As you might have noticed, the blog format has been updated to reflect the changing times—or more specifically to soothe my control-freak-obsessive-compulsive tendencies better. I do like things done a specific way (yes, I realize I should see a shrink about this but I simply cannot afford one!) and the old format really wasn’t cutting it so THIS happened!
If there ever was a more stupidly spontaneous travel moment in my life, it would be when I took this photo. The Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world and it stretches across five countries: China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan. This picture below was taken from Nagarkot, Nepal and you could see the outline of the snow capped mountains looming in the distance. One of them should be Mount Everest. Which one? Oh I don’t know! I was busy trying not to lose my toes from the cold.
Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world and is the holy grail for serious mountaineers. You know, fit and athletic people unlike me. So how exactly did I end up here wearing only flip-flops? Well my shoe broke and so was I but hell, it’s not everyday that you get the chance to see the sunrise over the Himalayas even if it might cost me my toes! I’d have to say the view was well worth it. So there. No regrets.
Now it’s your turn. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve done in the spirit of travel and adventure?
Let’s face it. People travel mainly to get away from home. Yes, there are the exceptional few who are ‘forced’ to travel for work (lucky cows) but for the rest of us paying folks; we do it simply because we want to experience new things. What baffles me then is when travellers complain when faced with the unfamiliar. Surely I’m not alone in this but isn’t that the point of it all?
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
First of all, you are on their turf. If you cannot understand the customs or if the local cuisine isn’t to your liking then that really is too bad. But don’t expect them to know your language or have the same food you eat back home. It seems like simple logic but it’s amazing how many people I’ve met who are in the middle of paradise but are complaining about how only local food is served or how their usual toiletry brands are unavailable or that the locals can’t speak English. Uhm… Why don’t YOU speak their language?
Ignorance is not bliss
In this digital age, everything can be googled so there is really no excuse to not reading up on where you are travelling to beforehand. You don’t even have to buy guidebooks as most information is available online. At the very least, know what environment to expect, where to go, the exchange rate, the acceptable dress code and if you are an overachiever, the basic conversational phrases. This will not only save you from a lot of confusing moments but it will subconsciously help you appreciate the unfamiliar culture more readily.
You brought this upon yourself
So you’ve read through all the factoids about this new place including but not limited to the obscure local language, remote/ unsecure location and extreme cuisine YET you still booked the vacation. Well then, you brought this all upon yourself. The best you can do now is to actually keep an open mind and enjoy every new experience you encounter– even the misadventures because they’re really nothing more than character building exercises and possibly great stories you can share later on. At the end of it all anyway would you just rather be at home? I didn’t think so.
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.
Soon 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.
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!
Safety handrails with Mickey
We should all see the world through Mickey shaped windows– and slowly go insane.
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.
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.
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)
Enjoy the weekend!
The Singapore Zoo is hailed as one of the best in the world and it seems like it. The animals look well taken care of and healthy. However, I never really liked zoos. Maybe because of that penguin going bonkers while inside the zoo in Happy Feet or maybe because I’m just a plain old hippie. But all zoo animals just seem a little sad to me.
We need to get out of here! The staff won’t notice the stone elephant in our place!
How you view zoos I guess depends on what you value in life. Would you rather be in the wild and live a life of freedom and uncertainty or would you prefer to be in the zoo and live a routine yet comfortable lifestyle?
Note: Free all zoo animals!
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.