Thursday, April 17, 2014

Italy (Mar)

3-13-14 Milano

Long drive to Verona this morning. Main attractions were the sets of the Romeo and Juliet movie. Especially Juliets house and its balcony. I couldn't care less. The Arena in the center of town was pretty cool too. More complete than the Colosseum, but also less complex.

I purchased a small pen case for my shake pen, as I was worried I would lose the blasted thing.

Made our way to Milan in the afternoon. Climbed onto the roof of the Duomo, the cathedral in Milan's central square. First time I've ever done that, wander the roof of a cathedral. All kinds of exciting.

Flying back to Taipei in the morning.


3-12-14 Venezia Outskirts

Hopped on a bus this morning for Venezia's ferry terminal. Made it there a bit after noon. We boarded a seaborne version of a tour coach, basically a craft holding around thirty or so people. First stop was a visit to the island of Murano to see the glassmakers. It was about then that I realized I probably would be able to afford any Murano glass sculptures any time this lifetime. Luckily it wasn't really my style. Still, the short glimpse inside the workshop was very interesting.

We hit San Marco Square after leaving Murano. Venezia isn't quite what I expected, but it is still the most interesting city I've ever visited. A gondola ride is a definite must. A 20 minute ride through the canals gets you a very intimate view of the common city, not just the landmarks. Certain people I know would complain about the smell of the canals, however.

For some reason, all the gondolas are black. They look like funeral hearses.

San Marco's Belltower got me a high elevation look at the city for 8Euro. Totally worth it.

Wanted a mask. Got a leather theater mask instead of a paper one from one of the many mask shops just to be different. That and I like leather.

Also picked up a few watercolors of the city. I'll frame them and hang them in my room.



I really enjoyed this city, what little I was able to see. I'll be back next time. With more money.


3-11-14 Firenze

I spent most of the day in Florence, though we visited Siena in the morning. Almost the entire day was spent around churches of different architectural styles, but did not actually enter one. The one in the center of Florence, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the most externally impressive cathedral I've ever laid eyes on. Covered in strips of white and dark marble, it matches what people picture of Renaissance Italy quite well.

I did spend some time in the Uffizi Gallery viewing works by many masters, though I will say that the experience is quite wasted on me. I like what I like and I don't know why I like it. I did get quite a good shot of the old bridge, Ponte Vecchio from the second floor of the gallery that should turn out quite well, so all is not lost.

Did not end up buying any of the famed Florentine leather.

Will need to spend more time in Florence next time around. Still lots to see.

Venezia tomorrow. Really excited. Kinda.


3-10-14 Firenze

Sorta kinda drunk at the time of writing.

Visited Pisa. It really is leaning a lot. Cool. Hard to take picture.

Bought a bunch of chocolate. It was expensive. Regretful in hindsight.

Dinner had more meat than the last three days combined, and more wine than I could drink.

Went to a supermarket for cheese and more wine.

(Trails off here. I don't remember much, so it must have been a good day.)

3-9-14 Salerno

After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, there was something of a rush to Napoli Harbor, where I caught a ferry to the island of Capri. An hour's ride and we landed on a very charming vacation spot, albeit one in it's off season. The island very much reminded me of Catalina back home, but older and more convoluted. And more cats.

I rode a somewhat antiquated chairlift to the top of island. On the way up, I noticed the many gardens on the hillsides of the town, as well as numerous lemon tree groves. I learned later that lemons were a local specialty. Very beautiful views at the top, as expected.

Had lunch, with an excellent Chianti, before exploring the town. Lots of shops and winding side streets. Most of the shops were closed, but I learned that the narrow alleys would be packed full of humanity come summertime. I got lost for a bit in the residential alleys during my wandering, but my sense of direction lead me out of the labyrinth eventually.

I caught another ferry to Sorento and hopped on a bus upon landing. I took lots of photos on our way along the coast to Almafi, as the sky was being cooperatively mesmerizing, even as the bus was being troublesome and shaky. We stopped in Almafi proper for more pictures and a quick walkabout. St. Andrew's Church was really fascinating, as I'd never seen the like. Very Moorish.

Got back on the bus and headed for my hotel, reaching it some two hours later.

Pisa and Florence tomorrow.


3-8-14 Napoli

What a day.

Left Rome early in the morning for the 3 hour drive down to Pompeii. Come to think of it, a movie by that name was recently released, though I've not a chance to watch it. I'm sure the movie sets are not historically accurate though. The site and its tours do not really say much about the volcano's eruption or it's effects, and instead emphasizes the day to day lives of residents of the city. I didn't get to spend too much time on the site, but I did learn that prostitutes are named after wolves in Italian, but not why it is so.

Lunch was pasta and calamari with bland wine.

Made it to Napoli in the late afternoon. I wandered about the waterfront for a bit, exploring the harbor's castle before dinner. I concluded the security situation in Napoli is worse than Rome, due to the heavy police presence(in packs) and the graffiti covered walls of many historical sites and buildings. It's really quite sad.

Hotel wifi is damn expensive tonight, so I opted to go without. Sorted pictures instead. Almafi tomorrow.


3-7-14 Rome

I was only back in Taipei for a day before I headed back out to Italy. During that time, I discovered that the gold eagle I bought was a reproduction and only worth it's weight in gold. Expected, but sucks.

A daylong flight to Rome with a layover in Hong Kong resulted in a early morning arrival. First stop was St. Peter's Basilica. Having a visited many a cathedral, I will say that this one is unique in that it is the first that had a security cordon. There were lots of masterwork marble sculptures inside, most notably that of Mary and Jesus by Michelangelo. I spent a good hour in there, but I will say it didn't strike me as all that different from all the other cathedrals I've visited.

We visited what was left of the Colosseum after lunch, and I was greatly surprised at how very little of the original structure remained. Most of the visible Colosseum was reinforcing brickwork from the restoration way back when. What original pieces are left compose a very small fraction of what I saw. Somewhat disappointing,

Visited the Neptune Fountain afterward, which was all kinds of impressive. I spent 2Euro making a wish, then had gelato. It was right about then that I started to get really tired of white statuary, but Rome don't care.

I had a quick standing Cappuccino at a nearby espresso bar near the Pantheon. I have issues with that particular building. The bloody great hole in the ceiling seems interesting conceptually, but totally fails in practice. Also, Rafael is buried in there.

I wandered a bit more before I hit a Rimowa retailer, where I rode a Classic Flight 29” around the store before buying it at near half the Stateside price. Now I have room for my souvenir.

Ravioli dinner was followed by a night bus tour of the city. We hit the hotel pretty late. I had a hot bath to soothe my sore back(yay! No roommate!) before settling down to write all of this.

I didn't get to see even a quarter of what I wanted to in Rome. Doubtless I'll have to return in the future.


Pompeii tomorrow.  

Dubai (Feb-Mar)

3-3-14 Dubai Airport

About to board for Taipei. This trip is about to come to an end, and I'm glad for it. The past three days have been nothing but expensive buffets and shopping malls, and I couldn't possibly care any less, especially since today was more of the same, in another country.

Drove to Abu Dhabi, the richest of the UAEs, this morning. Our stop was the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. Very opulent, very white, very grand, and somewhat strict about women dress code. I don't like it. Too blinding, too gaudy, and tried to be modern and fails at it.

Lunch was a buffet(surprise) at the Emirates Palace Hotel. Walking inside made my wallet shrivel up in fear and my bank account piss itself. It also hammered home the realization that I'm not cut out for this super luxurious stuff. Everything inside was either marble, gold, or silver. I'm told the hotel cost something like 6 BILLION dollars to build. Forget it. My luxury point is something between Best Western and Ramada. This is just too much.

Another shopping mall in the evening, this one themed around the famed Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta. He apparently went to a bunch of different countries, and thus the mall is separated into 6 differently themed sections representing the countries he visited. Actually, this mall was much more interesting than those we had previously visited, as there were many interesting educational displays set up around the mall for me to examine.

Dinner was Chinese food, and was the prelude to a long night of waiting for a 0430 flight.

Dubai in a nutshell. Natives can afford it due to government handouts. The super rich can afford it because they're super rich. The moderately rich are better off spending their money elsewhere visiting more interesting places. I can't afford it. I learned of a very unique system of government that is the base of a culture of leisure.

Would not do again.


3-2-14 Dubai

Visited the Dubai Museum this morning. Not at all impressed. Very small museum matching the country's very short history. We followed this with a visit to the gold district. I purchased what purports to be a 1907 gold eagle, mostly for the novelty, but partially to keep myself of spending the money on something stupid later on. I can always sell the coin back for the gold value.

A short stop at a nearby shopping center preceded dinner, then sleep.


3-1-14 Dubai

Visit another mall this morning. The Mall of the Emirates is a bit smaller than the Dubai mall, but still contains all the expected global brands. T seems that with the lack of historic and cultural attractions, the Emirs decided that they would make due with frivolous shopping.

Lunch was Buffet Kaleidoscope at the Atlantis Hotel. Lots of food, lots of variety, and terrible silverware. The knife would have issues cutting soft butter, let alone beef.

Lunch was followed by some sand dune off-roading in SUVs. The sand in the desert here is incredibly fine, and off-roading seems somewhat like surfing. Dinner was an outdoor BBQ affair accompanied by a man spinning around in a dress adorned with LEDs. And a belly dancer. Female, thankfully.

Sleep is going to be awesome with earplugs.


2-28-14 Dubai

Long day. I had a 10 hour flight direct to Dubai. We were originally supposed to layover in Hong Kong, but apparently they started direct flights this month. Good. Bought a belt at the airport, since my old one was in tatters.

We landed early in the morning and immediately set off for breakfast, followed by the first and, as it turned out, only stop of the day.

The Dubai Mall claims to be the largest mall in the world. 50 football fields of shopping therapy shoved into a structure also containing an aquarium and fountains galore. It's also attached to the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world.

After spending a few hours wandering the entirety of the mall and purchasing a couple shirts from Express(on sale), I went up the Burj Kalifa to the observation deck on the 124th floor. This is only halfway up the tower, mind.

I don't have much to say for the view, except that I've never seen land so flat before. It is clear that the powers-that-be are nowhere near done with the city, after spotting multiple massive construction sites dotting the cityscape.

I descended the tower in a freight elevator, as the regular elevator was out.

We checked into a nice, generic hotel in a city of many well know ones. Sleep is not coming due to roommate's snoring. At least he isn't talking in his sleep.

2-22-14 Taipei

I've been back for most of the week now, falling back into monotony. Spent mst of my time playing Fire Emblem on the Gameboy. I put my pictures up online and promptly received a call from the States demanding I shave my scruffy beard. If my father can have a goddamn Afro, why can't I have a bit of scruff?

I found a Chipotle knockoff in the ZhongShao Dunhua area. With real guac. Amazing.


Still trying to find an appropriate workout routine. Swinging the kettlebell doesn't seem to be all that possible with constant traveling.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

India Pt 2

2/16/14 New Delhi Airport

About to board for Taipei via Hong Kong. I had a busy day today. We visited a mosque in the middle of old Delhi in the morning. I managed to make my way up into on the minarets for a foggy view of the old city. Still, not a bad five bucks slipped to a guard.

Second stop was the Red Fort. Agra Fort was more interesting architecturally, but the small bazaar in Red Fort made up for its shortcomings.

Third was a tomb, much like the Taj Mahal, but more visually appealing. Humayan's Tomb is mostly of red sandstone white white marble accents, where the Taj is all white marble, making it rather boring up close.

Last stop of the trip was the Qutb Minar, a bloody big minaret standing among the ruins of what was once a mosque. There was a partially built minaret that was to be even bigger nearby, but war halted its construction, and it was never completed.

India was overall quite a treat, but it's been hard on my body. I'll probably never come back, having decided I've seen enough of it. The trip has been very fulfilling and more than worth the money, but once is enough.

2/15/14 New Delhi

Didn't do anything but drive today. And visit a shopping mall. But said mall was exactly like a US mall with the addition of very grope-y people at all the entrances frisking you. Spent a bunch of money on a soapstone elephant at the souvenir shop at our hotel, but it's the last night and I haven't really bought anything yet, so why not.

2/14/14 Chandigarh

Is it some kind of sign, this rainy Valentine?

It is some national holiday today, and most of the sights that we had wanted to see were closed. We were allowed into and around the High Court building as well as the Open Hand monument, the symbol of Chandigarh, so that was quite a treat. The rest of the day was pretty boring.

I found out that the new Ghost in the Shell anime was released, and subsequently spent the rest of the night trying to download it onto my phone. Eventually I just bought the season on iTunes and got it overnight. I will watch it on the long bus ride tomorrow, and hope iPhone screen isn't too small for subtitles.

2/13/14 Over India, OTW to Chandigarh

Sitting in the first turboprop plane in recent memory, flying over India during the day. I find it fascinating how similar, yet different it looks compared to the States. Squares and rectangles of agricultural fields in greens and browns make up the most of it. A once large river stretches across my view. Most of it is now a thick brown ribbon of sand threaded through with black ribbons of water. A smoke stack, a hundred meters or more, candy striped, spews a miles long trail of smoke in the distance.

Now landed. Why don't Indian airports offer free WiFi? (They do, you just need an Indian cellphone number to use it, which means foreigners are screwed.)


Ended up visiting a few government buildings. It seems that most of Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier. The legislature building was the most interesting, though the roof of the Secretariat was worth a look. They have snipers up there. Interestingly enough, two different provinces share the government buildings here in Chandigarh. Good way to keep cost down.

The hotel tonight is a Marriott, with a whiskey bar. Thank the gods.

2/12/14 Ahmedabad

Three more architectural destinations of notes today.

First was a private home, the Villa Shodhan. A modernist abode, formed mostly of concrete slab, I found it an interesting study of what modern home designs really look like, as I had not previous seen examples of such in person. Note: Chipmunks everywhere.

Second was the highlight of the day. The Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owner's Association Building. I really loved this one. The lines and the lighting and the interesting shapes really brought out something in me. I've never appreciated modern architecture as much as I have before this building. There were only two active offices though, as the rest of the building is pretty much abandoned. I was able to explore all about the building, including the roof.

Third was the studio building of renown architect Doshi. One of his interns showed us around. Most curious was the use of White China Mosaic on the half cylinder roofs to reflect heat. I touched it, and it was actually rather cold in the blazing hot sun, similar to the Sydney Opera House. I caught a glimpse of the man himself as we arrived. It seems that many well known architects prefer round glasses.

Last was the IIMA Campus. I thought it boring, so will not write of it.


Need to catch an early plane tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

India Pt 1

2/11/14 Ahmedabad (pronounced A-Hem-me-Da-Ba-D by the tour guide)

Today was the most interesting day since I arrived in country. Visited a rather dilapidated museum designed by renown architect Le Corbusier, the Sanskar Kendra. I don't believe the building itself was completed, as it looks half built. It made for interesting exploration, as I made my way around the insides of the building. It is actually and active museum, though some of the exhibits are in terrible condition. I even made my way up to the roof, something I find unlikely to happen in a museum in any Western country. Fun.

Our next stop was the Adalaj Stepwell, which I thought was the single most fascinating structure I've ever step foot in. A 5 story underground structure used to collect rain during seasonal monsoons, it featured intricate carvings and pillars and all kinds of fascinating cultural historical references. I had enormous fun within it, but I could have done without the bats. (I'm not scared of bats themselves, but I am wary of rabies.)

Last stop was a long one. A walk through the local market, stopping for pictures at a pair of mosques. I got an up close view of the life of the average Indian. It was enjoyable but for the beggar children. Just because you're cute doesn't mean I won't smack you if you grab me.


2/10/14 New Delhi Airport

I am about to board a flight to Ahmedabad. The flight is slightly delayed, but this won't be a repeat of my Brisbane debacle. I visited two sights today, and came to a surprising conclusion. Agra Fort is quite old, built in the later 1500's. It only took eight years to build, and considering it's size and complexity, I found that more than a little surprising. (I was comparing it to European cathedrals, which are relatively much smaller and equally complex structures, but somehow take scores if not hundreds of years to complete...how Indian efficiency has fallen.) Constructed mostly of red sandstone, within its walls lie many palaces and structures. There is lots of history in this place. Interestingly, one ruler had a harem of 5000 women(maids included) living in underground “apartments” beneath the fort. Sounds like my kind of man.

Second stop of the day was the Taj Mahal, the Wonder. Ironically, it's fascinating and wondrous from a distance, but really not that interesting up close, and even more boring inside. It's basically just a giant tombstone. I was rather disappointed.

Boarding announcements. I hope to make it to a hotel at a decent hour tonight.

2/9/14 Highway between Jaipur and Agra

India is a country with a wide variety of car horns. About the only one I have yet to hear is “La Cucaracha,” and that's only because Mexicans don't immigrate to countries that are worse than Mexico. The same can be said for the Chinese and China. Which also answers the question of why there doesn't seem to be any restaurants of any other kind of cuisine other than Indian cuisine in India. But back to the topic of horns.

In India, you need three things to drive. First, you need a loud, working horn. Second, you need good breaks for sudden stops. Third, you need luck. It is the standard policy of drivers to turn a three lane street into a six lane-er. It is also required that you honk your horn constantly while passing other cars or mobile or non-mobile entities on the road. This is explained when one realizes that many do not have mirrors of any sort. The result is a constant cacophony of horns, each trying to be louder than the other.

It is late evening now, and I'm writing this on the bus to Agra. Normally, I would not do such a thing, but I make an exception because this bus has not moved in some time. I expect somewhere far ahead of us, something has decided to break down and could not be moved out of this two/four lane highway. My neighbor has joked that perhaps a cow decided to take a nap in the road, but I find this doubtful. I've already seen several examples of cow traffic, and those at least move. So now I take the opportunity to write.

This morning, we visited the City Palace for some daylight pictures. I took the opportunity to purchase a half dozen scarves for $15 dollars, fulfilling my gift obligations. We then visited the Amber Palace in the hills over Jaipur. As part of the tour package, we rode elephants up said hills. I would not recommend such for people with back issues. It is not comfortable at all, and I commend those archers in ancient times for being able to ride these things to war. Now moving, will continue.

-

Traffic was caused by an intersection with no traffic lights or traffic police. Once one side had a dominating flow, it would not relinquish it, causing an hour's delay. Only the arrival of armed military of some kind allowed us some relief. I suspect there was some kind of military officer stuck behind us, who was unhappy about being stuck behind us.

Anyhow, Amber Palace was something of a huge maze, but worth a look see, despite all the peddlers hawking their wares. After finishing up in Jaipur, we set of on our 7 hour journey to Agra, where nothing much happened.

Dinner, a bit of online shopping, then bed.


2/8/14 Jaipur

This country has too many people, and the vast majority of them are poor as shit. The contrast between the economic classes is extremely stark, considering residential neighborhoods do not seem to be segregated; the rich build their shiny apartment buildings on lots right next to shanty towns.

I woke up to a passable breakfast at the Raddisson, after which I jumped on the bus for a six hour journey to Jaipur. This first leg of the Golden Triangle of India was made on the Freeway. And by Freeway, I don't mean a Highway or Expressway that's toll free. No, there are still tolls, but it's called Freeway because anyone can use it. This includes buses, cars, and motorbikes. This also includes rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, horses, camels, sheep, and cows. And pedestrians. We had plenty of opportunity to take in the scenery, or rather, the poor as shit masses of humanity on the wayside.

I will describe it simply: It looks like they fought a war, and didn't bother to rebuild.

When we reached Jaipur, I explored the “Pink City,” including the palace “Hawa Mahal” and what I think was the downtown area on foot. Much better than we saw on the bus ride over, as they had something approximating sidewalks here, and most buildings were in passable condition, possibly due to their historical and architectural value. I've discovered that goods are cheap here. A fine scarf would cost some three dollars here, and that's without bargaining. I didn't really have the heart to bargain for a dollar.

Returned to our hotel after sundown for a dinner that looks suspiciously like what I had for lunch, along with what turned out to be a rather poor excuse for beer. (Kingfisher, may you never pass through these lips again.)

2/7/14 New Delhi

A day of long flights. Woke up this morning with a head cold. I had forgotten to bring the Advil and ended up buying acetaminophen during my layover in Hong Kong. I will say that said layover did not endear me to the Cantonese language at all. Even hearing from the mouths of rather attractive flight attendants and retail staff did not help any. Such a harsh sounding language.

My first impression from my two hours in India is that Indians take their sweet time with everything. Efficiency is not something they are concerned with, from what I can tell. Luggage and people must go through screening when entering hotels, due to terrorism concerns.

I learned a new acronym from the tour guide: INDIA: I'll Never Do It Again. Lets hope it doesn't turn out to be accurate.


2/5/14 Taipei

I leave for India in two day. Taiwan has been uneventful, but that was to be expected. We(my cousins and I) have watched the new Tom Clancy film(which, disappointingly, had nothing to do with the old films except for character name) and the Robocop reboot. Both were disappointing. Rain has made working out difficult. I will instead go pick up a kettlebell today. (Ended up lugging a 24kg kettlebell through the metro system back home. That was itself a workout. I need to weigh the thing though, it doesn't seem to be as heavy as it states it is.)


2/2/14 Taipei

My first Chinese New Year in Asia was a peaceful war zone. Firecrackers and fireworks bursting all through the night echo like small arms and artillery fire in my dreams for three nights running.

As for my own activities, I went to many different shrines, had two different dinners, and was bored the rest of the time. It was pretty much as I expected it to be.

Went to a Monet exhibition at a museum. They say that towards the end, the man had terrible cataracts, and let me tell you: it showed. Going to start working out at the little exercise yard behind the house.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Departing LA

About to begin my next adventure. 

Now at LAX, about to leave for Taipei to spend the  Lunar New Year with my grandmother.

After that, I'll be headed to Dehli, India. 

Thankfully, I got my passport back from the Indian embassy yesterday evening. That's cutting it close, though it could have been closer. My mother was freaking out. 


Back to writing in a book and transcribing it once I hit foreign shores. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Vegas

Spent the last week working in a Pizza store. I've burned myself multiple time on the pizza oven, but the nice thing about burns is that they don't hurt when the nerves are dead too.

I thought this would be more annoying than it is, but besides the somewhat tedious work, it's actually been something of a mini vacation. I don't need to worry about my father breathing down my neck, my at home responsibilities have again been reduced to phone calls and emails, and no one is going to yell at me for playing video games. Granted, I can only play Starbound on this weak laptop, but I'm quite happy about it.

In other news:

Also now working on learning Go on my iPhone. Still getting my ass kicked.

Decided I want to get my body fat measured. Looking for a Bod Pod operator in the area.

I bought tickets for Love at The Mirage for Friday. Should be fun.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's a new year

Spent Christmas with the Ex and Lilbottle. Holidays are good, as it is the season where everyone comes back from the various corners of the world that they now live at.

New Years was spent in drink and fireworks in Down Town Fullerton. This is the first time I can remember where I had fireworks to ring in the New Year. It was enjoyable. 

Now in Vegas to work in my family's new restaurant for a week or two. It's about as annoying as expected. 


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Home for Christmas

(NOTE: No longer being transcribed from journal, as not traveling and have a full size keyboard in front of me. Will note again when I start writing.)

Had an interesting few 10 or so days since coming back. I got rid of my work backlog pretty quickly.

I sent out my passport the morning after my return(16th) and got it back today(24th). I had it expedited, but I still found it amazingly quick work for a government bureaucracy.

I got my new phone, an iPhone 5s in grey. I also got a Lifeproof case for it, and bastardized a car mount for it as well. I quite like it. What I don't like is having to get a full priced unlocked phone for travel. I don't see why I can't get a on contract phone unlocked, since I'll be paying my cellphone bill even while I'm away anyways.

I had an eviction on Friday. It sucked, since they somehow didn't know we were coming and had a Christmas tree up with presents and everything. It makes a man feel terrible when you see people putting Christmas presents into their car because you're kicking them out of a house that isn't theirs anymore. I dislike the holidays for this very reason.

Met up with lots of people returning home for the holidays, which is the only thing I do enjoy about the season. Went out to go bowling with the kids from my summer trip in Taiwan, but ended up playing boardgames at nearby Game Empire after bowling was determined to be too expensive.

Tomorrow, well, today now, is Christmas. I don't plan on much, but will probably draw up the house a little more.

Taipei

12/15/2013 Taipei

Nothing of import has happened these last few days. I will leave for Los Angeles tonight. Instead of writing previous of days' non-adventures, I will simply list what I must do on my return home.

Renew Passport/Get New Passport(ran out of pages and will be traveling a lot)
Get Visas for Vietnam, China, India, and Cambodia
New Phone
Pay Taxes
Rent out properties (Foothill, Motz, Grier)
Draw plans for house addition

12/10/2013 Taipei

Another quiet few days, only three hours of lectures total, which is easily tolerable considering I had budgeted for five times that amount.

Today would have been my anniversary. For obvious reasons, I won't be celebrating, as I no longer have a woman to call my own. Even if I had, I am half the world away. Still, I plan on getting a bit drunk before turning in for the night.

In other news, new pen nib not too happy with LAMY ink, so I have since changed to Pilot's own brand of Iroshizuku ink, in a beautiful blue color, Tsuki-yo, or Moonlight. I find it quite pleasant to use.


12/06/13 Taipei

Nothing of note has taken place these last few days. I didn't end up going to Thailand due to rioting and protests in that country. Had instead two days of lazing around, one day of Bioshock Infinite at Cousin Arthur's. Today, I started the Starbound beta, and am loving it.

I'm now using a cursive italics nib in my Pilot Vanishing Point and am loving it. It forces me to write a bit larger and I suspect it uses much more ink, but I still enjoy it a lot.

Beyond that, my parents arrived in Taiwan. The dog days are over.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Australia

(After much delay)

11/29/13 Brisbane

Waiting to take off for Taipei on the same exact plane that broke down on me two weeks ago. Here's to hoping the technicians did a good job.

Fun day. We went to the Dreamworks amusement park in the morning, called Dreamworld. I got to pet some Australian animals, namely a wombat and a koala. Saw some kangaroos and, for some reason, tigers, but the platypus continues to elude me. No matter, I will live. Also rode two random roller coasters for the hell of it.

Wen to Skypoint, the second tallest residential building in world. The tallest is the Dubai, go figure. Had a coke on the observation deck. Good views, though the weather could certainly have been better.

Finished our tour with a trip to a duty free shop. I bought a boomerang.

Australia turned out to be less interesting than NZ. I had expected more from such a significantly larger country. If I were to come to Australia again, I think I will check out the central and western areas, where there should be more aborigine culture and landscapes.

I hope Thailand will be better when I go next week.


11/28/13 Gold Coast

Again, woke up early to catch a plane, this time to Brisbane. Mediocre domestic flight with equally mediocre entertainment, so I just closed my eyes. We reached Brisbane about noon, just in time for lunch, at the absolute worst sushi buffet I have ever had the misfortune and displeasure of sitting down at. The only reasonably Japanese thing about the place was the chopsticks. Not a single piece of fish to be found, nor proper sushi rice. Instead, all the rolls were of fruit, vegetables, and ground meat, all of dubious quality and freshness. The chow mien they offered had a powdery texture indicative of it's age. And the miso soup had little miso. I had two pieces of a crappy roll, before standing up and heading for the chicken sandwich place next door.

After this very disappointing meal, we took our new coach to a ferry stop. Brisbane is built on two banks of the Brisbane river, and thus public transportation is by ferry. It works just like any MRT system, with various docks, or stations, if you will, up and down on both side of the river. Sea cats go up and down the river stopping at each station, and passengers board the boats much as if they were to board a bus. Quite convenient. The ferry brought us from the suburbs to the Parklands, where we had a short walk before boarding the buss for a scenic lookout over the city.

Dinner was yet another revolving tower restaurant. There, I had my first cocktail in many weeks. Old Fashioned, of course, though with Jameson instead of bourbon. Odd that.

Our night time adventure was glow worm caves, much like Te Anau in New Zealand. I thought Te Anau was better, so won't bother to describe this adventure. Returned to the hotel about midnight for my last night in Australia.

Today was Thanksgiving in the States. I'm very sorry I wasn't there to celebrate with my friends back home. I always liked Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. I am particularly thankful this year, for everything that brought me happiness, for everything that I've been able to endure, and most importantly, that I will have another year to be thankful for.


11/27/13 Melbourne

A day involving lots of walking. After leaving the hotel late in the morning we went to visit yet another cathedral. I've been to a lot of these in the past few months, and this one was no different from the others. We then spent another couple hours in an outdoor mall, where I picked up another singbowl in a Nepalese curio shop, this one rather old. I wandered about the nearby marina, indulging in some gelato from a stand.

After, we took a free trolley to the Victoria Art Museum, fore some reason or another. Most art in the collection wasn't at all relevant to Australia, so this seemed a pointless stop.

Dinner was Thai food. I suppose all these different restaurants is indicative of how multicultural Melbourne is, but it is still odd.

Dinner was followed by a trip to a nearby casino. Being totally indifferent to gambling for money, I sat outside and slept by the river bank. Eventually, the rest of my tour emerged and we returned to hotel for the night.

11/26/13 Melbourne

Woke up early this morning to catch a plane to Melbourne. It turned a 16hr bus ride into a short 1hr plane hop. Oddly enough, the plane, and old 767, was probably one of the oldest aircraft I've ever set foot on, yet had the most advanced multimedia service I've ever used on a plane. Each seat was provided a iPad with on-board video streaming. An elegant solution to passenger boredom. When we alighted in Melbourne, we were met by a new bus which brought us to all things, Bavarian themed restaurant. Sure, the food was fine, the beer was delicious, and the accordionist passable, but still...I didn't fly to Australia to eat Bavarian food.

After lunch, we boarded a steam train on a short journey through the countryside before eventually making our way to Phillip Island(I'm still not sure if it's actually an island) and it's main attraction: Penguin Parade. A colony of blue penguins reside on the shoreline of the park, and every evening, groups of them make their way up the beach to their grassy burrows. We got to see the penguins cutely march up the sand, taking oft used corridors and trails into their hilly neighborhoods. Cute as hell. After this final activity of the day, we made our way to the our hotel two hours away, then retiring for the night.

11/25/13 Leura

We spent most of the day getting our fill of Katoomba. I hadn't realized such a place existed in Australia, but apparently it's pretty well known among the other tourists. Also known as the Blue Mountains, Katoomba is basically the Grand Canyon of Australia. It certainly isn't as grand or impressive as the real Grand Canyon, but that's not to say it doesn't have its own spectacular views. There's even a mini theme park on the rim of the canyon to assist in taking full advantage of the view. Unlike our own Grand Canyon, Katooba is covered in in trees, not bare rock a la Arizona. The name of the theme park is descriptively unoriginal: Scenic World. It consists of three rides, a bunch of raised walkways green enough to be deemed nature walks, and a gift shop. The most interesting of all this is the ride on the steepest funicular in the world. It's really quite steep, some 64 degrees. Great fun.

Many pictures and some walking later, we headed to the town of Leura, where we checked into the hotel early in the afternoon. We had high tea in the hotel tea room before leaving to explore the downtown area. The town center clearly caters to tourists, with many boutiques and gift shops. It was amusing for an hour or so, maybe double that if one was of the female persuasion. I purchased for myself a bottle of Australian Shiraz, then choosing to retire back to the hotel with it. I spent the rest of the night playing billiards on the hotel's giant 12 ft tables, finishing the wine before bed.


11/24/13 Sydney

A long day, if not all that exciting. Our first stop was the beach. What beach, I don't recall, but whatever it's called, I can say for certain it is better than any equivalent beach we could muster in the States. For one, the bikini babes were many. For the second, a good majority of them were of reasonable attractiveness, and not shy about it. For the last, topless, attractive bikini babes would trump anything we have to offer. I will state that besides the novelty of it all and the aesthetic qualities, I didn't find myself gibbering over all the boobies. Yes, it's true. I have become worldly enough to ignore hot, naked tits in favor of exploring the beach itself. I suppose my European adventures have helped me build up a certain tolerance to such things. I actually find that kind of a shame. It's hard for me to get excited for anything these days.

Our second stop was Sydney Tower, in the middle of the city, built on a Westfield Mall. The revolving restaurant on the top of the tower offers a spectacular view of the city, one that allowed me to get a grip on how large and sprawling the city actually is. Sure, it isn't near the size of my own “City of Angels,” but it still stretches out as far as the eye can see, and believe me, I could see quite far from up there.

Third stop of any interest was the artsy little flea market in Foundation Park. All sorts of interesting crafts and stuff. I picked up a pair of cufflinks made from a pair of Soviet era automatic watches, as well as a new production Nepalese Singing Bowl, and couldn't be more pleased with either purchase. We then walked to a nearby marina, boarded a boat, and went on a dinner tour of Sydney Harbor. Enjoyable enough, and 3g kept me amused with the ride went long.

Final stop of significance was the Aquarium. Fun, but not nearly as impressive as our very own Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. There was a platypus exhibit, but I was unable to find the duck-billed curiosity within. Unfortunate.

We finished off the day with meat pies before returning to the hotel, where I excused myself to the bar, where I write this now.

11/23/13 Sydney

Another day, another airport, another city, another hotel, and another overpriced beer. I do believe I've been spoiled by the cheap, delicious beers of Europe(how I miss it so). Imagine, for the price of the bottled domestic brew in front on me, I could easily purchase six times that in Prague, five times that in Vienna, and even three times that in the USA. Ridiculous. I've not changed much money for this trip, thinking that it would be short, therefore cheap. Instead, I now believe I will need to find an exchange desk within the next four days or so, especially if the price of alcohol is indicative of the cost of basic goods in the country.

I left Taipei last night, taking the red-eye down to Sydney. The flight was not particularly taxing, except for the sad fact I've watched all the movies I had even a slight interest in, the unexpected consequence of flying so many times in such a short period. Sydney reminds me of Los Angeles, but a much cleaner, friendlier, infinitely less ghetto and slummin' Los Angeles. With a real river.

Didn't do much on this firrst day. We visited an Art Museum, St Mary's Cathedral, and had a small walkabout in Hyde Park. Really, the only stop of any real import was the Sydney Opera House. We went on a tour of that symbol of the city. I admit, it was smaller than I had thought it would be, but still quite impressive. The late afternoon sun shimmered in an unexpected manner on the tile covered exterior. I hadn't even known the exterior was tiled, nor had I known that said tiles were in two shades! The interior was mostly wood panel and bare concrete, and while interesting, didn't seem to match the awe the exterior provoked. I suppose I may have been expecting too much.

The hotel we're staying in tonight borders the old Olympic Park. I wonder if any city actually uses its Olympic facilities after said Olympics? In a cost effective manner?

I'm about to finish drink number 2, and lacking the financial resources to drink more at these prices, I'll wrap this up an head off to bed. A new, hopefully cheaper, adventure awaits tomorrow.