Bandai WC 2010
Asia Trip Part I: Hong Kong and the Bandai Gunpla World Cup
After only a couple hours sleep (we took too long to pack), we flew out of LAX the morning of Christmas Eve in a 757 on a short flight to San Francisco. From there we got on a 747 to Hong Kong.
This is an almost 14 hour flight that takes you over Alaska, then Russia, and then China. It’s a looooong time to be on an airplane, especially when the passenger in front of you is a mentally disabled man who spends the first third of the flight moaning and groaning loudly like a ghost having a long series of orgasms. He slept most of the middle third of the flight, though this is when the coughing began. By the last third of the flight, he was coughing loudly and so hard that the coughs would turn into gags. If you’ve played Left 4 Dead, just think of the sound that the offspring of a Smoker and a Boomer would make. By the time we had landed he was actually throwing up, and I felt really sorry for his mother, who was traveling with him and literally holding the bag.
But then we’re finally in Hong Kong and we begin to make out way through the airport. While we were there I heard a hilarious exchange between what I think was an Australian pilot and an attractive woman working the counter at the airport. He told her she had his heart the moment he laid eyes on her. She asked if she could take it from him right then and he said that it would be kind of messy. Ignoring her hint he still went and asked when she was getting off. No, really.
The hotel chains have kiosks in the airport and I found the one for Regal hotels and found out that we had a complimentary shuttle to the hotel already booked. We waited at their airport hotel branch for a while where we experience a bit of Christmas in Hong Kong. There was a band in the lobby singing Christmas songs. What they lacked in singing talent they made up for in short dresses.
In Hong Kong you hear all the usual Christmas songs (piped into businesses and restaurants, just like home), just mostly sung by people you don’t know. There were also some Christmas songs I didn’t recognize and I assume they must be either British or native to Hong Kong.
Our bus stopped on the way in the parking lot of Disneyland Hong Kong. We couldn’t see any more than the entrance but we could at least say we saw it.
We got to the Regal Kowloon hotel and checked in about 10 pm local and we were exhausted since we couldn’t sleep much on the flight. Flying west that far makes for a very long day since you are flying away from the sun. We had about 20 hours of daylight on that day. Bandai got us one of the nicer rooms on the top three floors and after checking out the room and getting a call from Bandai’s female representative (sadly I never got her name since she always introduced herself in person and on the phone as “Bandai”), we crashed.
The Regal Kowloon Hotel in Hong Kong:
The room on the 12th floor:
The next day we got up and had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s café. There was a mixture of Chinese and Western breakfast fare. I had what became my routine morning meal of waffles, undercooked bacon, and hash brown nuggets. From day to day I’d try different things on the side but I never got eggs because the egg guy was really new and even though he never looked busy, there were always 4 people in front of you with an order of eggs.
The 2010 Bandai Gunpla World Cup
After breakfast we grabbed my model and met Ms. Bandai in the lobby. While waiting for some other contestants (the Australian Junior contestant and the other American, Kevin) to come down, Katsumi “Meijin” Kawaguchi shows up. Eeeeeeeeeeee!! I totally geeked out but didn’t have a clue if he spoke English or what the heck to say even if he did so I just went with awkward silence.
Once we were all there we split into two Taxis and headed for the Metropolitan Mall in Hong Hom. I spoke a while with Kevin. I was all excited but he seemed a bit underwhelmed, but he grew p in Hong Kong, so this was nothing new to him I guess. We got there and Kawaguchi-san hands the driver a 500 HKD bill for an 18 HKD fare (That’s about $60 for about a $2 fare). Also, Kawaguchi-san was staying in the penthouse on the top floor, as expected. Apparently, being Meijin pays well. Fortunately, Kevin had a smaller bill. We got out of our taxi and waited for the members in the other taxi who were behind us. We waited, and waited. And waited. We gave up and began to head inside and Ms. Bandai found us on the way in. It’s hard to believe they could have passed us at the crazy-ass speed our taxi went but they did.
We got inside and I went through the nervous routine of setting up a model at a competition. All the work I put into making the dio portable paid off, and I got it together quite easily. Unfortunately we were the last ones there and so there was no room for my model and it got stuck in the back of the Junior table, lol. I still put my Freedom Gundam wing on it, but only the very observant ever saw it since my dio backed up to a step in the platform.
Once that was done we had a couple hours of free time, I checked out the Expo. There were a lot of kits on display, including what seemed like about half a dozen PG Strike Freedoms. I checked out the booth where Toys R Us was selling Gunpla. There were some damn good deals like the MG Ground Gundam and ver. OYW Gundam for 190 HKD each and the MG V Gundam for 200 HKD and the MG Core Booster for 100 HKD. That’s about $40 US for the set. I wanted to get and expo-only item but didn’t want to spend too much this early in the trip so I got the clear 1/144 30th Gundam kit. My wife liked it and I thought it was more interesting than the white Hyaku Shiki recolor, which I would have just painted over. I passed up on my first chance to get one of Bandai’s 1/60 scale molding machine kits.
What I didn’t see at the shop until later was the HGUC Dendrobium. As the day progressed I saw contestant after contestant show up with the huge kit at their feet. They were selling the Dendro for around 1000 HKD. I don’t remember the exact price, but Nu, a very nice Open Category winner from Thailand, worked out the conversion and told me it was around $140 US. Daaaaaaaaamn!!!
It’s too bad that the Dendro is so damn huge, and heavy. The box wouldn’t have made it into a suitcase or onboard as carry-on, so I had to pass (so did Kevin, we both almost bought one).
After seeing the Expo, we went to the food court for lunch. We were expecting a variety of things but it was pretty much Chinese Food and Chinese Food. And not the Chinese food a Gwilo like me recognizes (I have no idea how you spell that but it’s the Chinese equivalent of Gaijin). To be fair there was a Japanese place and a Thai place. We ended up going with Thai since we both felt pretty confident that we had each found a dish there that we could recognize. The food didn’t go by the Thai names for the most part so you just had to read their descriptions. I got what I think was Pad See Ew and my wife got a noodle soup and lunch turned out to be inexpensive, filling and delicious.
We headed back to the Expo and checked out the Gundam War card playing tournament and the kids building FG kits upstairs. Back at ground level the Gundam girls were there and being followed around by a ring of Asian men with cameras. I took their picture, too, but only because they were standing in front of the prizes, which had been unveiled (or at least that’s what I told my wife). I also took pictures of the guys taking pictures of the girls, cuz it was funny.
Then the awards ceremony started, but the whole thing was in Japanese and Cantonese so when the editors from Dengeki and Hobby Japan (and some other guy who I still don’t know who it was) were onstage talking I didn’t know who they were or what they were saying. When Kawaguchi-san and the other judge spoke I had no idea what he was saying. When they announced the winners they showed their name and entry on the screen but I didn’t catch onto this until the end. One of the junior winners had a marbled red Shinanju and it kicked ass.
The Group Winners (note that all names are shamelessly copy/pasted from the Gamerabaenre forum):
Winner 冠軍 – Lim Ching Ghee (Singapore)
1st Runner up 亞軍 – 何康興 (Hong Kong)
2nd Runner up 季軍 – 何之平 (Taiwan)
The Junior Winners:
Winner 冠軍 – 劉峻呈 (Taiwan)
1st Runner up 亞軍 – 阮柏洋 (China)
2nd Runner up 季軍 – 陳卓希 (Hong Kong)
The Open Winners:
Winner 冠軍 – Fernando Vincensius Salim (Indonesia)
1st Runner up 亞軍 – Raymond Yap Chi Hiung (Malaysia)
2nd Runner up 季軍 – Son Youngseok (Korea)
So if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t win anything. The good news is that Kevin, the other US representative got one of the two runner-up prizes (a judge’s favorite prize chose by the judge who was not Kawaguchi-san), so the US got on the scoreboard at least.
川口克己評判特別獎 Kawaguchi’s Choice –
Lim Shermen (Malaysia)
梁禮傑評判特別獎 Leung’s Choice –
Kevin Yi Zhang (America)
I feel like my model was somewhere in the bottom-middle of the field (I mean the middle of the bottom). But I also feel like mine didn’t stand out as a suck-ass model and that someday I could build a model that could compete in the World Cup. In fact, I really wish I could have brought my Hazel team or even my Freedom Gundam. I think both would have gone over better here and I think if I put my Hazels in a diorama (a GOOD diorama) that they could be competitive.
Coming here may light a fire under my ass. I dreamed of getting here some day but I thought it would happen once and I would never win. But I’ve found out that many contestants return to compete again and I really want to take another shot at it with the goal of not just getting in but also placing.
Between the time we set up our models and the time the official ceremony began and once we were packing up I had a chance to speak to several modelers and their mothers and guides. Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of their names or maybe I did but in the whirl of activity I forgot some of them. We spoke with the mothers of the Australian and Malaysian Junior winners and Nu, the Thai Open winner, as well as the Thai Bandai guide who had lived in Seattle and spoke perfect English. I also found time to go up to Kawaguchi-san and take a picture with him but I didn’t have the wherewithal to give him a card or even say anything meaningful and I already feel like a dumbass for it. I did better with Dengeki Hobby’s representative who is one of their senior editors. I showed him some pictures of my Hazels and gave him my card and got his. He kept saying “Sugoi!” as I showed him the pictures so I felt good about it. It’s very strange being an amateur model builder and an American to boot and talking to these people. I often felt like some small-time yokel in the big city while around the Expo and especially around the people of note from Japan. Not to mention I only speak English and I had no idea who else did wherever I went.
While people were milling around, I went back up on stage and grabbed the back of my GP01 diorama. I got my silver marker out of my backpack and had Kawaguchi-san sign it. Several other people were having him sign things, even their trophies.
We were supposed leave our models for the next day, but some modelers started taking theirs apart (probably since they were leaving early the next day) and pretty soon it spread and almost everyone (myself included) took their models apart.
The Bandai Asia Company LTD 2010 Christmas Party
We all rode on a shuttle bus back to the hotel and we had some time to change. We got semi-dressy and headed down to the dinner in one of the halls in the hotel. We sat at a table with Kawaguchi, several Bandai representatives, the other US representative and the Italian representative and his friend. We had some time to eat first (I mostly ate some really good and spicy curry chicken and rice) and we conversed as well as we could, given that the table spoke English, Japanese and Italian. I found out that the Italian winner, Vincenzo DeLuca, was a friend of Z’Luca on the Italian forums and that he was from Rome. While we were sitting there I was drinking the Skol beer that was offered by the hotel. This was the worst beer I had ever tasted. I saw the Bandai contingent talking about it and I wanted to ask them if they thought the beer sucked, too, but I didn’t want to insult them since they were technically providing it for us. By the way, this beer was offered in the hotel room mini-bars at a THIRD of the price of the sodas in there. When beer is a fraction of the cost of soda that’s a bad sign.
Once we had all had time to eat we started playing a drawing game. The drawing game was judged by somebody whose name I didn’t catch, but he was a member of the Bandai contingent and they explained to me that he was the designer of the Mazinger Fist (maybe it was Tsuyoshi Nonaka, Munetaka Abe, Toshiyuki Horii, or Hiroshi Ogawa, all listed as recent mecha designers for Mazinger I found on Wikipedia, if anyone recognizes him in my pics please let me know).
They would announce a subject (RX-78, Zaku, Char, etc…) and we were given five minutes (really about 2) to draw it. I went first at our table and got the RX-78. I started in but didn’t know what they were going for (and I believed I’d actually have 5 minutes) so I start drawing a detailed front view. I got several more “Sugoi!” from the Bandai contingent. I think they appreciated my knowledge of the details of the RX-78, if not my artistic talent (which I lack, and is why I build models instead of drawing). Anyway, I only got as far as the torso, head, shoulders and part of an arm when time ran out. Then we held up our drawings and everyone else had done a quick sketch. Duh, I had to hold up my drawing (last, after all the others had already been seen) and felt like a tool.
The only upside to this was that our whole table proved to be uncomfortable with art, with the Italian (Vincenzo De Luca) probably doing the best job. On the fourth subject, we got Michael Jackson. Ms. Bandai took that subject since we were out of representatives at that point. She probably made the best drawing from our table, but I’m pretty sure she drew Michael Jackson with a tail. I can’t really explain what she drew coming out of his ass any other way. I’ll blame it on the sake since the Bandai contingent had brought in a couple bottles in to share amongst themselves. They did offer me a shot and I took it, and it was good.
Once the drawing was over, Mr. Mazinger Fist judged the winner for each subject and unveiled the sketches he made in the same time we had to work on ours. They were incredible for both their artistic merit and level of detail and for the fact that they were each dashed off in minutes. He signed each one and gave them to the corresponding winner in that subject.
A sample of some of the artwork given to the winners:
After the drawing contest they held a raffle and gave away several kits and other prizes. I won an SD two-pack of the NT-1 and GP01. One of the Bandai reps asked me if I knew which Gundams they were and when I told him he seemed both surprised and impressed. I know Gundam isn’t THAT big in the US, but it makes me wonder if some of the past winners knew nothing about Gundam or what. I guess they just don’t expect much from us.
Italian Representative Vincenzo DeLuca:
Thai Representative and really nice guy Anupong “Nu” Channarong (standing):
Me with my SD Gundams:
After the raffle, dinner ended and we went up to the room. I did a quick check for what we would do the next day and turned in.
Free Day in Hong Kong
The next day was our free day in Hong Kong. With only one day we headed for The Peak which overlooks Central and all of Hong Kong. We walked out of our hotel which is a block from the coast on the Kowloon side and walked up the waterfront towards the Star Ferry terminal. We passed McLovin’s Tavern and I had to take a picture of that. Along the way we walked through Hong Kong’s version of the Walk of Fame with the names and handprints of the stars of Hong Kong cinema. We took pictures of the only four we recognized, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat and Jackie Chan. We also took a picture of Fu Chi. I don’t know who that is, but their name sounds like what you say in Spanish if something smells. There’s also a statue of Bruce Lee there and I saw several people pose in front of it for pictures like they were kicking Bruce Lee.
We rode across the strait on the famous Star Ferry and decided to walk to the Peak Tram terminal. A lady from the HK Tourism Board assured us we could just follow the signs. After going a few blocks and not seeing any signs we looked at the little map on the brochure we had and started wandering the streets of Central. We got sort of lost in the sense that we knew about where we were and where we were going, but not exactly. It ended up being a pleasant side trip. We passed the old Legislative Council Building and came across a beautiful park amidst the skyscrapers and I saw birds in Hong Kong for what might have been the first time.
After the park we really did start to see the signs for the Peak Tram. We got there and got in line. After about 20 minutes we headed up and I mean UP. This thing climbs the hills above Central at the kind of angles you find on roller coasters. In just a few minutes you go up like 2000 feet. At the top are some great views and some crappy touristy shopping. After taking a quick look we headed for Burger King since we wanted a quick and easy lunch. Burger Kings in HK have Mexican Winglets, which must be like Buffalo Wings and all of their burgers can be ordered spicy style. We got the Whopper Junior Stunner which was just a Whopper Junior combo with free soft serve. They called it a vanilla sundae. Uh… ok. The Whoppers were good because the produce inside was very fresh. We found that most of the food was fresh in both Hong Kong and Tokyo.
After eating we went for a walk all around the Peak complex to take in the various views. We then walked along a paved trail that leaves the complex and soon ends up in hilly forest. The view disappears behind trees. Since the hills are covered in concrete around the trail, you feel like you’re in Adventure Land at Disneyland, except it’s real.
After soaking it all up we rode down the Peak Tram and got on a double-decker bus for the pier. The driver was a maniac and we were doing at least 50 downhill through the small streets of Hong Kong. The kids in front of us literally threw their hands up and screamed like it was a roller coaster. After taking the ferry across we went back to our hotel for a rest.
Shopping in Mong Kok
I made one last check for the locations of the shops I wanted to see and then headed out for Mong Kok. We figured we’d find a place to eat on the way to the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, but we didn’t so we walked around to find one. We walked some more and some more without finding much. We eventually found a Fairwood, which is a chain of restaurants (we found out later) around HK. My wife got Sweet and Sour Pork. My wife loves both Chinese and Japanese food, but we hadn’t found any “Chinese Food” like we were used to. I couldn’t find any Orange Chicken anywhere in Hong Kong! Lol! Where’s the Gwilo Chinese food??? I had some chicken and potato curry. We left full and happy. Food in Hong Kong was good.
We got on the MTR and got off on Yau Ma Tei, the stop before Mong Kok since the shops we were going to were in the south end of Mong Kok. To get to the good shops go north on Nathan road, walk three blocks and turn right (East) on Dundas street. Most of the good shops are around the intersection of Dundas and Fa Yuen streets, about 3 blocks off Nathan road. I dragged my wife through the dark side streets of Mong Kok in search of IT Hobby (which sells Ako Creations), J.Bo Hobby (which sells e2046 recasts) and New G (which sells G-System and SMS). I also stopped in at a few other random shops. J.Bo Hobby was cool since they had about 50 built kits in their display cases that made up one of the long walls of their shop. My wife saw a 1/100 scale The O and said “That’s just like the one Angel is building but smaller.” I explained that it was the same size but that it was surrounded by 1/72, 1/60, 1/48 and probably 1/35 scale kits and looked smaller.
New G turned out to be closed (of course). I almost walked right by it since it’s in the middle of a street with a farmer’s market and there are stall in the street in front of it.
I did find IT Hobby and they did indeed have a bunch of Ako stuff. The small things were up front but way in the back they had some black boxes that I’m sure were conversions. I asked about them and they ran and got somebody to help me in English. A couple of guys came in and we figured out what they had in stock. They had the plastic conversion for the GM Spartan, GM Sniper and Zaku (but not the Barzam, damn!) and the resin conversions for the GM Light and the Efreet. They also had a bunch of metal parts and tools.
I picked out all of their tools and also some metal transfer decals. I passed on thrusters, pipes and spikes because I just don’t care for them that much myself. I also got the Spartan and Zaku sets as well as the Efreet conversion. While paying I gave them a card and one of the guys who had come in recognized my user name, Funaka. It turned out to be Albert, who was AkoHobby on the Fichtenfoo forums for years and now goes by Heart. It was one of the highlights of the trip to meet him and I got a picture with him outside of the shop. I should have got a picture of all of the Ako prototype kits he had built since they were all in the front window. You can just barely see them in the picture I took of the storefront.
Albert aka Heart on the Fichtenfoo Forums and formerly AkoHoby:
Tired from a long day, we headed back to the hotel, stopping to take some nighttime pictures of the city.
The next morning we got up and packed. We had breakfast and then headed out to the plaza below our hotel for some last-minute souvenir shopping. Then it was onto the bus to Lantau island and the airport. Our trip to Hong Kong was over, but now we were headed for Tokyo.
To see all of the pictures from the World Cup, follow this link:
To see all of the general pictures from Hong Kong, follow this link:
To go on to my report on the second half of my trip to Asia, follow this link: