japan winter light festival

We’re prepping for our trip to bangkok next week. Looking back at my records, last January we went to Japan. Tokyo and Hakone for a week. Sake tasting, Fuji, onsen in the snow, Tsujiki, drugstore shopping. All fabulous.

May be one day we can make it to the winter lights festival at Nabana No Sato, a botanical theme park in Kuwana City. Looked at google maps and Kuwana is just 30mins’ drive from Nagoya. Absolutely stunning pics.

Blue mountains:

Cherry blossoms:


There are other winter light festivals around Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagasaki, Sendai, Kanagawa, Tochigi, and Nagoya itself. Didn’t fully realise there are so many! Definitely trip planning time.

london a-z food guide


BigBusLondon is putting a spin on their hop-off-hop-on London tours: the A-Z food guide. Tourists get a free map and can pick out where to enjoy unusual foods along the various routes. It starts like this:

  • alpaca at Archipelago near Oxford Street
  • bubblewrap waffle at Bubblewrap at Wardour Street
  • cronut at Dominique Ansel near Victoria
  • duck and waffle at, uh, Duck & Waffle at Heron Tower

There’s a medieval banquet near the Tower, roasted bone marrow at St John, and the naga viper chilli wings challenge–naga viper pepper is rated at 1.3 million on the scoville scale (scotch bonnet is 100,000-350,000). For the more difficult letters, they have jellied eel, xiao long bao and zebra, all of which I’ve tried and are good to eat.

Not a bad idea, even though it’s highly likely that the food places are sponsors. No different from all the free city maps we get at tourist information offices and hotels that have recommended restaurants that are thinly disguised ads. Ever notice why hard rock café appears so often on these free maps?

solar egg

In Sweden’s northermost town, Kiruna, a team of architects built the solar egg, a 5m tall egg-shaped structure with 69 gold-plated solar panel exterior and an interior that is an 8-seater sauna.


The idea behind the egg is developer Riksbyggen, and it will move around Kiruna to attract visitors before the entire town is moved to another location. People can book 1.5hr sessions free of charge, although there are extra charges for bathrobes and transportation.

Beautiful location and I was going to make a positive comment about using renewable energy. Then I read that the town is being moved so some mining company can mine iron and–oh the irony.

100 trips everyone should take


Usual travel bucket lists, the ones that are called something like 101 places to see before you die, incude items like go to the top of the Eiffel Tower or visit Angkor Wat. It’s almost a cliché now.

Here’s a slightly different list of 100 trips everyone should take in their lifetime. Compiled by Business Insider who asked 20 travel writers for their top 5. And it’s all about experiences in the less touristy destinations. I do okay in the more “normal” travel lists, but some of these locations I haven’t even heard of. Not in any particular order, I think they grouped the top 5 of each writer, which is why some places and activities repeat. The Indy warns:

[f]rom off-the-beaten-track hidden gems to well-recognised yet stunning locations, prepare to get hit with some serious travel envy

  1. See mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
  2. Visit the chocolate box fishing villages of the Lofoten Islands, Norway
  3. Pretend you’re on a desert island at Motu Tiapaa in Maupiti — TIL that’s one of the remote island in the south Pacific
  4. Explore the sci-fi landscapes of Cappadocia, Turkey
  5. Camp in the Caucasus Mountains in Kazbegi, Georgia
  6. Chill out in Levi, Finland
  7. Have a star-gazing sleepover in Tuvalu
  8. Try the nightlife scene in Accra, Ghana
  9. Watch a world-renowned sunrise in Kiribati
  10. Travel back to Babylon in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  11. Look down into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA — this is the first realistic destination for me on this list, and even then I have to plan a winter trip to the US
  12. Surf at Point Roadknight, Melbourne, Australia — Melbourne I’ve been but I’ll never go surfing
  13. Explore London’s edgy urban scene — I’ve possibly done this. This was on the list for Daniel Houghton, CEO of Lonely Planet, who said:

    Hampstead Heath is a beautiful spot to take in the sheer size of the city

  14. Get to know Hawaii’s islands — I don’t think the one trip to Hawaii when I was 16 with my family counts, I barely remember it
  15. Be inspired by the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia — another realistic location
  16. Take a road trip around Louisiana, USA — been to New Orleans, haven’t done the road trip
  17. Build an igloo at Kamakura Festival in Yokote, Japan — this sounds great, need to do research
  18. Be rendered speechless by Tsingy Rouge, Madagascar — I posted about this recently
  19. Light a candle at Birgufest, Malta
  20. Cycle through the air in the cloud forests of Ecuador
  21. Take on Britain’s toughest trek at Cape Wrath, Scotland
  22. Reach Norway’s peaks, stopping off at Gjendesheim cabin
  23. Venture up the Alps, stopping off in Arolla, Switzerland — that’s in the Matterhorn area and I’ve been there
  24. Backpack through Lairig Ghru’s sub-arctic plateau in Scotland
  25. Stay in the Loch Ossian Hostel, Scotland– the third Scotland hiking destination from Alex Roddie, Sub-Editor of Sidetracked Magazine, this eco-hostel is 85 years old and located in the Highlands
  26. Scuba dive in the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
  27. Be one with the animal kingdom in the Galápagos Islands
  28. Discover the lesser-known isles of French Polynesia
  29. Road trip through Namibia
  30. Take in some magic—and food and wine—in South Africa
  31. Immerse yourself in the culture of Moscow, Russia
  32. Get to know the different sides of Hi Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  33. Grab a coffee in Sydney, Australia — I haven’t grabbed coffee, but I’ve grabbed breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m glad Sydney is on the list, albeit as one of the more touristy destinations, it has a lot going on and is lovely to experience
  34. Stay in a homestay at Lake Toba, Indonesia
  35. Party with the best at Rio Carnival, Brazil
  36. Scuba dive off of Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
  37. Visit post-earthquake Kumamoto, Japan — another Japan, adding to research list
  38. Tour the rosy mountains of Petra, Jordan
  39. Take in some history—and sample smoked chocolate—in Lviv, Ukraine
  40. Scuba dive in quiet northern Bali
  41. See the “Big Five”—black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, and African elephants, lions, and leopards—on a South African safari — I’ve seen all these, in Kenya not South Africa, does that count? I’m guessing 0.5 points
  42. Get lost in the tangled streets of Barceloneta, Spain
  43. Attend a whisky tasting in Mechelen, Belgium — so Belgium has beer and whisky, wow
  44. Fly over England’s Wiltshire countryside like you’re in ‘Top Gun’​
  45. Explore local sites in Bamiyan, Afghanistan
  46. Witness the piled-up houses of Palangan, Iran
  47. Trek to India’s best kept secret — Mechuka
  48. Stuff yourself with street food in Lahore, Pakistan
  49. Traverse Goris’ mountain trails and stay in a cave home in Armenia — I have to admit that none of these last 5 from travel blogger Sebaastian Rijntjes hold any interest for me
  50. Hike up Rainbow Mountain, Peru
  51. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Faroe Islands
  52. Observe the wildlife in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
  53. Delve into the hidden side of Madeira Island, Portugal — have to go to Lisbon first
  54. Explore the Arctic Circle, Norway
  55. Unwind in Bozcaada, Turkey
  56. Wade through the Amazon Rainforest
  57. Ride rickety buses through Tunisia
  58. Experience the warm hospitality of Muscat’s locals in Oman
  59. Take part in the masked celebrations of Carnevale in Venice, Italy — been to Venice but Carnevale is way too crowded
  60. Visit the steaming mountain geysers of Kamchatka, Russia
  61. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Shwegugi Pagoda temple in Bagan, Myanmar
  62. See Tokyo’s cherry blossom season in the flesh — photographer Murad Osmann says:

    Japan isn’t just a country, it’s a whole new universe!

  63. Tour the “true face” of Xingping, China — no
  64. Be transported back in time by Cuba’s capital—Havana
  65. Explore the Cuban countryside in Vinales
  66. Dance around the evening bonfires in Lijiang, China — no thank you
  67. Take a beach trip to Quepos, Costa Rica
  68. Watch eagles hunt amongst the Altai Mountains, Mongolia
  69. Watch the flames of “The Gates of Hell,” Turkmenistan
  70. Sail to Pulau Lapang, Indonesia
  71. Take a dip in the clear waters in Sumba, Indonesia
  72. Sample the street food in Hanoi, Vietnam
  73. Ride the Tha Khaek Loops in Laos
  74. Navigate the sunken pathways of Shwe Ba Taung’s sandstone labyrinth in Burma
  75. Take part a hot air balloon safari over a nature reserve in Tanzania — we had the opportunity in Kenya, but we passed
  76. Take a Robinson Crusoe-esque excursion to Tapuaetai in the Cook Islands
  77. Stay in a designer cabin in Comporta, Portugal
  78. Visit a Thai architect’s edgy cluster of designer warehouses in Bangkok, Thailand
  79. Shop in Het Industriegebouw in Rotterdam, Netherlands — two shopping activies from blogger Pauline Egge, meh
  80. Spend the night in a glamorous bed and breakfast in Knokke, Belgium
  81. Dine in the glass houses of Cape Town’s wine estates
  82. Island hop on an expedition in Palawan, Philippines
  83. Indulge in pintxos plates on a bar-hopping evening in San Sebastian, Spain — two key words here: pintxos and bar, yay
  84. Wander until you’re lost in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Turkey — I’ve seen Grand Bazaar on tv, and visited souks in Tunisia and Dubai, a bit of a tourist trap
  85. Take an Ayurveda retreat in the central jungles of Sri Lanka
  86. Immerse yourself in Oia’s artistic community in Santorini, Greece
  87. Hunt for pirate treasure in Providencia, Colombia — pirate treasure, how fun
  88. Trek through Brazil’s bed sheets in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
  89. Explore Ireland’s ancient history in the Aran Islands in Galway Bay
  90. Sail through the valley of Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  91. Go for a cocktail in Yukon, Canada’s ghost town — Dawson City
  92. Watch out for wombats in Cradle Mountain, Tazmania
  93. Stand under the bone chandeliers of Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
  94. Ski through four countries on one trip in Zermatt, Switzerland — the Matterhorn again
  95. Walk through the wild-meets-landscaped gardens of Sintra, Portugal
  96. Explore Carmelo’s quaint horse country, Uruguay
  97. Sit on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat’s beaches in the South of France
  98. Witness the sunset at Goðafoss, Iceland
  99. Heli-ski through Haines’ breathtaking landscapes in Alaska, USA
  100. Fly over Russia and witness the Earth’s curvature

I’ve been to 3.5 (not counting Hawaii) — London, Sydney, Matterhorn and the 0.5 is safari. TBH I don’t have a pressing desire to visit or experience all of these. Some countries are too dangerous; others like the Pacific island of Maupiti is simply too far away; some activites like scuba diving has no appeal. I still have my own travel list to work through. Actually, looking through that 2014 list, I can check off 8, which is…neither here nor there.

tsingy de bemaraha national park

We had very tentative plans to travel later in the year, but nothing fixed. May be Japan again if we only have a week; Europe if we have longer. With mm’s mum’s health situation, those plans are probably out. I may still get to travel before the end of the year, but I’m not sure.

© Dave Stamboulis, BBC Travel

I’ve been looking at the bbc photoessay about Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar, one of the most difficult UNESCO site to reach. First, it’s in Madagascar, already one of the world’s most remote location. Secondly, the national park is in the northwestern part of the island and accessible by a dirt road that is a muddy swamp 6 months of the year. When it is relatively dry to travel, there are still 2 rivers to cross, both crocodile-infested.

Tsingy is the local language for “the place where one cannot walk” describes the sharp limestone formations in the national park. A series of suspension bridges, steel cables, pegs and ladders together with train guides allows visitors to see the spiky formations up close. UNESCO describes this world heritage site as:

impressive ‘tsingy’ peaks and a ‘forest’ of limestone needles.

I usually do quite well in those global places I’ve visited quizzes. I don’t see this often on those list challenges and it should be. I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to go but looking at the pics is enough. Spectacular.

trip research: food

For our nagoya-takeyama-kanazawa trip (read the first post, there are beautiful pics) there will be the usual sushi, sashimi, seafood, ramen, izakaya food but on top of that the region has speciality food that we will want to try.

hida beef


Kobe and matsuzaka beef are famous all over the world for their tenderness, marbling and, well, high prices. Hida beef, or hida-gyu, is lesser known but have the same high quality taste and marbling. In order to be labelled hida-gyu, the meat must come from black-haired Japanese wagyu cattle bred in the Gifu prefecture and fattened for at least 14 months. The meat must be certified to be graded 3, 4 or 5 by the Japan Meat Grading Association. They take their meat grading very seriously in Japan.

Gifu cattle first started being reared as meat as opposed to use for work in the 1980s. Hida beef has won numerous awards in the Wagyu Beef Olympics. Yep, they do take their beef seriously in Japan.

The onsen hotel in Takayama where we will spend 2 nights includes the typical kaiseki dinner. The dishes page has numerous pics of hida beef and we think we’ll be able to enjoy at least one meal with hida beef shabu shabu or grilled. I’m sure we’ll want to try it more than once ao I’ve been doing research on other restaurants in the area that also offer hida beef and have a list.

There are also street stalls selling hida gyu-man or hida beef buns. These will be nice snacks. Or we may even be crazy enough to buy some to bring home.



Nagoya is one of the top regions for producing river eel. Hitsumabushi is a style of unagi-don that is ubiquitious to the nagoya region. The difference is in the preparation: the eel is grilled vs in other regions it’s steamed then grilled. I can just imagine how much more smoky flavour there is in the grilled eel.

The most well known hitsumabushi restaurant in nagoya is atsuta horaiken; they have been preparing eel over charcoal grill for 140 years. And being Japanese, they have suggestions on how to savour the meal:

  1. taste the eel as is
  2. taste the eel with condiments served (spring onions, ginger, nori)
  3. add green tea
  4. eat as you like — ie whichever favourite from the last 3 methods

Unagi has gotten expensive over the years, especially wild river eel which is fattier and more tasty than ocean eel. We’re thinking this will be dinner on our first night.

gold leaf ice cream


Kanazawa produces 99% of Japan’s gold leaves. The latest craze is wrapping soft serve ice cream in gold leaf.

Seems more of a gimmick. To me, edible gold is one of the Stupidest.Ideas.Ever because it’s literally flushing money down the loo. Gold leaf ice cream is around ¥1000, or US$9. Normal soft ice cream is probably 1/4 or 1/3 the price.

But we may still give it a try, if only for the instagram moment.

p.s. again, not my pics. Google image. No copyright infringement intended.

next trip: nagoya region


We just finalised our next trip. Mid-May, to Nagoya. We’re excited because it’s a new destination in Japan. We’ve been to the Kanto area (Tokyo), Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto) and Hokkaido; the central Chubu area is a natural progression to add to the list.

We only have 8 days and poor Nagoya is basically going to be overnight stops at the beginning and end of the trip so we won’t get much chance to explore the city. We will be spending most of our time in the GIfu prefecture, at Tateyama 高山 and Kanazawa 金沢.

There are a number of absolutely stunning attractions in the area. In the Mt Tateyama area is the Tateyama Kurobe alpine route 立山黒部. This area is called Japan’s northern alps, and it gets a massive amount of snow because of the winter monsoon phenomenon. Atlas Obscura explains:

Frigid Siberian air streaming south and east across the relatively warm waters of the Sea of Japan generates snow clouds, which unleash their flakes as they approach land. The phenomenon is similar to lake-effect snow in the U.S. But while the Great Lakes can freeze over, effectively shutting off the snow machine, the Sea of Japan stays open all winter long. Coastal mountains such as Mt. Tateyama amplify the snow.

Parts of the region gets up to 40m (1500 inches) of snow a year. During winter, the area is closed. Every March, they start the arduous job of clearing the mountain road. Heavy machinery is employed and snow blowers blow snow off the road. By mid-April the road is clear, with a narrow path wending its way up the mountain surrounded by very tall snow walls. A few years ago, the enterprising local council had the brilliant idea of making this snow corridor a tourist attraction. In true Japanese fashion, the visit to the national park is well organised and there are a series of connecting transportation across the area: cable car, ropeway, bus. The stopping points include Murodo, which is 5mins walk from the snow corridor and also has great views of the surrounding mountains. The route ends at the eastern end at Kurobe dam, and there is the opportunity to walk across the dam to view the reservoir.


Another must-see destination in the area are the remote villages of Shirakawa-go 白川郷 and Gokayama 五箇山, famous for their distinctive farmhouses constructed gassho-zukuri styled, which means “like hands in prayer.” The sturdy structure and steep thatched-roofs means the houses can withstand large amounts of snowfall. They are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites:

The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan. Despite economic upheavals, the villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma are outstanding examples of a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people’s social and economic circumstances.


The third notable attraction would be #1 on any other trip. Kenrokuen has been described as one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens. Set in what was the grounds of Kanazawa castle, its name means “garden of the six sublimities” or spaciousness, tranquility, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and magnificent views. According to traditional landscape theory, these are the essential attributes of a perfect garden design.

We realise we do not have enough time. The trick is to enjoy the trip, try not to rush and spend more time in fewer places rather than trying to hit everything.

p.s. these are not my pics; I haven’t been there yet. Gakked from tourist information sites.

visited states

tor040cntower mpngra171ngralake

According to the OECD I should live in Canada and Australia. So I was wondering where exactly, which led me to think about which states I’ve visited. In Canada I’ve only visited 2 states: Ontario and BC. I’ve been to Toronto twice, neither times I’ve been that impressed honestly. Niagara Falls was impressive, I won’t want to live there. Niagara-on-the-Falls was pretty, and again not somewhere I want to live. I liked Vancouver much better and really liked Victoria, so may be somewhere on the west coast.

syd156gap mel074station

In Oz I’ve been to NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The usual suspects, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Since I’ve been to Sydney many times, I’m partial to it. That said, I’m not Aussie enough to appreciate the rivalry between Sydneysiders and people from Melbourne, Brisbane and other parts. I love Australia, it’s like the UK with better weather and great wine. A bit far away from everything though.


I have a map of places I’ve visited in the world, but the other big map is of US states visited. I was very tempted by the big magnetic map with magnets shaped like the various states, but too large to carry home. Lots of online map making sites though. I made one that shows states I’ve spent time (at least stopped at an attraction) vs states I’ve only travelled through. 30 states visited and 8 travelled through. I think it’s correct, I should look back to our big Chicago—>Fort Worth—>Washington DC in 2007 to double check.

#29 new country: israel

Task #29 in 101 in 1001 is to visit a new country. Israel makes it new country #2 of 3 for this challenge.

jer027oldcity jer102sepulchre

I never planned on visiting Israel. Never thought I’d have the chance. Yes, I know people who have gone on pilgrimages to the holyland, but those are not for me. I’m not Jewish, nor is Israel on a layover route.

I’m so glad I got the chance to visit. To me, Jerusalem is holy. To be immersed in so much spirituality and so many places that are mentioned in the Bible, it’s impossible not to be moved. The old city, the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre, the different atmospheres in the different quarters. Probably too risky to visit on our own, but part of me wanted longer at the holy sites.


In contrast, Haifa was a pretty port with a world heritage hanging garden. Great to spend half a day because there wasn’t an excursion to the Dead Sea. Like the saying goes, Jerusalem prays, Tel Avia plays and Haifa works. It’s true.

#28: new country: greece

Task #28 in 101.1001 is to visit a new country. As part of the cruise, I visited Greece for the first time.

There are a few places I’m surprised I hadn’t visited, or taken me so long. Spain, Portugal, Greece, the land of packaged holidays (may be that’s why). But Greece’s history and significance means it has to be visited, someday, somehow.

gre054olympia gre165shop

First stop was ancient Olympia. Coming 2 years after personally attending the Olympics, and in the middle of a WInter Games, it’s poignant. I was surprised at the sheer size of the site, imagine the thousands upon thousands of spectators cheering their champions. Sports has changed a lot since then of course, and Olympia will forever have its place in sports history.

Second stop, Heraklion in Crete. No time other than to go to the market and do shopping. The market was fascinating, a mix of tourist shops and local shops. We bought €1 coin holders at a local shop, went to a supermarket, then doubled back to a touristy shop to buy ouzo, spices and typical souvenirs. There are other sights on Crete, hopefully I get a second chance.

gre325parthenon gre358view

Third stop, Athens. And to stand in front of possibly the most important structure in the history of earth. The parthenon was obscured by a giant crane and it was an awful rainy windy day, but its grandeur was no less diminished.

I thought what I saw and experienced was only the tiniest tip of what Greece has to offer. There wasn’t even an opportunity to have a sit down meal, I consider it luck to have at least tried a few pastries and a souvlaki to take away. It’s not merely checking the country off on a list, I really hope I get another chance to visit and see the sights as they are meant to be seen.

#38 go on a cruise


Task #38 of 101 in 1001 is go on a cruise. This was carried forward from the 2007 challenge; in those days we hadn’t started our cruise career.

I finally finished uploading 860 pics and writing up the entire cruise. I have different feelings after this cruise than after the Norway cruise. I loved the Norway cruise, the fjords, the mountains, Bergen, Oslo — all places I wanted to go to and enjoyed going. I was oddly indifferent going into this cruise, even though the itinerary was stunning — Greek islands, Athens, Jerusalem, Rome — all the classics and so many important world heritage sites. I think I was just (correctly) dreading how frustrated I would be because of the lack of decisions and therefore the need for me to be free tour guide throughout.

Anyway, enough complaining. You get given such a chance to travel, make the best of it. And aside from family frustrations, the places we visited were definitely awe-inspiring. Highlights for me: running at the athletics stadium in ancient Olympia, touching the spot where Jesus was born in Bethlehem, everything in Jerusalem, stepping on the marbles at the Acropolis.

Posts for the trip:

flickr sets:
msc fantasia
greece: katakolon, heraklion, athens
holyland: jerusalem, bethlehem, haifa

#35,36,37: new world heritage sites

Tasks #35, 36, 37 in 101 in 1001 are to visit 3 new world heritage sites.

The cruise actually took me to 5 (new ones, vatican and rome have already been checked off the list), so I’ll group by country. More detailed description in daily cruise trip reports.

cruise001olympia cruise002parthenon

#35 greece: a) archeological site of olympia, visited 23-feb-2014. This was where the ancient olympic games were held and some of the temples as well as the stadium ruins remain; b) acropolis athens, visited 01-mar-2014. One of the most important historical sites in world history, with the parthenon and the erechtheion both still standing

cruise003westwall cruise004crucifix

#35 israel: a) old city of jerusalem and its walls, visited 26-feb-2014. The prayers at the wailing wall, the ancient via dolorosa (road of sorrows) that traced Jesus’ path up to his crucifixion, the church of the holy sepulchre which marked the crucifix and tomb. Very crowded, but still very significant and powerful;


b) baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee, the baha’i hanging gardens at haifa visited 27-feb-2014, although only from the outside as we didn’t go inside to the shrines


#37 palestine: birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem, visited 26-feb-2014. Going into bethlehem involved crossing the border into palestine-held west bank. We were able to squeeze into the church before it closed for service and there was a scrum down to the grotto. It did not take away the emotions that came with touching the spot where Jesus was born.

#27: 101 places to visit

Task #27 of 101 in 1001 challenge is to list 101 wishlist travel places and experiences. I have deliberately left some places vague. For example, burma or baltic states: i want to visit, I don’t have specific itineraries or destinations in mind. Activities, then by country (** world heritage):

    Barges on the Canal du Midi at Argeliers 2
    image courtesy flickr user DBarefoot

  1. activity: cycling holiday
  2. activity: canal boat norfolk broads, provence or portugal
  3. activity: clam/abalone fishing
  4. activity: cookery class france, italy or thailand
  5. activity: go into space
  6. activity: marathon/ destination race
  7. activity: ski in canada or usa
  8. activity: ski in japan
  9. activity: ski in norway
  10. activity: sports game, baseball, basketball, cricket, rugby
  11. activity: stand on the tropic of capricorn
  12. albania
  13. antarctica: cruise or visit, this will make it 7 continents
  14. argentina/brazil: iguazu falls and national park**
  15. austria: concert at wien musikverein
  16. australia: great barrier reef**
  17. australia: tasmania
    Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia
    image courtesy flickr user iansand

  19. australia: western australia food and wine country, pinnacles desert, nambung national park
  20. baltic region: estonia, latvia, lithuania
  21. bhutan / nepal (kathmandu**)
  22. bolivia
  23. brazil: amazon rain forest
  24. cambodia: angkor, siam reap area, kampong fishing villages
  25. canada: poutine in old quebec
  26. canada: vancouver and other parts of BC
  27. caribbean island
  28. central asia: azerbaijan, georgia
  29. chile/argentina: patagonia region
  30. chile: easter island
    Huangshan 黄山 - View from Flying-over rock 飞来石
    image courtesy flickr user Kwong Yee Cheng

  32. china: anhui hongcun ancient village (安徽宏村), huangshan (黄山)
  33. china: sichuan jiuzhaigou (四川九寨沟)
  34. china: terracotta army xian
  35. christmas markets in europe
  36. croatia: old city of dubrovnik**
  37. cuba: sip rum and smoke a cigar in havana**
  38. egypt: pyramids**
  39. finland: dog sledding
  40. finland: northern lights and lakes
  41. france: brittany
  42. france: long stay at provence, camargue
  43. france: wine tasting
  44. germany: brandenberg gate
  45. germany: oktoberfest in munich
  46. gibraltar
  47. greece: acropolis athens**
    Santorini Cliffs
    image courtesy flickr user andos_pics

  49. greece: santorini, island hop
  50. greenland
  51. india: taj mahal agra**
  52. indonesia: bali
  53. iceland: blue lagoon, surtsey**
  54. israel: holy jerusalem**
  55. israel/jordan: swim in the dead sea
  56. italy: assisi**
  57. italy: carnivale at venice
  58. italy: mount etna and pompeii**
  59. italy: south coast campania, calabria, puglia regions
    Tuscany Cipresses
    image courtesy flickr user maarten van hoof

  61. italy: tuscany
  62. japan: cherry blossom festival
  63. japan: hiroshima peace memorial**
  64. japan: hitachi seaside park hitachinaka, ibaraki prefecture
  65. japan: ice breaking ship and sapporo ice festival hokkaido
  66. jordan: petra rock structure**
  67. korea: jeju volcanic island**
  68. malaysia: penang
  69. mali: timbuktu
  70. malta: valletta**
  71. mexico: chichen-itza**
  72. mexico: drink tequila, eat real mexican food
  73. myanmar
  74. norway: hurtigruten cruise
  75. norway: north to svalbard, lofoten islands, finnmark
    Trolltunga Hike
    image courtesy flickr user aram k

  77. norway: trolltunga overhanging rock
  78. pacific island: tahiti, fiji, samoa, png
  79. peru: try cuy
  80. peru: historic sanctury of machu picchu**
  81. portugal: aveiro canals
  82. russia: st petersburg, kremlin and red square moscow**
  83. sahara: sleep in the desert with bedouins
  84. seychelles: beaches
  85. south africa
  86. spain: barcelona (works of gaudi)**
  87. spain: san sebastian 3-star restaurants
  88. spain: coastal regions
  89. sweden: stay at the ice hotel
  90. switzerland: geneva (seriously)
  91. taiwan: bike around sun moon lake
  92. tanzania: kilamanjaro national park**
  93. tanzania: wildebeest migration
  94. thailand: songkran (water festival) or loi krathong (floating flowers festival)
  95. tunisia: star wars canyon
  96. turkey: grand bazaar istanbul**
  97. turkey: step between asia and europe
  98. ukraine: klevan tunnel of love
  99. vietnam: halong bay, danang, dalat
  100. vietnam: pho at a street stall
  101. uk: distillery on scotland mainland
  102. usa: alaska
  103. usa: grand canyon national park**, antelope national park or any other national park
  104. usa: new orleans
  105. usa: one world trade center
  106. usa: pacific northwest


#26: places visited

Task #26 of 101 in 1001 challenge: make a list of landmarks visited and travel things done. I’ve included destinations on typical bucket lists as well as some things I’ve done. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to see, experience and live in all these places. (** means a World Heritage site.)

  1. 3 countries in a day — drove from alsace france to schaffhausen switzerland, the route home to zurich took us through germany; also drove through lichtenstein to get from switzerland to austria, those countries are so near each other
  2. abbey road zebra crossing — it’s up the road from my flat; hate the tourists who cross and re-cross that zebra crossing causing traffic to standstill, they also stand like stupid idiots on the entire pavement, how is anyone supposed to walk past them *smh
  3. an aquarium — sydney aquarium was an uexpected find, and was surprisingly fabulous
  4. backstage at the theatre — my friend took me to visit her friend who was working backstage at wicked chicago, it was (pun intended) wicked

  6. bangkok floating market — interesting experience, have to get up early in the morning to go, the sales pitch can get pushy
  7. bath** — to think i almost ended up going to college there, the roman baths and the georgian architecture make it a worthwhile destination
  8. beijing: great wall of china** — part of a tour with parents, all I remember is that it was overcrowded with unruly people and a tourist trap
  9. beijing: imperial palace, summer palace** — it’s probably changed a lot since I last viisted
  10. beijing: tiananmen square — is as big as you see on tv
  11. burj al-arab dubai — didn’t stay or go inside because they charged a fee, just stopped and took pictures from the gate
  12. channel tunnel — drove through it, took eurostar
    praha133charles places013gruyere

  14. charles bridge prague — yes there are touristy stalls all along the bridge, but between the view of the river and the holy statues there are spots of great beauty
  15. cheese producing place — cheddar with its gorge and the pretty, pretty village of gruyeres
  16. christmas market in germany — lots of seasonal and traditional stalls in the huge square in munich
  17. christmas tree at rockerfeller center — that was the last year of the millennium 1999
  18. chicago architectural boat tour — my frist visit to chicago
  19. cruise the mediterranean — barcelona->tunis->palermo->rome->genoa->marseille

  21. dinosaurs at the field museum chicago — wow, wow, wow
  22. dinosaurs at the natural history museum london — a bit faded now, and last time I went was under construction
  23. disney park #1: disneyland LA in the 1980s
  24. disney park #2: disneyland paris in the 1990s
  25. disney park #3: tokyo disneyland in the late 1990s – early 2000s
  26. disney park #4: hong kong disney in the 2000s
  27. disney park #5: walt disney world orlando 2009-2011
  28. distillery: bourbon trail kentucky — drove down from chicago, visited 8 distilleries
  29. distillery: scotch whisky — islay over the long easter weekend, visited almost all the distilleries
  30. distillery: world whisky: yamazaki at the beginning of our kansai trip
    nz0551minus nz1610zorb

  32. drinks at an ice bar — queenstown new zealand, at a place called 5-degree
  33. extreme sport 1 — did one run in a zorb in new zealand
  34. extreme sport 2 — paragliding at pattaya beach, just for about 5-10mins, the most enduring memory was how quiet it was up there
  35. fjords norway** — waking up and seeing that we’d cruised into geirangerfjord and then walking around the village was one of the highlights of the cruise

  37. france: côte d’azur — drove from zurich, stayed at nice, pebble beach at cannes, beautiful coast
  38. france: paris sights — eiffel tower, champs elysée, place de la concorde, notre dame, sacre coeur, le louvre (the mona lisa is smaller than expected and hidden behind hordes of people and a thick, thick glass case), musée d’orsay, seine cruise
  39. france: provence — no wonder people want to spend all of their holidays there, or move there entirely
  40. gamble in las vegas — mostly slots
  41. gamble in macau — slots too and i think some craps, hated the smoke
  42. glacier — franz josef glacier new zealand, probably one of the top 3 best experiences in my life, we took a helicopter up to the glacier, had a 3 hour walk and helicopter down
  43. glass floor up high — cn tower in toronto
  44. greenwich meridian (part of maritime greenwich**) — one foot on either side of GMT, fun
  45. ground zero nyc — just a year before 9/11 I was a new yorker, it was too close to home and i still feel so sad about it
  46. guinness in dublin — the guinness factory is the #1 attraction in dublin but more of a touristy museum, the admission included the oppotunity to pull and enjoy your own pint (bonus: jameson and redbreast in dublin too)
  47. hawaii — went when I was quite young so I don’t have many memories aside from pristine beaches
  48. hawker centre singapore — so much food, so little time

  50. hong kong — it’s on some people’s bucket list, stuff like peak tram, normal tram, star ferry, big buddha, night markets; i can also see part of the symphony of lights from my living room
  51. hot spring — onsen hotel in japan, hokkaido and shirahama. cameras are not allowed but i took some during the day when the onsen was empty
  52. independence day fireworks at the mall washington dc — wow
  53. japan bullet train — we travelled from tokyo to the fuji mountain area on the shinkasen
  54. kangaroo and koala in australia — just petted them, didn’t hold the koala, do people realise how stinky they are?
  55. kyoto temples and palaces** — beauty, tranquility, dignity
  56. lavender fields — farm tomita at furano japan
  57. legoland — the one at windsor with sis and gis
  58. little mermaid copenhagen — smaller than expected
  59. loch ness — no, there is no monster there, only a very pretty highland landscape
  60. london — it is one of the most important cities in the world, and so much to do. did the touristy stuff but what i see when i think about london are the parks, the markets, the architecture, restaurants, pubs, theatre, museums, street performers, the history and the people
    places055lendl places055martina

  62. major sporting event — went to wimbledon, the players that day included ivan lendl, martina navratilova, chris everett, those days a ground ticket got us into court 2
  63. maze — completed the maze at hampton court
  64. monaco grand prix — drove part of the grand prix circuit in a volvo estate — okay, the monaco grand prix circuit is basically the roads in and around monte carlo so anyone can do that but still, I can say I’ve been to monte carlo
  65. museum of modern art nyc — enjoyed it very much, even though not a big art or museum person
  66. new zealand — we were there for 2 weeks, it was nowhere near enough time
    mpngra002amfalls tor190falls

  68. niagara falls — has been on mum’s wishlist for a long time, so I made sure she got her wish
  69. niagara falls completely frozen — the entire waterfall was frozen, and some of the lake too, it was awesome

  71. night safari — in singapore and australia, so different to be going around in pitch darkness and keeping very quiet
  72. olympic games — sigh, London 2012 Team GB. saw the torch, beach volleyball, archery, 2 diving finals, not forgetting the paralympics athletics, tennis, rugby, football, goalball and boccia, table tennis, fencing, volleyball
  73. outdoor concert event — hard rock calling london, lollapolooza chicago
  74. pisa — climbed to the top of the leaning tower, did not do the stupid tourist optical illusion of propping it up
  75. rome historical sites** — including colosseum, wedding cake (vittorio emanuele monument), spanish steps, trevi fountain
  76. safari — we went to the masai mara reserve in kenya — africa changes people, we saw giraffe, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, servor cat, baboon, monkey, zebra, rhino, wilderbeest, topi, gazelle, impala, hartbeest, eland, waterbuck, bushbuck, hyena, jackel, warthog, wild pig, mongoose, vulture, eagle, malibu, flamingo, pelican, ostrich, camel
  77. safari park — disney’s animal kingdom doesn’t count? anyway i’ve been to woburn and longleat
  78. san francisco — mission, haight/ashbury, the castro, lombard street, cable car, ferry building, fisherman’s wharf, golden gate bridge — personal motorbike tour

  80. scottish island — the main purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery but the rest of orkney blew us away (metaphorically and quite literally)
  81. sears tower — no, not willis tower, sorry, and not a tourist attraction for me cos the office was a few blocks away, visited the observation deck when i had visitors
  82. ski on fresh snow — sigh, beautiful, at st anton austria
  83. sleep in an airport — it was that epic journey 15hrs to JFK then the connection to ORD was cancelled and I slept overnight on the floor next to a vending maching at JFK. still no flights the next day so I rented a car and drove 16hrs to chicago
  84. sleep on a train — overnight sleeper from zurich via leipzig to prague with my friend ah tan, quite an old train, it said Deutsche Bahn but we thought it was an east german train 2001
  85. sleep under the stars — on safari in kenya; technically it was a tent, with beds and a basic ensuite bathroom; it was completely dark outside, we could hear animals in the wild and see the sky filled will stars
  86. smithsonian washington dc — awesome

  88. snow and beach together — visited chile, went skiing one day then to the beach another
  89. souk — the souk at tunis was part of a shore excursion and honestly we felt ripped off
  90. st peter’s vatican** — there is a chapel at the side for prayers only, this was my favourite place it was so quiet and spiritual
  91. stand on the equator — even got a certificate
  92. stand on the tropic of cancer — on the east coast of taiwan
  93. statue of liberty nyc** — we could climb all the way to the inside of the crown, a very cramped space with enough time for a quick look around and a picture
  94. stay in a capsule hotel — not quite as small as the ones in japan, I stayed at the yotel at heathrow a couple of times
  95. stay in a tatami room — our first choice in japan, if a hotel offers traditional vs western rooms, is to opt for the traditional tatami room
  96. stonehenge** — back then it wasn’t roped off and we could walk around the stone circles


  98. swiss alps — i left it till quite late in my switzerland residency to visit the matterhorn, drove over to zermatt, stayed overnight to see the mountain in the morning; also been to lauterbrunnen valley, skiing at st moritz, davos and a few other places on the mountains; spent christmas at murren, a hamlet accessible only via cable car, no cars, 2 streets
  99. swiss lakes — luzern, interlaken, thun, lugano not to mention lake zurich isn’t bad either
  100. switzerland panoramic train journeys — did glacier express and the train to jungfraujoch
  101. sydney opera house** — first time in 1999, then many subsequent visit
  102. times square on new year’s eve — okay, I cheated, I went during the afternoon of 31-dec-1999 and had a look-see before the crowds; at midnight at the end of the millenium I was at a rooftop party somewhere in east village NYC
  103. tokyo tsukiji fish market — tiny stalls with the freshest sushi, long queues but definitely worth the wait
  104. tree top walk — at the macritchie nature reserve singapore

  106. uk historical buildings — let’s see, buckingham palace, windsor castle, tower of london, parliament, westminster abbey, canterbury cathedral, leeds castle, hever castle, blenheim palace, woburn abbey, edinburgh castle, longleat house, too many to name
  107. uk museum: british museum, natural history museum, science museum, national gallery, national portrait museum, victoria & albert museum, the museums at greenwich, RAF museum at hendon
  108. vasa museum stockholm — the most visited museum in scandanavia and I can see why, lovingly restored the only remaining 17th century boat in the world
  109. venice** — there were the canals, the lagoon and the bridges, and crossing from one side of a canal to the other on the standing gondola. we also found small squares and wine bars just outside the hustle and bustle of the main tourist spots
  110. vienna historic centre** — who says the city of romance is paris, it should be vienna: from the cathedral to the opera house to the parks with graves of mozart, beethoven, strauss — small enough city for walking

  112. vineyard — australia, new zealand, alsace, chateauneuf-du-pape, sonoma valley, wine train chile
  113. waitamo caves new zealand — glow-worms, and our timing was so lucky
  114. whale and dolphin watching — kaikura new zealand
  115. wizarding world of harry potter at universal orlando — the dizzy hogwarts ride and butterbeer


Weekend trip to mm’s apartment in shunde. On the list of things to do: fix water heater and tv cable. Nothing much to do with me, but I thought I’d tag along. Early morning 8.10am coach got us there at around noon so we headed straight to the restaurant for lunch — we only had backpacks for the overnight stay so minimal luggage.

It’s a dim sum restaurant and they served tea a little more sophisticated than usual (so they can charge more) — the hot water continued to boil in a kettle, the tea is made in a small purple sand teapot before pouring into a jug to dispense into tiny cups. Nice tea. Pretty nice lunch too, we had dim sum and congee.

Back to her flat to wait for the gas tech while I sat around reading. No internet, but I had the kindle. Late afternoon we headed out again to the nearby market. Very local, with both a main covered market and other sellers selling fruits, vegetables lined up on both sides of the pavement.

This woman sold us green vegetables for ¥2 (20p or thereabouts) a catty, which filled the whole small plastic bag. She was still using those traditional scales, which arguably can be inaccurate, but for that price, who cares?

I got a new screen protector for the iphone and we snacked on fried tofu flavoured with cumin, salt and a little pepper. The epitome of steet food and it was delicious. Another ¥2.

We bought loads of veg, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, ginger, bread, sweets and biscuits. Very heavy bags walking back to her place.

Dinner was hotpot at a nearby restaurant. Pumpkin soup base and we ordered pork balls, minced fish, sun fish, tofu, dried tofu and vegetables. The fish was fresh, the filets went into the hotpot and the heads and tails were steamed in a separate plate. Perfect dinner.

shun201401tea shun201412tofu

shun201404cane shun201405mandarin

I didn’t bring my camera, I just used the iphone. Between vine and instagram I have everything I need for casual record of the trip.

#35: world heritage sites visited

Task #35 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge: make a list of World Heritage sites visited. This is as of January 2014. 45/981, by country:

  1. australia: blue mountains — first visit was 1999
  2. australia: sydney opera house — same visit in 1999, then many many subsequent visits
  3. wh003schonbrunn wh004vienna
    schönbrunn | vienna

  4. austria: palace and gardens of schönbrunn outside vienna — visited twice, once when I was very small on a tour with parents, then in 2001 with mm, but I never wrote up that trip
  5. austria: historic centre of vienna — same as schönbrunn visits, such a beautiful, walkable city
  6. belgium: la grand place brussels — twice in 2012, once during chip and choc walk and then with mum
  7. chile: historic quarter of valparaiso — part of my big trip in 2007 to visit my friend K
  8. china: imperial palaces beijing — beijing tour, sometime when I was still at school
  9. china: summer palace bejiing — same tour
  10. china: temple of heaven beijing — tour again, this was actually quite nice
  11. china: great wall — all I remember was how crowded and unruly the people there were, a tourist trap
  12. czech republic: historic centre of prague — first visit was in 2000 when the eastern european bloc were just opening up subsequently visited in 2011 and 2012
  13. france: palace & park of versailles: with parents on that european tour
  14. france: banks of river seine at paris: not going to count how many times, most recently in 2012
  15. france: historic centre of avignon — avignon was our de facto base of operations during our provence trip, beautiful historic town
  16. hungary: banks of river danube at budapest: same trip as vienna in 2001 that I never wrote up
  17. italy: historic centre of florence — been there several times, first with parents then the fortnight with mm in 1997
  18. italy: piazza del duomo at pisa — parents tour trip, pisa was a bit of a tourist trap
  19. wh018venice wh020verona
    venice | verona

  20. italy: venice and its lagoons — long weekend from zurich 2001 with my friend tan
  21. italy: historic centre of rome — so many places to visit, colosseum, spanish steps, wedding cake, trivoli fountain, something to see everywhere; multiple visits, most recently during mediterranean cruise in 2013
  22. italy: city of verona: long weekend from zurich 2001, really a city of romance
  23. japan: historic monuments of ancient kyoto — there are so many historical sites, temples and palaces it will take several visits to cover them all, we did a few on our first trip 2013
  24. korea: changeokgung palace complex at seoul — on our birthday trip 2006
  25. macau: historic centre of macau — usually don’t associate macau with world heritage sites, but it is worth visiting and there are more to see than casinos and furniture shops
  26. new zealand — te wahipounamu south-west new zealand including mount cook national park and fjordland national park visited during the two week driving trip 2005
  27. berg109harbour wh030lauterbrunnen
    bergen | lauterbrunnen valley

  28. norway: bryggen — the old wharf at bergen was part of the cruise trip 2013 with parents
  29. norway: west norwegian fjords — also on the same 2013 cruise trip we sailed around the fjords with geirangerfjord being one of the highlights
  30. switzerland: st gallen abbey — easy train ride to st gallen from zurich 2000, we went there to visit the olma, an agricultural fair
  31. switzerland: old city of bern — the swiss capital was kinda boring, but worth a visit
  32. switzerland: 3 castles, wall and ramparts of bellinzona, switzerland — the italian part of switzerland was a bit further to drive but so beautiful, went there a few times either to lugano or on the way to italy
  33. switzerland: swiss alps jungfrau-aletsch — took the train up the jungfrau during christmas 2000 and then with mum
  34. tunisia: medina of tunis — what we visited was a world heritage site? perfume shop, carpet shop, tourist traps
  35. uk: city of bath — to think that I almost did my first degree there — bath accepted me for chemistry before king’s came through the last minute
  36. uk: blenheim palace — back when we felt like we were tourists we did blenheim and oxford in a day
  37. wh034canterbury wh042stonehenge
    canterbury | stonehenge

  38. uk: canterbury cathedral — my college friend came from there and she invited me to stay, and then of course mm went to school nearby
  39. uk: cornwall and devon mining landscape — what a beautiful part of the country, last visited cornwall
  40. uk: devon and east devon coast: pretty sure we’ve stopped off there
  41. uk: old and new town of edinburgh — first visited when young, then with mm and a bunch of friends, then with RM and mum 2012
  42. uk: maritime greenwich — lots of changes there, much more to see now
  43. uk: royal botanical gardens at kew — in my mind kew = M4 roundabout, but there is the renowned Kew Gardens there
  44. uk: heart of neolithic orkney — even though the purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery, the standing circles at stenness were very impressive when we visited 2012
  45. uk: stonehenge, avebury and associated sites — went to stonehenge when we first came to london, in those days it wasn’t roped off and we could walk inside the stone circles
  46. uk: tower of london — visited when we first came to london, then never again
  47. uk: palace of westminster and abbey — seen it, ran past it, drove past it
  48. usa: statue of liberty — visited when young, when we could climb all the way up to the crown
  49. vatican: vatican city — every catholic should go at least once

potter adventure

video link: http://youtu.be/5Yw8HF29e4U

The afternoon after the con finished, a group of us went to islands of adventure. There were 11 of us, and we took 3 cars. I was the only one who had visited before, but that didn’t mean I was less excited. We headed straight to the wizarding world of harry potter and began exploring. I ended up having 2 frozen butterbeers and fish & chips. After we went on the forbidden journey ride. At someone else’s suggestion, we all went on the single rider line, which meant only 5-10min wait. The pods were enclosed anyway, so it didn’t make any difference going as a group or as a single. I remembered how dizzying it was, and I must confess to having my eyes closed for the worst parts. I did take the video of the whole ride though.

Then it was a matter of riding every water ride there was, so we all got soaked. I dragged a few to the Spiderman ride, which I experienced from the first row with a huge grin throughout — this is one ride I love and am not afraid of. It started getting dark and a little bit thundery towards the end. We managed to do the whole park in about 4 hours.

#38(1) new US state: Florida


It’s been a while since I visited a new US state, and I deleted a few off an earlier list cos I just drove through them. This new one is genuine, I arrived in Orlando today for a week of combined holiday and conference. This is just a quick snap that I twittered, it was taken as we were walking from our hotel to the restaurant at Downtown Disney. It was threatening to rain, hence the blue-grey sky. There will naturally be a full set of pics and detailed write-ups when the trip is done.

haute route

We caught the Globe Trekker episode on the haute route by accident. We were totally riveted watching it — a seven-day ski tour of the highest peaks of the Alps. Oh.my.god. It looks an absolute, stupendous, “I wanna do this” fantasy.

First tackled by the members of the Alpine Club in the mid 19th Century, it was originally a hiking route from Chamonix to Zermatt. The ski route was first tackled in 1911. The English name was “The High Route” but the French version became more prominent.

The ski route takes 7 days, and the hiking takes about 2 weeks. Needless to say, participants need to be extremely fit as well an advanced off-piste skier. They also need to have luck on their side, because bad weather can totally ruin the well planned itinerary. Tours usually allow an extra day for delays. At around £825 half board (flights, lunches, insurance and equipment are extra) it’s not cheap … for staying at basic mountain huts. But I’m willing to bet it’s a great experience.

I’ll never reach any sort of proficiency at skiing to attempt this; but may be I’ll keep hiking as a pipedream.

Sigh. I wish.

old pics

I found some really old pictures in my external hard disk. Pictures from when I was in Zurich, when me and my friends used to travel all over the place — Munich, Stuttgart, Prague, Milan, Venice, Verona, Alsace, Paris, Nice and all the place in Switzerland. I must have a ton of photo CDs from those days I should try to dig out and load. But meanwhile this is one pic I really really like. Christmas 2001, a happy time. My niece was born a month ago and Mum came to London to stay with Sis. Then when I had to go back to Zurich she came with me to visit a little. With my regular travelling friends (Agnes, YL, Frank, Carolyn) we went to Munich to the Christmas Market. Here’s a picture of the famous Frauenkirche in Munich in the background, and a glüwein stall with miniature replicas of the twin towers. Very cute.


Quality isn’t that great, cos it was taken with my 2.1 megapixel original ixus — low resolution, small size (1600×1200). But I like this one very much. Reminds me of the good times I had in Zurich.

not spinning

via cnet and a bunch of techie, geeky, weird stuff websites, here’s one rollercoaster for the adventurous, but only if you have lots of insurance.

The Skycycle (Japanese site — English translation) in Okayama Japan isn’t terribly terrifying — it doesn’t have any loops or whizz its passengers around while seemingly suspended in mid-air or offer experiences of near-zero gravity. Instead, the passengers do all the work, they need to pedal themselves around the track quite a height above ground. The “bikes” look like the ancient types you see in very old fashioned amusement parks.

Heh. Take that, spinning.


better than bathrooms on planes

Okay, I don’t normally frequently post stuff that’s more than PG-13 (um, except the one about the customised paddles or the other one about the SMS-enabled vibe) but I just gotta admire how entrepreneurial this guy is.

Via USA Today. Now couples who want to join the mile high club but don’t want to be rushed, or cramped into tiny smelly airplane bathrooms (cos, not many people dare, or have the opportunity to, do it in the passenger cabin) should make their way to Atlanta.

$299 buys them a whole hour in the secluded cabin of a specially customised Piper Cherokee 6 that is guaranteed to reach an altitude of at least 5,280 feet, an ultra discreet pilot, a bottle of champagne and a certificate. Oh, and “you get to keep your sheets as a souvenir of this special event.” Although I have reservations about the sheets, they’re this awful pink colour.

This seems a tad too deliberate for me. I thought part of getting to be a member of the mile high club involves a certain degree of illicitness, adventure … and the fear of being seen / found out. That’s the adrenalin rush that makes it so titillating. Paying for it and enjoying an hour of fun is all very well, but it doesn’t beat the real thing.

IMHO, YMMV and all that.

travels in the troubled world

mm is in Israel, on her pilgrimage. The Foreign Office advises against travelling to the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and warns travellers to be vigilant in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and basically the whole of Israel. Terrorism and such like has never really bothered or scared me, there are 100+ people travelling with her and they’re on a religious journey.

Nevertheless, I asked her to email me more often so I know she’s okay. I’ll be more comfortable when they reach Italy next week.