09 Nov 2014

Tech holiday: five must-see destinations for the nerd in all of us

People who love art take trips to see their favourite artists on display in museums. People that love sport will cross the planet to watch their favourite team play live. And so why should people who love technology not travel to see the most amazing examples of it in the world?

Technology is not just about work, it is now part of our history, our culture, and our entertainment, and you can build some incredible holidays in some amazing places around your inner nerd. Here are some ideas to start you off on planning that ultimate tech holiday.

Akihabara, Japan

Akihabara, or Akiba as it’s affectionately known in its homeland, is the Mecca for the “otaku,” Japan’s word for nerd or geek. Though on many days in Akiba it can be harder to find Japanese people than western tourists, such has become its international fame and appeal.

Akihabara has been slowly redefining itself away being identified as Japan’s “electric town.” After all, massive, 6-8 story tall electronics department stores (imagine the largest JB Hi-Fi, and six of them stacked on top of one another) are everywhere in Japan these days. You can still visit Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara to experience the city’s heritage, but really, the unique draw for it now is its focus on anime, maid cafes, collectibles and games. There’s multi-story game arcades, plenty of shops with unmentionable things in them, and just about every kind of cheap junk food imaginable (pro tip – skip McDonalds in Japan and go for either Mos Burger or Yoshinoya).

Even if you’re not so into the otaku way of life, Akihabara has the kind of raw energy, colour and excitement to it that means it’s still a must see for anyone who visits Japan and wants to see something uniquely Japanese.

Robot Restaurant, Japan

Japan gets to be on this little list twice for obvious reasons; they love their tech there and if there was any country you could build an entirely holiday around technology, Japan is it. After spending the day in Akihabara, in the evening you could head over to Tokyo Robot Restaurant, which sits in the heart of the city’s commercial district of Shinjuku. This is the kind of event that anyone who has any interest in technology is going to want to experience. It cost over $100 million to build, and while it is possible to eat cheap in Japan, this one will hit your pocket book (entry is over $100 per person), but the show that you’ll get to watch is nothing short of spectacular.

As the name suggests there are robots. Lots and lots of robots. And dancers, and music. And so much colour, lighting and noise that epileptic people should stay away. What you’ll be watching as you eat won’t always make sense (actually, it’ll never make sense), but it’s the right kind of surreal, and is colourful, vivid and exciting. The only real downside is that food is not the point of this restaurant (it’s actually terrible), and you’d do well to eat somewhere beforehand. But think of this as electronic, surrealist performance theatre, and anyone – not just tech heads – will have a great time.

Computer History Museum

Situated in Mountain View, California, the world’s largest museum for computer history is another place that any self-respecting tech head will visit at least once. Established in 1996, this is the place where you’ll get to see rare or one-of-a-kind pieces of our tech past, from the Cray-1 supercomputer to the Apple 1 and the first generation of Google web servers. The complete collection comprises of around 90,000 objects, photographs and films, and hundreds of gigabytes of software. At that scale, this is a museum you could literally spend days wandering around.

Off course, being situated in the middle of Silicon Valley also means the Museum can be just one stop in a tech tourism trip that could last a week (or longer). Every person with an interest in technology should experience the wonders of Silicon Valley at least once, and Mountain View is the perfect place to set yourself up.

Hotel Sidi Driss

The name might not be recognisable, but the moment you see this hotel you will be hit with a wave of nostalgia if you’re even slightly tapped into nerd culture. For this hotel was Luke Skywalker’s home, before it got burned down and his family slaughtered, that is. Tunisia was used as the set for many Tatooine scenes within Star Wars, so basing yourself at this hotel (which is comfortable but not spectacular aside from the nerd factor), and then wandering over to La Grande dune, which will also be familiar as the area where C2PO and R2D2 wandered after crashing their space craft, is a nerd dream holiday come true.

If Tunisia isn’t for you, then a trip over to New Zealand might do instead. Many of the sets from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been preserved and can be toured, and WETA Workshop, the company that provided the special effects for the films, has a small museum and area open to the public as well in nearby Wellington.

Deutsches Museum

After dropping in on the Computer History Museum, it’s well worth taking a trip to Germany and checking out Munich’s Deutsches Museum while you’re there. Literally translated as “German Museum,” the Deutsches Museum is the world’s largest museum dedicated to science and technology, and features somewhere close to 30,000 objects from across 50 fields of science and technology.

In this museum you’ll see the finest examples of German engineering across technology fields as varied as Power Machinery to Scientific Instruments, Technical Toys, Telecommunications and Energy Technology. It’s been open since 1903 and is situated in a gorgeous part of the city. And, since you’re in Europe, you can then take a short trip over to Switzerland to see the CERN Supercollidor, which is surely one of the great wonders of human scientific achievement.