Tech-‘no’ and the Berlin Wall

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We had been anticipating Berlin for some time, but had no idea what was in store for us. We were lucky to be hosted by Luke’s gracious cousin Ariana, in the hip, up-and-coming Wedding area.

We knew that one of the main things we wanted to do in Berlin was to taste some of their famous nightlife. Berlin is home to many techno legends and also to Berghain, a super-hard-to-get-into, cool-kids-only techno warehouse that is known for partying nonstop from Friday evening until Monday morning.

First, we took in a walking tour and tried some of Berlin’s famous dishes. Of course, I wanted to try the Doner and see how it differed from Nova Scotia’s Donair. While both have the same sort of concept, I must say that the taste was completely different. We loved sitting in the street and sampling some of the great restaurants. We also spent the day at the lake with all the locals, sunbathing and cooling off in the water. We enjoyed some meat and bread in a mini picnic before heading home as the sun went down.

In the evening, we all went out for a night on the town, Berlin style. We headed to the club IMG_20150808_031454district and stopped off the subway to grab a drink on one of the stands that sells alcohol. It’s interesting and exciting being in a place where you can drink so freely. A breakout party had started on the street below, underneath a bridge where music was playing and people were dancing. It’s common to pop into corner stores on the way to a club to buy cheaper drinks before hitting your main event.

The following evening, Luke and I tried to get into Berghain. The club is well known, so it does attract a lot of tourists, which the bouncers hate. You can read all sorts of tips, but really, it’s up to the bouncers to decide if you make the cut. No one knows what they look for, but they’re rumoured to prefer you wearing all black, not be too young, preferably single… the list goes on and on. We waited in line for 45 minutes, and finally the bouncers did a string of “no’s” to about 15 people before stopping at us. We waited until it was our turn for judgment to be passed and after a few moments of consideration, we also got the dreaded headshake. For me, it was a huge disappointment (although sort of expected); I had gotten my hopes and excitement up. Ariana was quick to make me feel better, assuring me that she heard that usually only 40% of people who try to get in actually get in, therefore it wasn’t personal. Still, I’m a huge techno music fan and it sucked to get judged by a quick and brief look.

Moving on, we enjoyed walking through the artistic district of Berlin and experiencing the hipster culture. Berlin is so, so cool and has so much life to it. We walked along the Berlin Wall at sunset, which was so mesmerizing. Ariana’s father had been able to pass through the wall back in the day, so it was interesting to hear about his story and think about what people had went through at that time. It really wasn’t that long ago at all that the city was living through such a different reality.

Now that we’re home, I think of Berlin often and feel as if it would be the place I would feel the most at home. There was something so special about it, so unique and perfect, that it’s been calling my name ever since we left.

 

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Nature One: Partying in a NATO missile base

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I may have mentioned it before, but we are huge music fans with an even bigger love of music festivals. When we heard of Nature One, a massive electronic music festival held in a former NATO missile base in the middle of nowhere, Germany, we knew we had to go.

Let’s just say that two major camping festivals one week apart was less than ideal. We were exhausted and tired of camping. Also, it got so cold at night! I was dying for a warm bed. But, Nature One was unique and we were glad we experienced it.

As we were setting up our tent, music was already blasting from dozens of different areas. What makes this festival extra special is that the camping area is a nonstop party in and of itself. People bring speakers, full DJ equipment, lights, fog machines, kiddie pools, scaffolding for the speakers or partiers — you name it. One campsite had a 72-hour non-stop DJ lineup posted.  People go all night and all day. Yes, it’s impossible to sleep. We used our earplugs, but the bass pounding through the ground made sleeping a whole different struggle.

The festival offered free shuttles to the small town of Kastellaun, which allowed us to enjoy the cheap grocery store food and also allowed for a change of scenery. Nature One has the luxury of being very popular but not mainstream, which made for a very chill vibe. Instead of a horde of bros in body paint, we found true fans welcoming everyone with songs, chants and high fives.

Despite the lack of sleep, we were excited to venture through the 19 different stages of dance music. Some stages were on top of the bunkers and some were inside, others were set up inside giant tents in the back, and there were several huge open-air mainstages. We danced to trance, watched people go crazy to hardstyle, and we enjoyed some late night techno. Going into the bunkers to listen to pounding music was definitely a crazy experience. It was amazing to be able to see so many different music fans come together, enjoying one festival despite their different tastes.

Overall, despite being exhausted and camped-out, we loved Nature One and would highly recommend it to true music fans. Bring your tent, a warm blanket, and the best ear plugs and dancing shoes you’ve got.

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Our guide to Tomorrowland

 

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Being able to go to Tomorrowland has been a huge dream of ours, one which we didn’t entirely expect to achieve. Being one of the largest and most popular festivals in the world, Tomorrowland often sells out in only seconds. Luckily for us, we were living in Vietnam and I was able to be one of the first five people to pre-register for tickets in the country, guaranteeing us four tickets. We got super lucky!

After Amsterdam, we headed for Belgium! We were lucky enough to be able to stay with a couple we met off of Couchsurfing just outside of Brussels for two days for some serious R&R. They were so friendly and had two super cute dogs. We had arrived just in time for National Belgium Day, so we all went to a beer festival, saw some fireworks, and ate some amazing European food (and cheese!). It was a great chance to experience some local life before we headed to Brussels to meet our friends Sam and Chris from back home.

The four of us took a train from Brussles to Boom. The train was packed exclusively with festival attendees, who were conspicuous in their neon tanktops, facepaint, and national flag capes. The ride was so exciting, as everyone was proudly wearing their flags from all over the world and were super friendly and chatty. We were so happy to see friends from home after being away for so long, the four of us couldn’t stop talking!

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Upon getting to the festival, we checked in and pushed through the crowd to try and score a good camping spot in Dreamville. This process was pretty stressful, as they just move a barrier rope bit by bit, forcing people to push and try and claim a spot to put down their tents. Lucky for us, we waited patiently and got a pretty good spot by an area where there were washrooms and showers.

Dreamville has absolutely anything you could imagine! Free outdoor showers, FLUSHABLE washrooms (mixed with normal ones(porta-potties? optional)), charcoal BBQ areas, a butcher, a bakery, a grocery store, as well as tons of amazing food and drink options. They even had a hair salon for girls wanting to get up-dos each day. We felt like we were camping in luxury!

The festival itself was obviously a dream come true. The production and the stages were something we’ve all never seen before and we got to hear a lot of our favorite DJs. We spent so much time walking around, eating, relaxing, and dancing that the time absolutely flew. We had a lot of fun, despite the fact that it rained a majority of our time there.

Some quick tips if you’re heading to Tomorrowland:

  • It’s not always as hot as you think, and it rains! Despite the sunny after-movies, Belgium is quite cold at night and feels a lot like Canadian summers. Bring warmer, dry clothes that you’ll actually want to wear. Sam and I were stuck with baggy sweaters and no rain gear, and we were not pleased when it rained. I think I only managed to wear shorts one day out of three.  Bring proper shoes for this as well, such as sandals that strap on.
  • Bring warm sleeping clothes. Again, it gets cold at night!
  • Bring a flag! You’ll feel left out without one, trust me.
  • Bring lots of things to share with those around you. This is such a great way to make friends from all over the world! Sam and I had glitter, stickers, face gems, and all sorts of fun stuff to share so we could make some lasting girl friends from different countries.
  • Bring earplugs to sleep at night – nothing ruins a festival mood quicker than being kept up until the sun rises by chanting drunk people 😉
  • Bring a bathing suit so you can shower in the FREE outdoor showers.
  • Take advantage of the grocery store and save on food costs.
  • Don’t plan your DJ schedule! The stages are far apart and running from one stage to another is just going to drive you crazy. Just pick one or two ‘must-see’ shows, and leave the rest up to chance.
  • Go to the festival early each day and make the most of it. One day we waited until about 5pm to go from Dreamville to Tomorrowland and by the time we walked there, stood in all the lines, and ate dinner, it was pretty late. As the festival ends at midnight, it felt like we really hadn’t gotten a proper day of fun in.
  • Go to Mainstage for the final set, even if it’s not your favorite type of music. We were told this and followed the advice (reluctantly), despite it not being our preferred genre of music. Tomorrowland puts ALL of their production value into Mainstage at the end of the night and the show cannot be beat. When everyone is singing, chanting, and putting up their lights, it really gives you an amazing perspective of how massive the crowd is. Plus, the fireworks at the end are incredible!

All in all, Tomorrowland was a ton of fun but I wish we had prepared for the weather. It’s an expensive festival, packed with big name DJs — making it super busy and a bit too corporate. While it wasn’t my favorite festival we had been to, it was still exciting being part of such a global community of electronic music lovers from all over the world.

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We left our hearts on Koh Samui

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Getting to the islands in the South of Thailand was probably one of the most exciting parts of our trip. We had heard such great things about the beautiful beaches, the laid back atmosphere, and of course, the parties.

In our last blog entry we mentioned that we’re huge fans of techno and house music, and getting to the islands where we could feed our hunger for the music we love was beyond exciting. We spotted a flyer in Bangkok saying that the legendary Sven Väth was playing on Koh Samui, so we made sure to time our travels accordingly.

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Luke even made a new elephant friend.

We decided to opt for a private bungalow to enjoy the island life for six nights. We found a gorgeous place just off the main drag of Chaweng Beach for $15 a night (Pattara House, we highly recommend it), which by Samui standards was excellently priced. Shortly after checking in, we met a kind local lady who became our travel agent, bike rental dealer, restaurant recommender, and currency exchange all in one. We were set for the island!

I can’t help but gush when I talk about Koh Samui. My heart actually aches missing the island. I don’t even know where to begin with all the incredible things we did and memories we made. While prices are a tad bit higher on the island, as it’s a vacation destination for a lot of Europeans (it has its own airport, too), there are still so many markets and cheap restaurants available with amazing food. The beaches are also unique and plentiful, from busy central beaches to more secluded options.

The club scene was far more than we expected. Since there’s heavy European traffic, the music scene is proper and everywhere. The clubs are upscale but also free entry, due to the heavy competition, and I’d say they cater to a more mature crowd (which is a nice change). We visited Sound Hotel, as they were hosting a free deep house night with James Trystan, and for a grand total of $15 we got to smoke hookah in a fancy club by a pool bar. Later on in the week we visited many of the beachfront clubs offering excellent music and fire shows.

During the days, we enjoyed motorbiking around the island, exploring coffee shops, tanning on the beaches, and hiking to findIMG_5348 the most beautiful waterfall we’ve seen this trip. Hin Lad waterfall is majestic and easy to find. It’s a must see if you’re on the island and a great spot for bringing a packed lunch and going for a swim. We also visited the Big Buddha and the Wat on the hill, as well as the Bophut Fisherman Village’s market on Friday night. The Fisherman’s Village was notable for having the most original wares of all the night markets we’ve visited. We got to try sautéed garlic oysters for a dollar!

Finally, Saturday night rolled around and we left for Cha Cha Moon Beach Club to see Sven Väth. Nakadia opened with another perfectly deep set, and Sven Väth followed with an unbelievably rich four hours of sweet, sweet techno. We danced on the beach until our feet hurt, only taking a break to eat a Nutella-banana crepe that Luke snagged from a beach vendor. Being on this beautiful Thai island, dancing to some of the best techno I’ve heard in my life, with my feet half in the sand and half in the ocean… it was truly an evening we both will never forget.

With our time at Koh Samui coming to an end, we grudgingly packed up and made our way to the ferry. If you’re coming to Thailand and love beaches, music, and exploring, this island is absolutely perfect. Maybe we’ll even retire here one day…

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A taste of nightlife in Bangkok

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Arriving in Bangkok for the second time during our trip, we vowed to do things differently. For starters, we were dying to hear some decent music. For anyone that doesn’t know us — we are massive electronic music fans. Having traveled over much of North America to music festivals and having lived in Toronto, a city blessed with a rich electronic music scene, it’s been far too long since we’ve heard the thumping bass of techno and house music pounding through speakers. We knew Bangkok was the solution to our dilemma.

On our last trip to Bangkok we stuck to Khao San Road and the wats, but consequently found ourselves surrounded by backpackers at all times. This time around we left the hostel region behind and explored some of Bangkok’s darker side — both the good and bad. Many of Bangkok’s clubs were in the Sukhumvit neighbourhood, also home to the infamous Soi Cowboy and red light district. We decided to check things out for ourselves.

Nakadia, a Berlin techno/house DJ, was playing at GLOW Club Bangkok, so we drank some Red Bull and hobbled over to the entertainment district for some much needed dancing. On the way, we wanted to see what the fuss was all about in the red light district (sorry mom and dad, stop reading now!).

The red light district in Bangkok is full of neon lights and girls in barely any clothes trying to get people to come into their respective clubs. It felt a lot like walking through a packed shopping mall, except half of the people you were passing were scantily clad Thai girls and the displays were dancing on poles. The shoppers? Older white men hoping to find the loves of their life and naive, but excited, young backpackers not knowing their wallet was about to be emptied. We managed to get through Soi Cowboy relatively unscathed, save a few dirty looks.

IMG_5103Five minutes later, we arrived at GLOW Club. The club is small but it made for an intimate atmosphere. When Nakadia came on, fans were cheering and reaching for handshakes over the DJ booth. She was smiling and bumping to the beat, happy to be playing for everyone. Her set was everything we hoped for and it felt so good to just dance with a crowd of people who were truly into the music, expats and locals alike.

We left just after 2AM and started the walk home. We got dropped off near Khao San Road and unfortunately, the scene there wasn’t nearly as pleasant. Backpackers with buckets of booze were throwing up on the street, hobbling home, and some had shirts off fist bumping to country music. We grabbed a crepe and made a mad dash for our hotel.

The night life in Bangkok definitely has something for everyone. The clubs are proper and if you want a taste of real nightlife, stay away from the backpacker haunts and dress up for the clubs.