and it knocked me on my arse. So when it was time to do my gig, which was inside my hotel, I was in bad shape and was sipping hot tea during my set. I was surprised to run into my childhood neighbor from Montreal at the club.

Beijing hotel review:

I flew to Shanghai after that and was really looking forward to seeing that city, I've heard from many friends that it's quickly becoming one of the most influential hubs on the planet. But I felt even worse when I landed. I arrived in the evening, went straight for my bed, felt the thunder of Thor hit my tummy so I assumed the fetal position. I canceled my gig and tried to sleep through the night. At 6am I was already out, on my way to the airport to fly to Barcelona. I apologize to anyone in Shanghai who went to the club that night. It's rare that I cancel shows, but there's nothing worse than getting sick on the road.

Nonetheless, the Taste Of Asia tour was one of the most exhilarating tours I've done in recent memory. In every city I was looked after by wonderful people, I ate well, I was able to sample the unique character of each destination, and I played these great parties where you could really sense the newness and the excitement. However I wasn't quite ready to go home yet. I still had a few more continents to skip through.

From The Collection:

Around The World With A-Trak
Posted: June 15, 2009
Around the World with A-Trak, Part XXI: A Taste of Asia Tour - Week 2