Top 5 Cities: Jordan's List

Asia, Europe, US, you name it. I have been to 20 countries in the last 11 months and I wanted to take some time to give you guys a list of my 5 favorites from the last year. Obviously this will include my own personal bias so take the list with a grain of salt. I will try to keep the list diversified so it's not too centered on a single type of city. Without further adieu lets get right into it.

#5 Dubai/Abu Dhabi

To kick this list off I'll start with a place that really made me step outside my comfort zone. Dubai was my first time truly in Asia. My time in there was spent 50/50 of being upset the weather was quite crap and I was unable to shoot and the other part being in pure awe of the scenes and culture. Dubai is known for its Utopian like building and rich culture. Being a super city located in what seems like the middle of the desert is very unique. Home to the Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world) and the Dubai Mall (biggest mall in the world), Dubai is home to doing it the biggest and best where they can. Dubai is absolutely massive and the Metro is not too well established yet, so I found it easier to get around using Taxi. The Metro is really affordable, just not convenient for a few days stay. I would love to go back and maybe rent a car or have a personal cab driver handy with the knowledge I do now. I also did a day trip to Abu Dhabi which I hired a private limo for. The trip is about an hour by car. I went to Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. One of the coolest experiences of my life was spending the day here and watching the sun set with my cab driver. Seeing the details of the mosque and how their religion and culture functions was really interesting to me. I recommend doing this if you have a free day in your itinerary. Food in both places can be as expensive as you want, Dubai is known for having extremely good food, however it will cost you a pretty penny. 

Moody Daytime - Dubai.jpg

#4 Paris

Coming in at #4 is Paris, France. I had heard that Paris was a hit or miss city. Some folks told me they absolutely loved it, while others told me they hated every second of it. I found that I really enjoyed my time here but didn't get to see enough in my short stay. I stayed about 2 blocks from the Trocadero Gardens, the most famous view of the Eiffel Tower. This made it easy to go to the iconic spot for Sunrise on my first morning which turned out to be a beautiful scene. Paris also has a really solid metro system which I had no issues navigating (use GoogleMaps for Metro Routes). I was able to go to a few museums, including the Lourve which was my favorite museum I have been to around the world. The food was quite good as well, I wish I would've been more adventurous with food back then, but unfortunately I cannot time travel. I am hoping to get back to Paris in the next few years and explore a lot more than I did my first time around!

Lourve Sunrise Landscape - Paris.jpg

#3 New York City

Now I couldn't create a list of the best cities I have been to without including any North American cities, so I decided to include my favorite in New York City, New York. The city has so much history and culture packed into such a small area. I have been to NYC a total of 3 times so far, each time I go I end up discovering new and enjoying it even more than the last. The food in New York is really some of the best I have had around the world. You can get any type of cuisine you desire all in one city. The subway system is quite convenient as well once you learn it (again I recommend using GoogleMaps to navigate it). You can use Uber/Lyft/Taxi, but expect to pay handsomely for these services. New York is absolutely massive as well so thinking you can walk from Time Square to the Brooklyn Bridge is not such a good idea (yes I did it, no I don't recommend it). One trip to New York is never enough, each borough requires a couple of days to itself and since there is 5, it's no easy feat. I highly recommend New York to anyone who has never been to the US as a great starting point to understand what it's really like to be an American. 

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#2 Tokyo

Now I fully expect some of this to be recency bias, but I stand by my rankings. Tokyo comes in at #2 for me. I made a trip here by myself for 6 days and had an absolute blast front to back. The food was absolutely phenomenal from the ramen to yakitori. The shopping was fantastic as well, I spent an entire day in Harajuku checking out stuff and the scene was really cool. The city carries a very cool aesthetic that is driven by one of the best cultures I have ever experienced. The people were so friendly and helpful doing everything they could to make my stay more pleasant. Also being that I grew up on lots of Japanese anime and video games, I hit a big wave of nostalgia when I was here. Even though the weather didn't really cooperate it was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. The metro, although appearing to be very confusing, is super easy to understand and convenient. The Neo-Tokyo aesthetic is very real come night time as well. This is a place I plan to return to in the next few years because of how pleasant my experience was. Tons of places to shoot amazing images as well, including the best street photography in the world (that I have experienced). 

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#1 Hong Kong  

The best city in the world for me thus far, Hong Kong. I think this boils down to experience. Getting to explore the city with one of my best friends and eating some of my favorite dishes for 8 straight days is something I almost never get to do. Hong Kong is super friendly to English speakers. The metro system is insanely easy to understand and very convenient.  I was able to cover so much ground in Hong Kong in my 8 days there. From the tourist spots all the way to hidden gems and hikes many people don't do when they go to Hong Kong. I think I ate dimsum on a daily basis (no regrets). We spent a lot of time rooftopping here and enjoying unique views of the city and this provided a thrill as well. I met some of the nicest people and life long friends here too which is something I will never forget. Hong Kong was a place I thought I could find myself spending a few months in finding some new to do everyday. I definitely plan to come back here and spend more time and highly recommend this to anyone reading.

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Conclusion

I have been to so many other cities that didn't make the list that probably deserve recognition too (Venice, London, Shanghai, Kyoto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago etc). I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite places on earth. I'd love to hear what yours is and why. Drop a comment below.

Stay true to you.

Jordan

Tokyo Trials & Tribulations

You ever dream of a place for years of your life, but you could never imagine actually being there? To me that place was Japan. I always saw photos and videos of what appeared to be a wonderland to me (Cherry Blossoms, Rich Autumn Colors, contrast of old & new architecture). I think back to what I have told myself over the past few years, "Life is weird." I have found myself in places I didn't even know existed just five years ago. This month I was lucky enough to land in Japan and spend 9 days in the most beautiful country I have been (recency bias aside). 

I spent my first 5 1/2 days in Tokyo. I landed in Narita Airport on Saturday, filled with excitement I exited the plane in search of the Narita Express to begin my journey to Tokyo. After redeeming my Japan Rail Pass (a must if you plan to travel within Japan) I boarded and began my journey. After about 45 min we arrived in Shinjuku. I grabbed my suitcase and bag and headed toward my hotel. Upon arriving I was greeted by arguably the smallest room I have ever slept in in my entire life. My room consisted of a bed, about one foot of space on the left side and end along with a desk and a bathroom I barely fit in. Not that I needed anymore I was just surprised at how small the rooms truly were. 

Naturally, I set down my bags and gathered my camera and went out to explore. Being that I was staying in Shinjuku I chose to stay in the area and explore. I headed down to Kabukicho Arch to shoot the famous arch. I actually met a fellow American here and shot together the rest of the night. My favorite part of traveling is the people I meet and stories I gather along the way. I explored a bit more of the neon district and even was able to hit some rooftops along the way. Japan was exactly how I imagined it in my mind, covered in neon signs and dripping in color. I even tried my hand at street photography in the famous 'Piss Alley.' Everything in Japan is so photogenic that I was able to get some really incredible images.

The following day I made my way over to Ginza area to shoot Ginza Crossing. The crossings in Japan are insane. I have never seen so many people walk across an intersection in my life. Getting the higher vantage points made for some insane photos. Ginza is home to many other cool spots as well including a golden cinema, a crazy staircase inside an A&F (seriously), and a wicked view of the Ginza neon from a wedding boutique (wtf I know). Wandering around and getting lost trying to find spots was one of my favorite things to do in Tokyo (averaging about 30,000 steps per day during my stay). 

During the nighttime I tried to get some aerial views of Shibuya crossing but luck wasn't on my side as I was kicked out of a few hotels for shooting... Can't win them all! I did manage to grab a few later in the trip though thanks to some very generous locals. I did not bring my drone to Japan as I wanted to respect their laws and culture, so I was unable to get an overhead view of the crossing.

Navigating the MRT was a challenge I didn't think I would be able to handle (seriously look at the metro map below....). However it was super easy and convenient and I highly recommend it when you go along with getting the JR pass if you plan to leave Tokyo. The city is massive and can take 30-45 min to get from one district to another, so make sure to plan your days out in advance. 

Tokyo MRT.gif

The next day I decided to try my hand at the shopping district, Harajuku. Some of the most amazing shopping in the world. I checked out stores from all around the world. Ended up buying two shirts from Undefeated and taking some photos along the way. Shocked I didn't buy any shoes with my addiction. Their is a shop for everyone in this district, seriously. Next I headed into the Roppongi district when the night fell to take some images of Tokyo Tower. A pretty cool scene that resembles the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Despite the constant rain everyday I was in Tokyo (and even a rare snow appearance) I was able to have an incredible time. The rain and snow really adds a lot of character to an already beautiful city.  Afterwards I needed to try my hand at the local cuisine. My friend Jethro (@jethoon on IG) recommended I try Yakitori. One of the best things I have ever had in my entire life. Basically they are meat skewers, super simple but so good (I tried the restaurant Torikizoku, cheap but good). 

I was able to meet up with a few locals as well while in Tokyo (@leoeatworld & @yako_flpr3 on ig). Two of the most kind people I have met through the platform. We shot in the classic Senso-ji area both on the ground and some of the cool overlooks. We even went up to a hotel roof where they offered us tea and pastries while shooting (Japanese people are so incredibly respectful and kind.) Following our shoot we went down to have some ramen at Ichiran. I know this is a sin, but I had never had ramen prior to this. Let's just say Japanese ramen lived up to its hype and now I'm hooked. Afterwards we head down to shoot Shibuya area during the rain which was absolutely breathtaking. We didn't finish shooting until about 11PM and the guys were feeling like having a late night meal. They took me to this spot that had a bunch of different deep fries items that you dipped in this delicious sauce, my favorite had to be the deep fried onion and my least favorite being the brussels sprout style food.

Sesnoji Overlook - SS.jpg

A trip to Japan isn't complete without hitting the Pokemon Center either, so naturally I found myself indulging in my childhood and spending a fair amount of time here and even purchased a few gifts. While in Odaiba, I wanted to check out some of the amazing architecture that it had to offer. Little did I know finding these complexes would take me 5 hours. Mostly because my friends couldn't remember the name of the complex, they were off by one letter. This led to my tour of the seven Family Mart's located all across Odaiba. A pilgrimage I will never forget and highly recommend to anyone who is batshit insane. Anything for the shot though. Afterwards I went to get some more Yakitori & a beer for my hard earned efforts.

This man deserves a paragraph for himself. He became famous on Instagram. He is hidden in a slew of shops in a small place in Tokyo. Upon finding him after my 45 minute journey, I shook his hand and he smiled and was more than happy to let me take his photo. This man is what I wish more of humanity was like. I wish I could speak Japanese to really let this man know how much I appreciate his positivity in life. 

The Homie - SS.jpg

Tokyo was just part one of my Japan journey though. Although it was a large chunk of the trip I have much more to share on Kyoto/Osaka. I hope you found my experiences cool to read about and even maybe helpful for planning your journey to Japan. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about traveling to Tokyo in the comments. Onward to Kyoto!

Stay true to you.

Jordan