Hachiko

In case you still haven’t seen that tearjerker of a movie, Hachiko is perhaps the most famous dog in all of Japan. His owner was a professor at the University of Tokyo and they would walk together to Shibuya Train Station every morning back in 1924. At the end of each work day Hachiko would meet the professor back at the station and then go home together. This routine continued on for about another year until the professor suffered a fatal haemorrhage at work. For the next nine years, Hachiko returned and waited patiently at Shibuya station for his owner that would never return again.

121204_HachikoSoon enough, people started to notice and bring treats to feed Hachiko while waiting. He became a national symbol of loyalty and soon enough a bronze statue was erected in one of Shibuya Station’s exits to honour him.  Unfortunately though, the original bronze statue was recycled during World War II and the above is the second statue commissioned in 1948. This bronze masterpiece still stands today and is a popular meeting spot in an otherwise crowded Shibuya.

Hachiko died in 1935 due to terminal cancer and a worm infection. His stuffed remains are kept in the  National Science Museum of Japan.

Happiest Place on Earth

Unlike some people, I’m really not big on theme parks. This is hugely because I’m terrified of the rides. Yep, I’m a wimp so shun me now! One of the things I do like about theme parks though is their attention to detail. They say the devil is in the details but as with Hong Kong Disneyland, apparently so is Mickey!

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Safety handrails with Mickey

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We should all see the world through Mickey shaped windows– and slowly go insane.

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Mickey blatantly discredits the expression “Poor as a mouse”. He’s worth billions of dollars! He does however, give joy to thousands of kids worldwide. Fine.

Jerusalem

It took me a while to make up my mind on whether I should post this photo or not. Maybe because the past few days have been an especially trying time for this region and I don’t know exactly what to say but an exasperated “Can’t you all just get along?”  To hear about all the aggression going on in the news after having been there only a few weeks earlier is partly sad but mostly maddening.

Like most people in the world, what I know of the Israel-Palestine region is whatever the news feeds me. I had a lot of naysayers telling me not to go through with my trip but heck, where would the world be if we all listened to the naysayers.  And so I went… and fell in love with everything.

Above is Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities on earth and home to three major religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. You don’t have to be deeply religious to grasp the cultural and historical richness of this region. You don’t even have to be an anthropology, art or architecture nut.

What’s needed is the basic understanding that none of these really matter if we don’t bother to preserve it and pass it on to the next generation. Preservation does not merely refer to the buildings nor artefacts but more importantly the people.  They are after all the heart of culture and no amount of reconstruction and restoration can make up for the loss of human lives.

Let’s Drink to What?

As a wise man once said “To alcohol… the cause of… and solution to all of life’s problems!” Truer words have never been spoken.

In line with the holidays, here are a few drunken bottle shots. Can you guess which countries these are from? (Hint: They are all from the same region)

Nothing spells vacation like daytime drinking.

Bottle or mug?

Ice cold

Alcohol– best condiment to any dish really

If all the light beer doesn’t cut it for you, then perhaps go for this one… aaaaand promptly say goodbye to your liver.

Enjoy the weekend!

Dining With the Carmelite Sisters

Located on the slopes of Mount Carmel is the Carmelite nunnery of Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa, Israel.  The monastery serves as a sort of spiritual headquarters throughout the world with sisters coming in from many different countries– some spend a few years to help while others stay on permanently.

Now the monastery itself has  a rich history but I’d like to focus on their dining room behind.

They aren’t exactly running a restaurant business and I’m not exactly a food critic but I’m gonna write a review nonetheless: They serve the best roast chicken I’ve ever tasted! There you go.

Bedouin Boy

We met while walking around Petra. Although I suspect deep down that he has swindled a couple of dinars from me for a few postcards, I can’t help but think it was a bargain. I’m blaming that smirk and shirt.

The Bedul tribe are a Bedouin group that inhabit Petra, Jordan. While they still maintain their traditional method of farming and agriculture, most nowadays are involved in the Petra tourism business– selling souvenirs, organizing guided tours and taking care of camels and horses used by the heftier tourists for transport.

While tourism is no doubt a good source of income, conservation should still be the utmost priority. This does not merely refer to ancient structures nor natural resources but also to the indigenous people of the region.

Let’s Get Lost

“Not until we are lost do we truly understand ourselves.”

– Henry David Theroux

Travelling, especially alone, forces you to:

Embrace your fears,

Unlearn prejudices,

See through a child’s eyes once again,

Seek comfort in the unfamiliar

and if you are lucky…

Fall in love with a stranger.

Note: Thank you for the many wonderful comments. They really do mean a lot. As I’m currently lost in the Middle East (Jordan), anyone want a postcard? (Btw, picture above is not from Jordan)

Boracay Sunset

This will always be one of my favorite shots because it’s a reminder of that perfect day spent in the small island of Boracay in the Philippines—I didn’t even have to get up from my lounge chair to take this photo. It’s like they all conspired and posed for me on cue!

Although getting to this paradise island requires a domestic flight, land trip and ferry ride, the beaches are surprisingly packed. Who can blame them (us!) though when you’ve got the perfect mix of powdery beaches, water sports, fantastic night life, fresh food and cheap beer. At night, the restaurants spill out their tables onto the beach complete with live music thus creating the perfect beach atmosphere. The beautiful people who walk by on occasion certainly enhance the experience too.

For a country spoilt with warm waters and white sands, Boracay certainly tops my list.

Bikes of China

People who know me might tell you that I have an unhealthy obsession with bicycles.  Well this is a blatant lie. Bicycles are extremely beneficial to your health! It’s good exercise and a great way to discover the city on the cheap. With a bike, you can go places that would otherwise be difficult to access by car or foot. And they just look unbelievably cool really.

To further prove my point, check out these Chinese folks on bikes!

Biking doesn’t have to be a solo venture.

Nor does it have an age limit

Electric bikes– if you can’t decide whether you want to pedal or a motor.

If you’re too lazy to pedal then just hire someone to do it then. 

This might not exactly be a bike but it still looks cool.

More rickshaws!

This kid approves!

Note: Hopefully, this would encourage you to start riding your bikes more often. 🙂