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Posts filed under 'travel'

La Traviata

Went to see Renee Fleming perform La Traviata last Wednesday.  All ticket were sold out long ago so I bought standing room ticket last minute.  It was as good as it can get (unfortunately I have to go by myself).  The story was about a young countess, Fleming of course, doesn’t believe if love, got wooed by this young men, later died of sickness.  As the title progresses, the countess’s tone went from bright and powerful to mournful with plenty of sound stage.

One thing is you do get what you paid for.  Normal European opera house are 3 stories high, seating maybe 500-700 people.  The Met is probably 3 times as big, which means the sound has to fill a bigger space and her voice has to travel further.  On the top of the ceiling, I can definitely feel the sound getting a little weak.  I would absolutely go see this again next year, with better seats.

Add comment November 16th, 2007


Went to see Wintuk during their premier weekend. As a Cirque du Soleil show, this one is really disappointing. The show was about a little boy in NYC looking for snow. Naturally it incorporate a lot of NY elements in it. IMO it tried too hard and lost what Cirque du Soleil is about. In most other performance, the show is carefully divined into a few segments and each is orchestrated with multiple elements in the scene. This one fell short by only have one dominating element in each scene while other character
merely stand on stage and observed.

If you consider coming to NYC, this is not a bed show to see, as it incorporates many of the NYC elements such as Central Park, construction sites, homeless people, garbage trucks, etc. But as a Cirque du Soleil, you are not missing anything if you skip it.

Add comment November 7th, 2007

Strange Signs

Passed by a Chinese foot massage place in West Village. Pretty wired place. Not sure if I would go in even if it’s free…

What’s that extra 1 minute for?

And hot dog and fish and chip is just the kinda food I want to have while having a massage…

Add comment November 23rd, 2006


Of the 4 years I am here, I’ve never been to Portland. So I decided to take a small trip. I took the train, which buys me some time to read a book. Myriam recommended a place call St. Honore, which was my first stop. The pastry was amazingly good. Other than than, Portland has nothing worth visiting. Before we got on the train back we picked up a panini from this Italian dessert place, which was just as good.

Add comment September 5th, 2005

A small overlooked story


When I was waiting for the bus today, I overheard two old ladies talking. They started talking about how nice the dried fish smell at the store and how the shop keeper agreed that they are good dried fish. Then one lady started talking about how this one place has pork butt for $1.99 a pound. And this other place has it for $2.49, but their meat is fresher. So her buddy rebut saying fresh is not alway better. She reaffirm saying if it was $2.09 she would have gotten it. This went on for about 15 minutes, and would have go on for another 15 if the bus didn’t come. What strick me is that even when we are at the same station, we live in completely different world.

Which makes me more determined to explored the rest of America. Considered it a mini vacation, I want to experience working at Mcdonald or walmart to see what it is like, and what people are like. Is education the new class system in the US? I am about to find out in Sept.

Add comment July 15th, 2005

a culinary journey

One of the most amazing things about the trip to Japan is the food. When we were traveling from Tokyo to Beppu, I couldn’t help but notice the huge differences in the regional food. With a size not bigger than California, it is amazing that these differences are so apparent. One thing for sure is that Japanese, like the French, take pride in the origin of their produces. Even Calbee potato chips have special edition made with salt from different regions.

Japan is an island economy, which means for a long period of time, its population is fairly isolated. And for a long period of time, the feudal social system didn’t really encourage migration of people. So you end up with pockets of economy that depends heavily on its local produces and commerce. That on top of geographical limitation, you get a very interesting mix of food.

One thing we must not forget is the stickiness of cuisine from its origin. Even though Hong Kong is an international metropolis with much of its population coming from different regions of China, its main diet is still Cantonese cuisine. So it’s not surprising to find Tokyo and Kyoto having distinct differences in their’s food offerings. Being closer to the water, Tokyo’s diet (and much of its supermarket shelves) made up of mostly fresh fish and seafood, while vegetable and fruit command an astronomical price. A watermelon can set you back $100 USD, where the same green fruit only goes for $16 in Hiroshima. Arbitrage? Not with a 75lb backpack.

Kyoto on the other hand belongs to the Kansai region. A walk in their market you’ll notice the high number of stores specializing in pickled vegetable. However, they are very different from those in Takayama. Takayama locates between Kyoto and Tokyo in the mountain region. Because it doesn’t have access to sea water fish, their diet consists mostly of fresh water fish, miso, wild mushroom, wild ferns, beef and pickled vegetables. The majority of their pickled vegetables are root varieties. And they are only lightly pickled that much of the original taste remains. In Kyoto you can find pretty much everything under the sun being pickled.

In Kyoto, most of the fish consumed are either cooked or preserved; with the most popular item being broiled conger eel and salt cured saba pressed sushi. Dried fish was very popular too. I am suspecting it has a lot to do with military purpose. Back in the days, Kyoto is a strategic location for west Japan. While visiting the Hemiji Castle I was impressed by the ingenuity they put into incorporating the defense strategy into the building. Being able to control your food and water reserve is a very powerful tool from a military standpoint. Having preserved vegetable as your stable diet would allow greater mobility when deploying your troops and buy you valuable time in a enclosed defense.

Traveling to KoyaSan was not only a nice change of pace, but also an experience in culinary sense. KoyaSan is a Buddhist retreat build in the mountains. 3 transfer and 2 hours from Kyoto later, we arrived at KoyaSan. The air is crisp and clean, so as the food. One of its main diets is tofu, different kinds of tofu. Some are first dried, and then rehydrated; some are creamy and taste like milk; some have the taste of sesame paste. Other vegetables are cook with only a subtle taste, mostly with sake. You really need to clear out your mind to be able to taste it.

Traveling west we reached the China Perfection. It was named so for it proximity to mainland China. One would only expect this geographical proximity brings infusion of culture. You can definitely notice that in the food court. Instead of fresh fish or pickled vegetables, it was filled with pork and other seafood slow cooked in sweet soya sauce. Dumpling and sticky rice is very popular too. The taste of the food is definitely stronger. One of the dish in our dinner in Miyajima was a whole fish cooked in sweet soya sauce, something done very often to Chinese cooking. Later it strick me as strange, because the origin of these cooking usually comes from regions that are not able to get a fresh supply of seafood. Japan, esp Miyajima, being an island would never have that problem. Which further confirm that it has to be an outside influence.

Going further south we reached Beppu. The food…don’t even mention it. It was horrible. Being on a vocanic region, it relies heavily on geothermo energy. Which means a lot of cooking was done by the streams of hot springs. Everything taste like the water that you take your bath in. So they tried to cover up the taste by condiments such as mayo, whcih makes it even worst. The only thing that was good about the food in this place was its fruit. Vocanic soil is pretty much the richest soil you can ask for. But other than that, if you like the smell of sweaty feet, this would be heaven!

If you are willing to take the time to stop and listen to your food, it too will tell you a lot about the history of the place.

Add comment July 10th, 2005

Japan Trip

Japan Landscape
I’ve move the photos and blog on my Japan trip to

Add comment July 10th, 2005

Cirque du Soleil

Saw the O from Cirque du Soleil when I was Vegas. It was one of the most amazing show I’ve seen. The show starts with a member of the audience being dragged on stage, and the curtain opens up to a amazing Tim Burton world. With French color guards and carousel horses, ballet girl and half bodies man, all floating and dancing in the air. Immediately you are sucked into this surreal world the choreographer carefully created. Those who are interested in the soundtrack and are on m4a, let me know.

The storyline (if there is such a thing in
Cirque du Soleil shows) is about a boy (the guy from the sudience) chasing after a beautiful young girl with into this imagenary world. The chase lead the audience from one scene to another. Everytime he is almost there, the girl would slip out of his hand. It is as if that beautiful young girl exist only in his imagination.

In a way it reminds me of one of my friend. She is relatively sucessful accountant, pretty hot, dances well. But she set her standard so high that turn off a of of really nice guys. She wants someone who are more successful and more educated than she is, socially popular, funny, open doors and pull out chairs for her. Someone who knows about wine, someone who can take her to operas and shows and state dinners. It is as if she keep chasing this imaginary guy who doesn’t exist.

I was talking to Tracy the other day. Is it true that our education limit the pool of potential mates? She just got a master from Yale, and I was telling her how difficult it is to find someone who can share a conversation with you. Appearantly she had that same conversation with Edith a while ago. Is higher edication adversely affecting morden women finding their singnificant others?

Add comment May 25th, 2005

Japan Trip

Setting sail on June 25th

Day 0 (flight to Tokyo)
Most flight to Tokyo departs in the afternoon.

Day 1 (Tokyo)
We’ll arrive at Tokyo in the afternoon 24 hours later (timezone). Today
is a free day. Because people are arriving at differet time, we’ll meet
at the hotel in the evening. We should go out.

Day 2 (Tokyo)
We’ll wake up, walk around Tokyo. There is a lot to see. We won’t have
time to see everyhing, but we’ll get a flavor of it. Get some good food.
We’ll get a good night sleep tonight.

Day 3 (Mt Fuji)
Today is the day. Those who wish to wake up for the Tokyo fish market can
do so. And we can go for breakfast. Otherwise we’ll take the 9:30am
train to Mount Fuji. Mt Fuji is an active volcano that’s 12460ft high.
We’ll take a bus from the train station to the middle of the mountain.
The mountain is divided into 10 stations. We’ll start our hike from the
fifth station. There are lockers where we can store our stuff. The bus
takes about 1 hour. We’ll sleep on the train and the bus and start our
climb at about 1.

If you can run 4 miles in 1 hour, you can climb this mountain.
Conservatively speaking it takes 5-8 hours to get to summit. Elevation
gain is 4640ft. It’s rainy season, but we should be good once we go above
the low cloud. The lodging includes dinner and breakfast. We’ll be
staying at 8th station for the night. There’s nothing to do at the 8th
station. We’ll get a good night sleep

Day 4 (Mt Fuji)
We’ll wake up at 4:00am to continue the climb. We’ll try to be at the top
by sunrise. It takes 1.5 hours to do a full circle on the rim. We’ll
head down at 9:00am to catch the 2:00pm bus. We’ll take another train to
Takayama. We’ll have dinner at Takayama and stay there for the night.

Day 5 (Takayama)
When Kyoto was built, everything was built by hands without the use of
nails. Because of that they need a lot of craftsman. And Takayama is the
place these craftsman use to stay. Today it’s a town with much of its
heritage preserved. We’ll go visit some houses where these private
citizens lived in, check out the marning market, and take a look at some
local crafts. We’ll stay at Takayama for the second night.

Day 6 (Kyoto)
We’ll travel to Kyoto today. From Takayama it’s a 2 hour train ride.
We’ll leave either in the morning or at noon. Kyoto is a city where the
Royals used to live. We’ll see a lot of historical buildings being
preserved to its original shape. When we get to Kyoto, we’ll have some
time to walk around. We’ll do the philosopher’s walk, which connec a lot
of historical building on Kyoto together. The walk itself takes 1.5
hours. We’ll stay there for 3 nights

Day 7 (Himeji)
Today we’ll take a day trip to Himeji Castle just 2 hours away from Kyoto.
It’s kinda like the seeing a castle in London thing. One of those you
must do to say ou’ve been to Kyoto. It’s huge and it looks really nice in
the picture. I know nothing about it. But the travel book highly
recommended it, and it’s one of the world culture hertitage site.

Day 8 (Kyoto)
Today we’ll spend time in Kyoto, seeing the things we haven’t seen, which
should be a lot.

Day 9 (Koya San)
We have to get our asses to Koya San by 5:00pm to checkin for the night.
So we’ll leave in the morning. We’ll take a train and a cable car to get
there. The town is built around several main temple. We’ll be staying in
one of the smaller ones called Œõ–¾‰@. In buddism you have a lot of ideals
you can worship. Each temple is built for one or two.

The one we are staying at is some Prince something something. (http://
www.shukubo.jp/jpn/syuku/jiin/a/a43.htm) During the summer, the mountain
is usually filled with mist in the morning. Koya San gets a lot of
traffic during the day from different worshiper. But at night it’s
quiet and calm. Meals will be served at our temple, breakfast and
dinner. It’s vegaterian meal built around the famous Koya San tofu. (
http://www.shukubo.jp/jpn/syuku/form/ryouri.htm) Think of it as a going
to a spa. This again, is one of world culture heritage site.

Day 10 (Koya San)
Today we have the opportunity to participate in morning prayer. It’s
not mandatory, but since we cant read the words, it’s gonna be really
funny. After breakfast we’ll walk around. We’ll come back at night for
dinner. I wonder if we could sneak in some sake…

Day 11 (Hiroshima)
After breakfast we’ll leave for Hiroshima. There is nothing touristy to
see at Hiroshima. I made that mistake once when I go to Poland. The
entire city was flatten in second world war. The only thing there is
memorials. But it’s a stop we have to make to go to Miyajimi Island

Day 12 (Miyajimi Island)
Day trip to Miyajimi Island. The most famous site in Miyajima is the
red floating gate to a shine. It is also one of Japan’s national park.

Day 13 (beppu)
We’ll leave for Beppu. Beppu is a hot spring resort. It’s highly
commercialized just like any other hot spring resort. But it’ll be cool
to see what it is like. There are public bath houses we can check out.
But every local hotel should also come with it’s own hot spring bath.
We’ll stay here for a night.

Day 14 (beppu)
We’ll hang out in Beppu for one more day. We’ll take the evening
sleeper train to Tokyo. I’ll try t find out if we have to pay extra.

Day 15 (Home)
We’ll arrive at Tokyo in the morning. That would give us enough time
for the afternoon flight home. Because of timezine different, we’ll be
arriving on the same day one hour later.

That’s what I have so far…

Add comment January 29th, 2005

Peru Trip

Just got back yesterday from Peru, so i don’t have all the pictures
scanned in yet. Peru is considered a third world country. We went to a
city call Lima, then to the highland called Cusco, took a 4 day hike to
the Sacret Valley and Macchu Piccuh. The locals were very proud of their
inca heritage. The ruins were amazing. They are built not that long ago,
only maybe 400 years. But considering they are an isolated civilization
it is pretty amazing. The stone work for the temples were fabulous. They
developed a locking system with gold holding rings so they can withstand
large earthquakes. Being an agricultural community they worship the sun,
the water and the earth, and they developed quite a few instrumet to
measure things like first frost, sunrise and sunset time. They also
developed an extensive array of wall sized mirrors made of gold to reflect
the sun all around and into the temple. Unfortunately the governmet don’t
have the resource to reconstruct the stone work the same way the Incas
did, so you can clearly tell where the original stone were and where the
new one starts.

Come to think of it we kinda take for granted some of the social system
avaliable to the first world countries. A week before we were in Cuzco
there was a snow storm which distroy $7MM worth of crops. For some
farmers that’s half of their yield for the year. With their living
standard I can’t imagine they have much saved up for rainy days. In the
cities the people try very hard to make a living, mostly due to fiece
competition. Unlike in the States people are poor not because they don’t
want to do the work, but the lack of opportunities for advancement. In
many cases there is a simply a lack of capital. And there isn’t a well
established social safty net to help the poor. But the main problem I
think is the diffcult access to role models in a society with over 50% of
people in proverty. This particular problem has influence the social
economical advancement of some ethnic groups in the US. Everyone is so
busy making a living little attention is paid to investing in the future.
Which kinda makes me want to do something about it.

It is not that there is not enough resource for everyone in the world,
it’s just the distribution of it is skewed. I think eventually, no matter
have much first world countries doesn’t want, as logistics gets better,
there will be a redistribution of wealth in forms of agriculture and
manufacturing. Of course I always want more, but if I consider cutting my
salary in half, I can still live very comfortablly. But living standard
aside, I think the more importantly is the economic freedom that the third
world don’t have. The freedom to choose what we want to do, where we want
to live, which is much more than just the monetary value itself. Most of
the time first world countries tries to trade economic aid with issues
like conservations and human right. But in reality it is not that the
gov’t doesn’t want to do it, it’s just that they have to feed everyone
first. Which makes me thinks that with the modenization of China, a lot
of heritage will be gone in favor of the new found wealth. That’s
unfortunately inedvitable.

Add comment July 26th, 2004


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