2015 Philadelphia Auto Show

Shiny paint, hot girls in tight pants, new car smell, big horsepower, powerful engines and steep price tags are spread out across the carpeted floors of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I’m not a car guy, but everybody here is a car guy tonight. Continue reading “2015 Philadelphia Auto Show”

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Saguaro National Park ~ Arizona

Ancient Americans knew the secret of the silent cactus. They represented the memory of ancestors. In shadows or in groups, the plants can resemble a human shape. The cacti can be over 30 feet tall, live to be over 100 years old and are only found in the Sonoran desert of Arizona and Mexico. Continue reading “Saguaro National Park ~ Arizona”

Italian Churches ~ The Power of Image

No matter your religion or beliefs, Jesus suffered that day. The Catholic Church will never let us forget it. When you walk into their relics of religion, the pain of his final day is prominent. Some people even wear the cross as a reminder of mortality and human sin. Continue reading “Italian Churches ~ The Power of Image”

A Photographic Journey Through Venice

Pictures of my day trip through one of the most photographed cities in the world.

Continue reading “A Photographic Journey Through Venice”

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Japanese Ryokan

Weary travelers (who have plenty of money) can find an amazing experience at the classic Japanese inn, a.k.a.–Ryokan. It’s a combination of restaurant, sauna and community center. We checked in, stocked up on sake at the local 7-11, took a quick dip in the volcanic heated spring water pool and put on our robes for dinner.

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The dinner was quite an experience, served with the classic Japanese focus on presentation creating a mindset for better taste. The food was varied, delicately flavored and filling.

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I really liked the green tea.

 

After a post dinner soak and a schvitz in the sauna, it was time to get comfortable. There were several fluffy blankets and soft pads to make a bed on the clean floor. We used all six of the pads and blankets to make a marshmallow bed.

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The next morning was a big buffet breakfast complete with sticky fermented soy beans, fish and vegetables. It’s not the soggy eggs and limp bacon on most buffet menus. It was an expensive night, but such a full course of Japanese culture.

We were in the middle of nowhere and near a big lake on a quiet moonlit night.

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Singapore Streets and Towers

The architecture of Singapore reminded me of an ultra-modern Chicago–lots of various styles and magnificent skyscrapers coupled with the gritty urban design of immigrants and blue collar workers. It was such a change from months walking around the less vertical cities of SE Asia.

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And they’re still building more.

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This is the Fullerton Hotel and Raffles Hotel respectively. Fullerton is on the marina and was built where the old naval base was located. The Raffles was built to commemorate the British founder of Singapore. Both were glorious 500-700 US$ a night affairs.

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And of course, the famous, Korean built, Marina Bay Towers. It looks like a subway train got trapped atop some giant Lego’s. It was impressive, but there really wasn’t much to see in Singapore. It felt like a place to eat and enjoy the locals in their environment.

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What better way to finish the day than by some quality (albeit overpriced I’m sure) massage and champagne room time. Our hotel was located in a red light district where girls in tiny dresses were visible day and night. Businessmen were constantly flowing out of the rooms with stupid grins and a satisfied gait.

Singapore Eats

The tiny little island nation of 5 million people likes to eat. There are food hawkers everywhere. Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street all offer local versions of their distant flavors. The weather is hot, and they fight fire with fire. But, you can’t mention anything about Singapore without talking about price. In other words, it’s silly expensive.

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How much would you pay for this Singapore Sling (from Raffles Hotel (the origin of this sweet sweet drink)) and a plate of baby sliders? The answer: 52 US$. Yes, the peanuts were free, and we ate lots of them, but 52 dollars for a drink and a mediocre appetizer? That’s ridiculous!

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This was a noodle soup that left my mouth burning for hours after consumption. I was panting like a dog and unable to finish it.

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A nameless Indian buffet that was pretty good and reasonably priced.

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This was from the first restaurant I saw after exiting the subway in Little India. It was a preachy vegetarian restaurant with lots of facts and Gandhi quotes about how being a veggie eater was morally and intestinally superior. Despite the proselytizing, it was excellent food. It was a thin bread stuffed with potatoes and peas. The dipping sauces were so good, and it’s always fun to eat with your hands and not get too messy.

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On a rainy day, there’s nothing better than a warm soup with a tasty, delicate broth.

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This tasted like it looks, burnt. Not too good for being so famous–some kind of chicken hot pot.

My feelings are not very mixed. Singapore is tasty but frustratingly expensive.

 

Chiang Mai ~ Night Bazaar

I couldn’t find good food despite everything I read about this city. I ate a noodle dish that literally was without taste. I encountered a bite with some black pepper and nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. I walked into a good looking place on Saturday night at 8pm, ravenous with hunger and delighted to find a clean restaurant, where I was immediately met with disappointment as they were closing the kitchen! At 8pm on a Saturday, good time to close down!? I was stuck eating Mexican burritos for the 3rd time in as many days. Because when you’re hungry and in a strange town, you take what you can get; especially when places are closing down an hour after sundown. I kept asking around and everyone said, “Night market, good food. Go there, many things to eat.” I went and it was cheap and salty. This city¬†doesn’t get my award for fulfilling the culinary delights for which Thailand is famous.

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You buy a coupon book, and find the food you want among the stalls. I went for soups.

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The first was Khao Soi–a noodle dish with spicy red curry broth.

The second was just called yellow noodle soup and recommended by the loquacious employee.

Here’s another nice Khao Soi.

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After all that salt and curry powder, I needed some mango. We took several pictures until she was pleased with this one.

Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai

They are the largest cat in the world. They are indisputably gorgeous. They are also killing machines capable of taking down elephants. They are now being stroked like an indolent kitty in a sunbeam. What a dream come true.

However, I was worried about how these majestic felines would be contained. I’ve heard the stories of drugging or over-punishment upon them, so research was necessary. Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai has a great system, and the animals seem happy. Some cages are still too small, and judging by their bellies, possibly over-fed for safety. But, unlike the Bangkok tiger sanctuary where the cats are kept on chains, these tigers are free to walk around (as long as it’s not in the direction of a visitor). I paid about 45US$ for the full package of tigers–smallest, small, medium and large. The smallest tigers were only 3 months old!

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Such a baby face, full of curiosity. We moved on to the small (5-6 months) and medium next.

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This tiger loved me! He showed me his belly and then started stretching his long legs and giant padded paws all over me just like domestic cats. So amazing to interact with these endangered creatures.

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This was the big girl. Our trainer said she was aggressive.

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My love for cats evinced.

Thank you tigers for making me happy. I hope you are too.

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