Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Thorn of Lion City

Reading Lucy Lum's memoir The Thorn of Lion City is not exactly pleasant, though the book is pretty well-written.  The fact is, the time represented in the book just wasn't pleasant in Asia, and so reading about it can be pretty uncomfortable.

However, very little of Lum's account of WWII Singapore has to do with the Japanese occupation, to be honest.  The Japanese do appear now and again as the "bad guys," but overall the Japanese occupation is pretty much just the background for the horror that Lum did know in her childhood — the horror of being abused by her mother and grandmother.  Those two actually make the Japanese soldiers look docile and almost kind by comparison.

Stories such as these are never fun to read in the sense that an "escape novel" is — they, instead, depict things even more horrible than those we often hope to escape from in the first place.  That doesn't mean that they should be avoided though.  There is certainly some value in reading books that turn the stomach a little, if for no other reason than for the fact that they remind us that (at least most of us) don't have it so bad after all.  They can make us grateful for things we often take for granted.  And they can give us a picture of the sort of mental toughness required to handle the worst sorts of things that life can throw at us.

At least, that's why I return to books like Lum's — along with the fact that I like reading any depiction of my chosen home(s) that I can.  I can't say I exactly like reading books about common folks during the war, but I do find them useful for these and other reasons.  This is one of several memoirs on my Fill in the Gaps list, and I suspect the others aren't necessarily going to be easier to read than Lum's.  I'll probably put off reading the others for a while, just to get a bit of a breather before encountering another disturbing piece.  But I'll get around to them... eventually.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Um... I doubt that

I have to acknowledge myself as someone who thinks that former Singaporean Prime Ministers (not a long list there...) can be pretty bold in their public statements — sometimes overly so.  Still, I am pretty sure that the lines attributed to a former Singaporean Prime Minister in this video must have been said by someone else, if they were said at all.  Given the recent death of Madame  Lee (the first prime minister's wife) after suffering from a series of strokes, I doubt that any high-ranking Singaporean would have been so insensitive as to have said this.

Just another reason to shake my head at the irresponsibility of the media.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hainan Island

The tropical island of Hainan marks the southern end of China.  Once thought of as the gateway to Hell and used mainly as a site for the internment of exiles in ancient times.  In 1988, the island was set aside as a resort, and has undergone a lot of development since then.

The tropical rainforests of Hainan are quite pretty, as are the beaches — though neither quite compares with Southeast Asia's.  The place is pretty enough, and the seafood is excellent, but the island has more or less become a big tourist trap.  It's fun enough to visit once, but I doubt I'll be too tempted to make a second trip there myself.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I am in Hainan island right now, with my godchildren and their family.  They met me here and we're traveling about a little before returning to Singapore together.  I've been away from Singapore for about 4 months this time, and so am especially happy to see my friends and family there.

This is my first trip to Hainan, and I hope to have some great pictures to share when I get back to Singapore.  But for now, I'm off to the beach....!

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Friday, November 19, 2010

It Gets Hard to Keep Up with it all

The peregrine lifestyle can make it difficult to keep up with all the little things one has to take care of day in and day out.  To have a look at what all I'm trying to stay on top of this week as I get ready to make my way back to Singapore, have a look at my main blog.

I hope you don't get worn out just reading it....

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City, Beijing  is one of the most amazing sites to visit.  The first time there, I was overwhelmed by the weight of history represented on the grounds there.  It was an odd feeling to walk in from the crowded city streets to a place that resounded with a sense of solemnity.

On more crowded days at the Forbidden City (i.e., most of the time), that feeling of cold silence is lacking, but the buildings there still hold such a long,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Two Days: Houston

I am often approached with this question: "I'll be in [fill in the city] for two days. What should I see while I am there?"

In response, I feature 2-day itineraries to a variety of cities here at Peregrine Online. At the end of each month, a new post introduces the main sites to visit in a city if you only have two days there.

Houston may not be the place most people think of as a top tourist destination. Still, there is plenty to do in the city, and two days there can be well-spent. So, today we'll see how to hit the highlights in Houston in a 2-day timeframe.

Day 1

Night:  if there's a professional sporting event to attend, do that; if not, dinner at Kemah Boardwalk

Day 2

Museum of Natural Science, shopping at the Galleria

Alternate sites:  for real shoppers, hit the outlet mall in Cypress

If you have a 3rd day:  a day at the beach and/or on the Strand in Galveston

For kids:  Galveston beach and ferry trip, the Houston Zoo

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Young Singaporean Poets Speak

Date: 13 November 2010
Level 5 - Imagination Room, National Library Building
100 Victoria Street
Singapore, Singapore

What does it mean to create "Singapore literature" in the 21st century? How do local poets taking up the art today locate themselves in relation to their predecessors and to the larger world? Join four young poets--Grace Chua, Koh Xin Tian, Teng Qian Xi and Zhuang Yusa--as they tackle these and other vital questions while relating their thoughts to their own poetic practice.

The event, facilitated by Nicholas Liu, will include readings of poems by each of the writers, a panel discussion and a Q&A session. This session is organised as a collaboration between the National Library Board (under its Experience Singapore Literature program) and the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS).

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Cycling Adventure

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first trip to Guilin in Guangxi Province, China.  We actually stayed just outside of Yangshuo instead of in the city of Guilin, as that's the area where the really beautiful Karst rock formations are.  The spot we stayed in was secluded and quiet, and great for cycling.  I went one afternoon  on my own, and the next with my friends.  Both days were fun, with the day I went alone being the best cycling trip I've had in a while — probably a year or so.

Here's a shot of the narrowest section of path.  Just past here, it got steep and muddy, on top of being narrow, so I had to push the bike for a few minutes there or risk slipping into the muddy, wet rice paddies.

After finding my way across some paths like this through the farmland, and some wider, pot-holed filled dirt roads, I finally got close to the bridge I was aiming for. The problem was that every time I stopped to ask how much further, the answer was always, "About 4 kilometers," no matter how far I'd traveled since I last asked.  At one point, the answer was, "That's it in the distance.  The road there still winds around a lot and will take you a while to get there.  I don't think you'll be able to get back home before dark if you go all the way to the bridge."  The advice on an alternative route was to cross the mountain and take the bamboo raft across the river instead of heading up to the bridge.  I followed the advice, which led me on a bit of a rough but beautiful ride, and I'm glad I did.

All in all, even though I didn't make it all the way to the bridge I'd thought I would get to, I am glad I traveled the path I did.  It was fun, and I got to see parts of China life that most people miss out on.  That's one of the joys of cycling when you travel — you're going at just about the right pace to really see the countryside, and yet see a fair bit more than if you were walking.

It sure made me wish to make a real long-distance trip across China's rural regions. Maybe one day.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

More from Texas

While I was in Texas in August, two of my friends and I happened to stumble across a secluded, quiet little beach.  We stopped and waded with the kids for a few minutes until it started raining.  Later, we went back and took my sister, after having told her and my parents about it.  (my parents stopped by while I was away)

We all agreed its best to keep the location of this little beach a secret.  If word gets out, it won't be so quiet and secluded anymore.

Here are a couple of pictures, just to keep you wondering....

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Way Back....

I'm on my way back to Shanghai today from Guilin.  This is my first trip to this stunning part of China.

Be watching for updates here when I get the photos together for posting on Tai Shan.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfect Time of Year

This is my favorite time of year in Shanghai.  It is cool but not cold, and the light comes in at fantastic angles all day long.

Over the weekend, I had a little time to take a bike ride around the southwestern part of the city.  The day was perfect, and there were lots of serious cyclists out on the roads with the rest of us.  It was a great way to spend an autumn morning.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Texas has its beauty too

I wrote a lot here about Alaska after my trip to the US in August, but didn't have much to say about Texas. It's not because there's nothing to see there, but because Alaska was new and exciting and beautiful.  But Texas can have its moments too.

Here's a brief one.  These pictures were taken from the window of  a moving car, so they're a little blurry.  But they give an idea of how spectacular the sunsets can be along the Texas gulf coast, with all that flat land.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Two Days: Singapore

I am often approached with this question: “I’ll be in [fill in the city] for two days. What should I see while I am there?”

In response, I feature 2-day itineraries to a variety of cities here at Peregrine Online (cities in China are covered at Tai Shan).  Once each month, a new post introduces the main sites to visit in a city if you only have two days there.

Today we’ll see how to hit the highlights in Singapore in a 2-day timeframe.

Day 1
Singapore Flyer - Esplanade / Merlion Park - walk on the river through Boat Quay and up to Chinatown for some shopping
Night:  dinner at Clark Quay

Day 2
Night:  leave Sentosa for dinner at Vivo City

Alternate sites:  shopping at Orchard Road, a culture tour through Chinatown - Little India - Geylang Serai, or a climb up Bukit Timah Hill

If you have a 3rd day:  Orchard Road, Little India, Geylang Serai

For kids:  Singapore Science Center

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Quote from Travels in Alaska

I took a good long time to finish up John Muir's Travels in Alaska (I think he'd understand — there's just too much to see in Alaska to spend a lot of time reading on the trip!)  In the reading, I highlighted lots of things that I wanted to keep in mind after I'd finished reading.

I think this might have been one of my favorites of all:

"Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at.  Great is the power of the guidebook-maker, however ignorant."

And there you have it — never trust your travel guide book 100%.

(Not even if it's Suzhou Basics.)

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Bridges of Taishun

It's the October holiday, and I am away in Taishun, a village near Wenzhou.  The village is a little off the beaten track, but is interesting for the bridges that fill the landscape around the little town.  Unlike the typical stone bridges all over the Jiangsu area, the bridges in Taishun are more typical of those in the north of China.  It's odd that they are found here in the south, and only in this one tiny area, but somehow or another, here they are...

I'll post pictures soon of the wooden bridges, so keep an eye out for an idea of what the bridges of Taishun are like.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Joys of Air Travel

A long wait taxing at O'Hare, on the way back to Shanghai earlier this month....

We sat on the plane for a very long time before we took off.  Long enough that I napped and kind of lost track of time.

At least there was no connecting flight to be made.  Like the day we went from Fairbanks to Houston via Minneapolis just a couple of weeks before.  A long run through a big airport with 2 kids.  We made it, seat to seat, in 10 minutes — just before the door to the flight closed.

And then sat waiting 20 minutes for any news of takeoff.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A New Venue

I've been blogging for a long time now.  Recently, the regularity with which I've maintained some of my blogs was rewarded with a little recognition.  Amazon decided to accept Tai Shan, where I blog about China and all things Chinese, into their Blogs for Kindle catalog.  I am very pleased to see that blog, which I maintain at the online magazine Sloth Jockey, be made available at this new venue.

If you'd like to subscribe to Tai Shan on your Kindle or Kindle-enabled device, you can use the link below.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Updates and New Hubs

I updated my hub The Five Elements in Chinese Thought earlier this week. The new info might be of interest...

In addition, I've posted a new hub on Tomorrow Square, one of my favorite buildings in Shanghai.  You might like to see the photos there.

And, last of all, I've posted my translation of Ye Shengtao's essay "The Suzhou Garden."

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the Road in Alaska

When we were in Alaska last month, we did lots of driving.  It was lots of fun to cover as much ground as we did (about 2000 miles in 6 days).  Alaska is a big place, and there is so much to see when you drive there.

Some of our favorite spots on the road were these:

Fairbanks to Delta Junction  — beautiful mountain scenery there

Glenallen to Palmer — mountains, glaciers, and usually lots of wildlife (though we had a quiet day in that department)

Anchorage to Seward — glaciers, mountain, and sea... one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever seen (both directions)

Seward to Howard — forest and wildlife (saw lots of moose here); on the Homer side of the Peninsula, lots of coastal views

Wasilla to Fairbanks — Denali National Park

Fairbanks north on HWY 11 — we made it to the Arctic Circle and saw the Northern Lights... fantastic!  (Though the road is mostly frequented by big trucks at work on the Pipeline, so it's a little rugged)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Tough Cycling Spot

When I was in Alaska last month, I had my two youngest nephews with me, and didn't do a whole lot of "rugged" travel.

When I was in Alaska last month, I had my two youngest nephews with me, and didn't do a whole lot of "rugged" travel.  We did, though, get to do a little cycling in Anchorage on some dedicated cycling paths near the coast, and had a lot of fun with that. 

Anchorage is a great city for cycling.  It's easy to rent bikes in the city, especially near the coast where the path is, and the path is a beautiful spot for a day's cycling trip. We picked our bikes up at Hertz, and got a good price on them.

We did have a lot of fun on our half day or so of cycling, and I am very glad we got to do it.  We loved seeing the seaside, with the birds and wildlife that make their home there coming out to welcome us.

What looked really appealing to me, though, as a cycling spot, were some of the other parts of Alaska, particularly the spots north of Anchorage, Palmer, and Wasilla.
We saw a number of cyclists in and around Denali National Park as we drove there. With the little guys along, this wasn't a time for me to consider doing the sort of cycling that Denali would require — and I've been really out of shape for it all year long anyway — but seeing some of the folks on two wheels in the area really whet my appetite for the adventure.  I have to admit that I was more than a little jealous seeing the women and men on their bikes, struggling up the hills.  I can just imagine the exhilaration that comes with reaching one of the peaks, to be greeted with the spectacular views that fill Denali.  Even from the car it was pretty fantastic.  How much more so from a bike, when the struggle uphill multiplies the rewards of reaching the top.

Unfortunately, it wasn't quite suitable for our itinerary this time round.  But who knows?  Maybe one day....

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Notes on Alaska

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who finds it difficult to put travels to Alaska into words. Here's what John Muir says in Travels in Alaska

Day after day in the fine weather we enjoyed, we seemed to float in true fairyland, each succeeding view seeming more and more beautiful, the one we chanced to have before us the most surprisingly beautiful of all. Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description. To sketch picturesque bits, definitely bounded, is comparatively easy — a lake in the woods, a glacier meadow, or a cascade in its dell; or even a grand master view of mountains beheld from some commanding outlook after climbing from height to height above the forests. These may be attempted, and more or less telling pictures made of them; but in these coast landscapes there is such indefinite, on-leading expansiveness, such a multitude of features without apparent redundance, their lines graduating delicately into one another in endless succession, while the whole is so fine, so tender, so ethereal, that all pen-work seems hopelessly unavailing. Tracing shining ways through fjord and sound, past forests and waterfalls, islands and mountains and far azure headlands, it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed.

Some ideas of the wealth of this scenery may be gained from the fact that the coast-line of Alaska is about twenty-six thousand miles long, more than twice as long as all the rest of the United States.

I started reading the book during my recent trip to Alaska, but didn't get very far into it. I'm trying to finish it up now, and when I came across this segment, I just though, "Yeah... that's it exactly."
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Monday, September 06, 2010

Blogging Frustrations

Apologies for the little hiatus recently. I've had some unexpected frustrations with my blog here. I'm still deciding exactly how to resolve them. Watch for updates here soon.

Again, my apologies....

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Alaska Pictures

I'm still not quite ready to do much posting about my Alaska trip, but I have put up a few pictures at my main blog — one from each stop along the journey.

I will eventually sort through it all and have more to post here as well. Until then, maybe you'll see something to whet the appetite over there.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back from Alaska

Whew! It was a great trip to Alaska. We saw all sorts of amazing things... icebergs floating on a sea of mist, sea otters at play, bald eagles, huge jellyfish, moose, caribou, snowy owls.... and the northern lights viewed from the Arctic Circle. It was beautiful from beginning to end.

I'll have a lot more to say over the next few weeks. For now... wow! What a fabulous place!
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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Leaving Fairbanks, Seward bound

Tomorrow will begin a new part of our Alaska adventure. We will depart Fairbanks and head south, eventually reaching Seward and them on to homer after a brief stay. We have enjoyed the amazing skies, gold mines, museums, and quality time with family members stationed in Fairbanks. We are looking forward now to more stunning scenery, wildlife, and adventure. It promises to be loads of fun!

Watch for pictures here over the next few weeks. For now, it's just brief updates though.

And, Alaska is every bit as wondrous as you've ever imagined!

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Start of an Adventure

I just got back to the US late last night. Tomorrow I'll begin an adventure with my friend and my 2 youngest nephews — we're heading to Alaska! While we're there, we'll visit my cousin, and then do a little driving around and sightseeing on our own.

I've never been to Alaska before, but I'm really looking forward to it. Everything I've heard makes me think it will be a place I'll enjoy a lot.

Watch for pictures here!
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Living Overseas and Being Out of Touch

I've been living overseas for a very long time now. When I first moved overseas, the internet wasn't something we all had access to, and I could get out of touch with my hometown very quickly. I didn't know all the newest slang, see all the newest TV programs, and all that.

The internet makes it all pretty much available, though, if I really want to keep up with the pop culture going on in the place where I grew up. But commercials like this one have to make you ask yourself — is there really any reason you would want to keep up?

Um... really?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Snow City

Snow City must be the coldest spot in Singapore.

A few weeks ago, my friend got a free pass for 4 to go into Snow City, and he gave it to his nephew (my godson) to use. I drove him and his friends down to Snow City to play for a while. When it was time to go, I stepped into the snow chamber for less than half a minute to call them to come out, and I spent the next 10-15 minutes shivering. It was -8•C in there, which is pretty cold when you are just in shorts and t-shirt!

The kids apparently had a lot of fun, judging from the pictures. My godson liked it so much that he asked his uncle to get the pass again when my nephew and his friend arrived. He told them that Snow City was his favorite place in Singapore. There's inner-tubing (or "intertubing," as he calls it), a snow fort, and all sorts of fun stuff.

My friend got the passes again, and they went back to Snow City. I think the little guy might have liked it better than the two teens, but they said it was fun too.

(If you want to do snowboarding, that only starts after 7 pm. A later visit might have made it more fun for the bigger guys.)
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not too Shabby

Using one of my most recent post here, I pasted the text at I Write Like, a site that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous author it is most like.  Here's the result....

I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

You don't know how I wish that was true!

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perfect Bike Fit

It's never easy to find the perfect bike fit, and I've found it especially hard for female cyclists in Singapore (though it is better now than before, but not by much).  I am happy to have come across Bike Labz in Bedok, where you can get a custom fit for your bike, making it all just right for your own body type and posture.

It really is worth the trouble to get a proper fitting done if you plan to spend much time on the bike.  I'm glad to see Bike Labz offering the service.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interesting Things to Note About My YouTube Videos

When I was putting my most recent post together, I noticed something interesting about my YouTube videos.  You can view my profile to get a look at what I am talking about.

The thing is, most of my videos that have fairly good traffic are about food (over 8,000 for one of them).  the other big topic seems to have to do with death (two clips involving the dead in Singapore have over 1,000 hits).

But the biggest draw of all the videos I've posted has been the one when I shot a video of the Lion Dance that my neighbors had in their home one Chinese New Year.  No, it isn't the one titled "Lion Dance," but the one called.... Peeping Tom.

I put the title on without thinking much about it, referring to myself shooting video across the carpark into my neighbors' window.  I think viewers (over 18,000 of them) might have had something else in mind when they searched for  "Peeping Tom Video."

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Travel to the Great Wall

My trip to the Great Wall with friends back in May was a fun one.  There were enough of us to make it worthwhile to get a van rather than make our own way there.  The trip to the Wall was a very pleasant drive.

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Travel by Air

My 7-year-old godson and I were talking about my air travel plans for the rest of the year.  I said something about the cheap airline tickets that will allow me to fly from here to Shanghai, then to Texas, then on to Alaska, back to Shanghai, then to Hainan and home to Singapore.  He then reminded my that my upcoming air travel plans would include one more thing — Singapore-Manila-Singapore.  I had almost forgotten about that one when he mentioned it.  His reminder made me tired just thinking about the schedule.

I'm glad that I managed to get cheap airline tickets for each part of the upcoming schedule.  It sure helps make things easier for me, even if the whole thing still will be pretty exhausting.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Scrabble and the City

In Houston on July 22, there will be a big fund-raiser organized around a Scrabble tournament.  It won't be a real competitive game, necessarily (though you can cheat), but more for raising funds to fight against illiteracy.

The timing of the event is great for me, fitting right in with my 2 older godchildren's newfound interest in Scrabble.  Too bad we aren't in the Houston area.  (Well... not really, I suppose, as we couldn't afford the $500 entry fee anyway!)

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cheap Lanes

We've had a lot of fun this past week or two bowling at the Civil Servant's Club in Bukit Batok.  The lanes are cheap right now — only $1.50 per game (additional $1 for shoes).  I asked how long the promotion will last, and was told simply, "until further notice."

Great stuff!  And, best of all, the same deal applies whether you are a member or not.  So, hurry up and enjoy the offer while it's here!

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

At the Ball Park

Did you see the video of the guy who got hit in the face at Yankee Stadium while on his cell phone? He was sitting just on the foul side of the pole on the front row, leaning over the field yakking away.  He didn't see the ball bounce up as it came right at him.  And I bet it hurt pretty bad when the ball made its next bounce — off his face.

I'm not a person who likes watching anyone get hurt, but I am glad this video is making its way around the internet.  I've seen lots of cell phone habits that really invite trouble, like this situation.  I mean, you go to the ball park to watch the game, right?  Then watch.  And you get in your car to drive — so drive, don't talk or the phone or send text messages.  It seems like I see it several times a week while on the road — some driver or pedestrian puts himself and everyone around him at risk, simply because  he is so engrossed in his little screen that he can't watch where he's going.

I make good use of my phone, and am practically contactable 24 hours a day via cell phone.  But still... there are times you just have to let it ring, and wait until it's safe to answer.  Like on the road, whether walking or driving.

And of course, at the ball park.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Suzhou Basics

Suzhou Basics is out in Shanghai now, and can be found in English language bookstores in the city now.  The guide is my first book-length travel guide to be published, and I am very pleased to see its release now.

If you are traveling to Shanghai, you really should schedule in a day trip to Suzhou.  It's a historic city, filled with beautiful classical Chinese gardens.  I really love visiting Suzhou myself, and had a great time writing Suzhou Basics.  I hope it will be just as fun for readers of the guide.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Expo, photos (finally)

I'm a little behind schedule getting these photos up, but thought you might like to see some pictures from the World Expo in Shanghai.  Most of these were taken last month, though a few are from the preview trip I made to the Expo in April.

The China Pavilion:


Morocco (my favorite):


The China Pavilion at night:

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

For M*A*S*H* Lovers

I recently saw on silken's blog that there's an old M*A*S*H* set that visitors can trek in to view out in California. I didn't know anything about this, but I bet it would be fun to see!

When I was in New Zealand, we visited several of the Lord of the Rings sets, and really loved it. The locations were beautiful in themselves, and seeing the actual scenes made you know exactly why they wanted to film the epic story there.

I bet the site in California would be worth a visit too.

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Travel Expenses Piling Up?

When traveling, expenses can pile up quick, with hotels, meals on the road, and car rental all adding up faster than we often realize. One of the ways to save a bit when you are traveling is to get the lowest car insurance rates you can find on that rental.

At Cheap Car Insurance, finding the lowest car insurance rates for your rented vehicle is easy. You can easily compare rates by keying in the zip code of the location to which you will travel, and you'll be on your way to finding great prices on your car insurance while you are away from home.

If you are looking for the lowest car insurance rates available at your destination, visit Cheap Car Insurance and do a little comparison shopping before you make your purchase. It could help you to enjoy some savings as those travel expenses start to pile up.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jurong Bird Park

My 6-year-old godson has gotten very interested in all sorts of writing, and so wants to share this article about his experience at the Jurong Bird Park last year. Hope you enjoy!

We rode trains at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. We went to lots of different stations. I got to whistle with a bird on stage. We saw lots of birds. There were many different kinds, like parrots and stuff. We saw a show with many kinds of birds. And I got a drawing book at the Bird Park.

I think everyone should go to Jurong Bird Park, because it is good, and lots of fun.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Korean Adventure

Two of my friends just got home from a 3-week Korean trek that took them across the whole span of the country (though, for the most part, only passing through Seoul). They were both very impressed with the country, especially enjoying some mountain climbing and nature treks of the sort that we don't get to do much here in Singapore.

One of my friends commented that Koreans really seem to have it good at home, and that they don't feel as big a need to travel outside of the country as a lot of other nationalities in the region might. My friend felt this comes from having a beautiful country of their own to explore, along with a high standard of living that allows them to travel in some comfort.

I've only been to the part of Korea that my friends missed, Seoul, but it sounds like the country would really be worth the visit. It's a spot I've had on my "to see" list for some time, and I think hearing about my friends' adventures has moved it up a notch or two in terms of priority.
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Lighting the Web

When renovating your home, home lighting is one of the most important decisions you will make. When we renovated our flat a couple of years ago, there were so many things to consider. We went with Hunter ceiling fans in most rooms, as we prefer not to use air-conditioning. The fans are just perfect for our needs, and we are very pleased with the choices we made.

At Lighting the Web, you can find great deals now to meet all of your home lighting needs.
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Visit Edinburgh

When I was small, my family hosted a friend who lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the time, the place sounded so far away, so exotic, and our friend made it seem so appealing.

I have not visited Edinburgh yet, but the name of the place still makes me imagine rolling hillsides dotted with castles. The romance of it draws numerous visitors every year, and one day I hope to be amongst the throngs that visit.

When visiting Edinburgh, I will certainly book into self catering apartments. An Edinburgh self-catering package seems to me to be the only way to go. In fact, I always prefer self-catered facilities when I travel, if I have the choice, as it allows for maximum freedom for the traveler.

And doesn't that sound like the perfect way to see Edinburgh?

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Forbidden City

I'm hoping to have my hub on the Forbidden City finished soon. Until then, you might like this video.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

North to Alaska


I can't believe this, but I just booked tickets for me, my friend, and my 2 nephews to travel to Alaska together in August! We've been talking about it for several weeks, but I guessed it would be too expensive, too tight a schedule... or any other of a number of things that could've prevented this from coming together. But who knew we would have enough miles between us to book THREE free tickets? And that our schedule would work out just right to fit in with the redeemable flights?

We'll travel to Fairbanks and visit my cousin who is stationed there. We are all very excited, looking forward to the big adventure. I can hardly wait for it to get here!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Little More Settled

I recently spent a period of about 3 weeks where I only spent 3 consecutive nights in the same city one time. I've only been settled in here in Shanghai for about a week or so now, and am getting ready to leave yet again. But this time, I'll head home to Singapore for the next couple of months, and will (I think) only do very minimal traveling (a short trip to Malaysia is all that is planned).

I'll be back in Shanghai at the end of July, to the US for most of August, then back to Shanghai to spend the fall here. The end of the year should see me back in Singapore if all goes as planned.

A peregrine lifestyle is fun and all, but I think it will be nice to spend the summer being a little more settled for a while. And, I'll have lots of company in, so there's no chance of it getting boring!
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Friday, May 21, 2010

World Expo 2010, Shanghai

I made my second visit to the World Expo in Shanghai this past week. The first time I'd been was for a preview, when many of the pavilions were not yet open, and it was really crowded. I chose then not to go into any of the pavilions, since the lines were so long.

For this visit, I went into several pavilions, again choosing those for which the line seemed reasonable. Most were pavilions for countries in Western Asia, with a few exceptions. And most were very impressive. I liked Morocco the best of those I went into, though Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and Qatar were all very good as well.

I have tickets for 2 more days at the Expo, and will probably be given tickets for several more. I plan to attend as often as I have tickets, and hopefully will get to see many more pavilions. I am impressed with the scale of the Expo, and the fine work the various countries have done to put up a good show.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

It's always fun

It's always fun to have friends who are good travelers come from overseas to visit the place where you make your home. I am currently in the somewhat odd situation of making my home in two different locales, Singapore and Shanghai — neither of which is anywhere near the place where I grew up.

This year, I've had the pleasure to host my mom, sister, nephews, and niece at my Singapore home, then host some Shanghai friends in Singapore and Malaysia, and just this past week to host some friends currently living in Singapore (but originally from my home town) in Shanghai. It's been a real unique experience getting to show everyone around like this!

If all goes as planned, the circle could be made complete by the end of the year. One of my Shanghai friends is trying to arrange to travel back to my home town with me later this year, and my Singaporean family is planning to visit me in Shanghai and/or other parts of China. What fun! (Oh, and I almost left out... a former colleague of mine from Singapore now living in the US will stay at my home in Shanghai, though I will not be there when the family visits.)

The best of it all is that these friends and family members are all good travelers, willing to try new things, and always interested in what they are seeing, tasting, hearing, etc. It really makes it lots of fun to travel that way.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

As Good as I Remembered...

Last week, I traveled with some Shanghainese friends to Malaysia, visiting Melaka and KL. While in the capitol, we stayed at Cyberjaya, revisiting the Cyberview Lodge Resort and Spa.

The place is just as good as I remembered it from my last stay. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the three-tiered pool is beautiful, and the breakfast buffet is absolutely scrumptious.

Driving around from the resort to Putrajaya is also quite a treat. The architecture of the buildings there is really quite amazing. I love the way that part of the city looks, and always look forward to driving there when I have the chance.

If you are looking for a relaxing trip, the Cyberview Lodge makes a great place to stop and soak it all in.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Heading Out Soon...

It's finally arrived!

Tomorrow, I'll be heading out with 4 friends to travel to Beijing and Xi'an. We've been planning the trip for a while now, and I am excited that it will be under way soon.

While in Beijing, we'll visit the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, eat some Peking Duck, and probably visit several other sites (as yet to be determined) too.

I'm most excited about the Xi'an stop, though, as it is my first time in Xi'an. We'll see the Terra Cotta Warriors, and visit the tomb of Jingdi. I also plan to have a look around at several sites connected with the classic story Journey to the West — we even have a meal planned for a place called "Lao Sun Jia." It should be loads of fun!

When we get back to Shanghai, I'll show my friends around here before they make their way back to Singapore. We plan to visit the Expo, as well as all the highlights of the city here.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Transportation at the World Expo

There are some new cabs on the road in Shanghai, added especially for the World Expo.

About 4000 additional vehicles, looking pretty much like this one, were brought in to help accommodate the increase in transportation needs brought on by the Expo.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gold Coins

For many investors, there's still no better place to put your wealth than in gold. With the US Gold Bureau, you can buy gold coins or ingots and get it on the action too.

Besides buying gold from the US Gold Bureau, you can pick up silver for investment as well. In fact, demand for silver has consistently gone up since 1990.

Putting your cash into precious metals is one way to keep it safe, and the US Gold Bureau is the ideal body to help you make your investment wisely, and keep it safe once made. Check out their website to buy gold or silver for your investment.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

but the most disconcerting...

The most disconcerting of public toilet signs were those I came across at the preview of the World Expo grounds in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago.  The toilets were very clean, and seemed like they are going to be good for handling the high traffic expected at the Expo.  But I have a feeling this sign will confuse some foreigners from Western countries.

There is actually pretty good attention to detail in the set up of the public restrooms at the Expo — and I think setting up these facilities is actually no easy task.  I thought this feature was a rather surprising touch...

It's located right about knee-high — within easy reach when sitting or squatting (and squatting toilets outnumber sitting ones by a fair bit).  I would hope I never need to press this button (and especially hope my knee never accidentally knocks against it), but I suppose it's rather thoughtful to put it there... just in case.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

and the most elaborate...

The most elaborate of the funny signs I've seen in public toilets was most definitely this facility in Wanaka, New Zealand....

The mural has seats next to it for you to sit and have your picture taken.

This, however, is what you found inside, and these weren't just for viewing, but for using....

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

sticking with the theme...

Sticking with the theme of funny signs found on the doors of public toilets, how about this one from the Ke Center in Shanghai?

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Interesting Appellation

Found on the door to the women's public toilets at Alexandra Hospital in Singapore.

"De-stress Corner"

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rent a Bike

All over Shanghai, there are newly installed bicycle rental stations.  I am not sure how much the deposit, nor exactly how it is monitored, but I've been seeing these rental spots, with their very noticeable bright orange bikes, everywhere.

There are lots of things popping up all over the city to make it more World-Expo-friendly.  This one looks like a pretty nice arrangement to me.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Noodles Made by Hand

I always like watching the guy make noodles in the Henan noodle shop near my place in Shanghai.

I usually prefer the shui jiao when I am there, but the noodles are pretty good too.  And it's fun to watch their creation.

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Fish Oil

The health benefits of cod liver oil have long been appreciated in Singapore, and it was upon moving to Singapore that I first began to pay much attention to fish oil and the good it can do one's health.  It's kind of nice to read about it at fishoil.com and see that all the things I've heard over the years aren't just old wives' tales.

According to  fishoil.com, the nutrients from oil-rich fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, sardines, herring, mackerel, and other types of fish come from polyunsaturated fat extracted from the fish's fat tissues.  The Omega 3 fatty acids in such fish can help regulate the body's cholesterol levels, combat heart disease, prevent certain strains of cancer, aid in brain development, reduce symptoms of depression, and even protect the brain from Alzheimer's.  Some suggest that it has the further benefit of helping to reduce symptoms of ADD or ADHD, and it has long been known to promote healing from injury and illness.

Adding a steady supply of good fish to the diet is one way to get your Omega 3, but there are also good fish oil supplements that can help you monitor your intake, making sure you are getting sufficient amounts of Omega 3 each day.  Pop by at  fishoil.com to learn more.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Two Additional Days

There's been smiles on a lot of faces for the past week or so... ever since the China government announced that it will give 2 additional days of holiday for the Labour Day holiday over the first weekend of May.

The two additional days are in honour of the opening of the World Expo in Shanghai.  It should be a very crowded weekend in Shanghai, as it is a very big event.

It promises to be lots of fun!

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Looking for Something to Do in Cancun?

Different people like to do different things when they travel, and I always enjoy hearing from other travelers the things they look for in a good trip.  Often, I hear some itinerary, and it includes things that never really crossed my mind to do on a holiday.  I got just one sort of idea in the mail today, a suggestion to add  Cancun Cosmetic Dentistry onto one's itinerary for a holiday to Mexico.  I have to admit, the suggestion did surprise me just a little.

After reading through it, though, I can see how a visit to German Azarte DDS MS at Cancun Cosmetic Dentistry would seem an appealing thing to add into the itinerary for someone in need of cosmetic care for the teeth.  He has 19 years of cosmetic dentistry experience, and comes highly recommended.  His clinic is dedicated exclusively to customers from the US, Canada, and the UK, and patients save 50-70% on their dental care, compared to the cost of doing the same procedure at home.

I'm not sure I'd necessarily go looking for cosmetic dental procedures if I were traveling to Mexico — it's just not the sort of thing that would normally cross my mind.  But I can sure tell you I'd rather travel to Cancun to and visit the Cancun Cosmetic Dentistry clinic than go through the whole thing in the boring confines of home!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Azul Tapas Lounge

I made my first trip to Azul Tapas Lounge for a friend's birthday brunch earlier this week.  The place was pretty nice, and the service was excellent, even for our party of 14.  And the food is really good.

The brunch includes a choice of 2 courses (from a selection of about 20 or so) for RMB130, along with a drink and tea/coffee.  It was a lot of food, and really good.  I think the biggest hits at our table seemed to be the blueberry pancakes.  I liked them, and heard everyone else say the same.

Azul is located at 18 Dongping Lu (near Hengshan Lu), and is open for lunch 11-3, and dinner 5-midnight.  The weekend brunch (also available for holidays) runs from 11-4.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hakka Village, Fujian, China

I'll be writing more about the Hakka Villages in Fujian Province in China over the next week or so at this hub, but I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures of the place here too.  These images were taken by my friend Sok when we traveled there together in November, 2008.  I'm glad she's let me use them, because I lost all of my own pictures just a few months after this trip.

The Hakka village (Kejia Tulou) that we visited was in Yongding.  It is one of the more popular locations, only about 4-5 hours' drive from Xiamen.  The place was absolutely beautiful.  We loved the countryside, with the scenic green hilly landscape.  And the structures that form the village are really amazing.  Each is a huge round-shaped building, usually built in groups of five.  The inside of the building houses a courtyard surrounded by numerous rooms for residential use.  It makes for a nice, warm space — cozy, and also easily defended against invasion.  Seeing them built into the hilly landscape surrounding Yongding was really breathtaking.  I enjoyed the drive, seeing the ancient architecture, almost as much as I enjoyed walking amongst the buildings in Yongding.

Fujian generally enjoys a temperate, pleasant climate.  The fresh produce in the area is very good, and I liked seeing the persimmons grown in Yongding all spread out along the roadside, being prepared to market.  It made for a pretty sight, with all the bright orange fruits against the greenery of the surrounding area.

There was a lot about visiting Yongding that was interesting — architecture, culture, food — but one of the things that it is hard to get past is just how pretty a place it is.  If you get a chance to visit, it's very much worth the time and effort you will make to get there.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Hotpot

I went for some nice hotpot with friends over the weekend. We were at Hai Di Lao on Wuzhong Lu (near the Lainhua Lu intersection). The food was pretty good, with a nice selection of food, several complimentary items, and a very nice condiment bar, which is always good at hotpot restaurants for groups who have some who like spicy food and some who don't.

What was really interesting about Hai Di Lao, though, was probably all the other stuff that comes alongside the dining experience. There's free internet access, a small browsing library, and free manicures and pedicures! I enjoyed watching the serving staff with some of their antics as well, including a guy who had a whole routine choreographed around the making of one type of noodles. Another fellow was my favorite of the night, though. He wiped the tables with real flair. It looked a lot like the type of gong fu you'd have to travel to some monastery atop a distant mountain to learn. Pretty impressive stuff.

There are other branches of Hai Di Lao elsewhere in Shanghai, I think, all pretty much in line with the experience I had here.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chen Shaomei

I've recently posted a hub about Chinese artist Chen Shaomei that might be of interest to readers here.

Hope you enjoy!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To the End

Shanghai's Metro system is pretty extensive, as you can see in this picture.

And, it is always expanding.

One thing I noticed when traveling to some of the furthest ends of the Metro line is that the area surrounding each station is just a little different, each having its own "flavor."  So, I decided to make it a project, and take the train to the end of each line.  I will post pictures and thoughts over at Tai Shan.  The first is here.

Watch for more coming up soon!

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Patrick's Day in Shanghai

I spent St. Patrick's Day at O'Malley's in Shanghai with friends.  Here's a short video clip.

You can read more about the place at Tai Shan.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Travel in Argentina

For travelers looking for good information on Turismo en Argentina, you need look no further than the Explore Argentina website. With extensive information available about travel in the country, you can find out everything you need to know before you set out.

Along with information on tourist destinations, restaurants, and things to do, you'll see lots of good choices for accommodations. Just check the pages of Hoteles en Argentina, Hoteles en Buenos Aires, or Hoteles en Bariloche to find good lists of great places to stay at reasonable prices.

A trip to Argentina would make for an amazing holiday. Before you set out, make all your arrangements at the Explore Argentina website, and you'll be sure to find the best information available to help you plan the ideal trip.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

More Fun Stuff

My sister has still been busy posting some pictures and videos of her visit to Singapore last month. Check these out:

Dragon Dance Video — we were lucky to catch a dragon dance on the street just around the corner from where my family stayed when they were in Singapore; very fun!

River Ang Pow — the second time I've been to the River Ang Pow during Chinese New Year, and again... lots of fun!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A Quick Recap

It's nice when someone else does the work posting pictures of what I've been up to the past month or so. Here's from my sister's blog:

Chinese New Year

A little cycling

A lot of driving

She didn't follow me back to Shanghai to keep you updated on what I'm doing here, but I did post a little something over at Tai Shan about what I've been doing since I got back.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Using the Kindle Reader Overseas

I got a Kindle ebook reader for Christmas. I've been eyeing it for years, but was waiting for it to become available overseas. When it finally did this past year, my mom got me one for Christmas.

It is the perfect device for a bibliophile who travels a lot. It is compact, holds tons of books, and is easy on the eyes. I also use it for working with files. I just marked a student's master's thesis while reading it on the Kindle. Had I read the paper on the computer screen, the 62 pages would have really worn me out, and left me in no mood for further reading for a little while. But with the Kindle, it was like reading it on paper, and as soon as I finished keying in the notes for the student, I went right on to reading my novel.

I have downloaded some great material for the Kindle as well, most of it free, though I did pay for a few books. I've got roughly 400 titles in it now. I bought a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to China, which I always like to have a copy of, and will find especially useful when I take guests to Beijing and Xi'an in May. The Kindle weighs less and takes up less space than the paper version of the book, and can carry all the other 300+ titles I've got loaded in it as well. I think it is the perfect way to travel. I've made plenty of trips in the past while carrying lots of books, and it can be very tiring. I hope this makes that easier.

I know that there are a lot of people who are not quite sold on the ebook readers that are out these days, and I understand the objections, but I do have to say... it's a nice fit for my lifestyle!

There's only one drawback I've found so far. The $1.99 download fee per book if you use the Whispernet network while overseas seems excessive to me. I believe that if they lower that fee, the device is going to become even more popular with users overseas.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Travel Memories

I just pulled out a video from 2005, when I traveled with my godchildren, their parents, grandmother, and my godsister to New Zealand. It was a good reminder of what a great trip that was. We really had fun.

One of the nicest spots was the Otago Peninsula, just outside of Dunedin. The place itself was absolutely beautiful, and the sea creatures who make their homes in the area were fun to watch. We were within two meters of a penguin when another swam in from the sea and walked up to where we stood and on to its nest just up the hill from us. It was an impressive sight that I will probably never get to see again. I was utterly amazed by the wildlife we got to see so close-up.

I don't think I have any desire to live in New Zealand, but if I did, for some reason, have to make my home in Dunedin, I could probably stand it. Either way, the memories of the day spent at Otago Peninsula are some of my best travel memories ever.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is rough, though it isn't serious, provided the patient avoids dehydration. In tropical regions, that is always the trick, as the direct sun can get you zapped, even without the addition of diarrhea and vomiting. Also, the hot, muggy weather in such places means that food can spoil more easily than it would elsewhere.

So, what to do when food poisoning strikes?

• fluids, fluids, fluids — isotonic drinks are great
• avoid all dairy products
• BRAT — bananas, rice, apples, toast (a water rice porridge is preferred here in Singapore)
• rest, and stay out of the sun, if possible
• don't wander too far from the toilet — you'll need it more often than you like!
• if you can't get the vomiting and diarrhea under control, see a doctor sooner rather than later

Even when you eat at places that are usually clean, you can still run across food poisoning. It seems to be most frequently encountered in seafood meals, but certainly not exclusively so. In fact, the doctor recently told me that it can even pass from person to person — information I'd not heard before. He warned that it is very important to clean all surfaces with disinfectant when anyone in the house has food poisoning, because it can pass to the rest of the household.

I hope you don't ever get struck with it, but if you do, don't panic. It's not serious, as long as you keep yourself hydrated. It is, however, decidedly uncomfortable.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Suzhou Book — completed!

I finished up my work on the Suzhou book I've been writing and got it handed in to the publisher today. As long as he doesn't request lots of rewrites, I am done with the project! I'm excited to have my first full length travel guide wrapped up, and look forward to its release in May.

Exciting stuff!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Some friends are coming to visit me in Shanghai this spring, and their plans have made me get up and make plans to finally visit Xi'an. I've not yet been to the old city, seen the terra cotta warriors, and soaked up the history that resides there. I am really excited about the whole thing.

I'll meet up with my friends in Shanghai first, then we'll make our way to Beijing and on to Xi'an. It's been a good long time since I was last in Beijing too, so the whole trip looks like lots of fun to me. We'll be making the journey in May, so I'll keep you posted.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Upcoming Book Launch

My book Cyborg Chimera will soon be available in bookstores in Singapore. To launch the sell of my poetry collection here, we'll be hosting a book launch here over the last weekend in February. I'll post some pictures when it's done. For now, I'm looking forward to the event, especially because my family from the US will be here to celebrate with me!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Year of the Tiger

I've been having a great time this week with my family here for new year. We welcomed in the Year of the Tiger over the weekend. Here's a couple of pictures of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore.

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