An Asian-Canadian's traveling saga & literary tidbit
Life's contentment is not about sitting around in one's familiar place, but rather it is realized from far-flung places away from it. Traveling is my ultimate life's saga.

Cancun, Mexico

Monday, September 02, 2013
You see why I initially less interested going to Cancun? I thought there's not much of a difference, weather-wise, from any tropical countries with nice beaches.I got it all wrong. How can I resist the waves lapping at my feet buried under the powdery warm sand? The snorkeling stint off to Isla de Mujeres. Man, heaping plates for breakfast, bar is everywhere...(TBCon't...)
 
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New York, U.S.A.

Friday, February 22, 2013

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Jamon and Procession - 2 (Cordoba, Spain)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CONT...Soon after arriving at the same spot and passing the same group of devout Catholics in procession of their saints, as well as the stunning 'jamon' shops having these massive cured pork 'pata' flaunting, hooked side by side inside a glass display window, it was time for our Siri-like voice companion to take a break and we turned her off from giving us erred direction.

Once we're stopped to get a sense of where we were relative to our intended destination, I left my seat and sought help from locals. Few simply avoided me, not for the lack of empathy nor a hint of crassness, but I reckoned from their reticence attitude toward me is uncomfortability. Some would shy away because I didn't speak their language.

A lively well-lighted bar heaping with patrons caught me that I came in shortly afterward.

'Buenas noches, amigos!' l said instinctively to some bunch sitting by the counter hoping they take notice it was coming from someone unlike them in appearance yet uttering their own language no matter how awkward.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Ah Cordoba! 1 (Cordoba, Spain)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's almost a year now, but recalling our stint last Spring would almost always put me in better mood and revives my interest without question to just grab my travel gear and head out for another season of far away adventure.

The 12 cities of Spain and Portugal combined in a 9-day single-loop travel by road underscored the highs of my travel experience so far, and if I may add, this city impressed me.

There was something different about Cordoba. Was it the locals? The city itself? The fact of the matter is, it could be anything. Every little detail I encountered seemed to fuse with my travel-hyper consiousness. I know I'm more of a restless soul, but it surprised me that I give myself too much comfort of entertaining the idea of staying there for good.

After a day of long drive from Valencia to crossing the Strait of Gibraltar heading to Cueta, we finally arrived late at night here in the most comical and confusing way.

Seneca Hotel is a bed and breakfast coolest of the cool. You couldn't get more authentic once you see every corner of the room or at the very least, reminiscent of something I grew up with like the capiz-laden wood frame window or the thick cotton warm blanket on our bed.

Well, my friend Jonathan - that took over the wheel - Erma, his wife and my wife were all confident with our GPS device - one that brought us to a wonderful ascent up to Monserrat for example. It turned out and came out unreliable enough that we ended to a location where some sort of religious event was happening that evening, twice or thrice!

To be continued...

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A delayed flight worked-out afterall!

Sunday, February 17, 2013
It was Christmas day with our hips buckled on our seats, the 777 was airborne and cruising at 37,000 feet over at the Atlantic when I kissed and greeted my wife "Merry Christmas!". No fancy wine, but only bottled water were in our hands. It was different, yet happy that we're together like those past Christmas seasons. As a matter of fact, this one was unusual as we normally travel before or after Christmas day if we were to get away for holiday.

After landing to Schiphol, my wife and I agreed to see the famous Dam Quarter rather than spend six hours waiting for the next flight off to Milan.

Dazed, a traveling angel with a face of a complete stranger befriended us and accompanied us to where we're headed. Later we got to know that her name was Markell.

It was such a nice way to capture the city's urban scenery: a long line of parked bikes and people crisscrossing with cyclists on the streets. I was captivated with this old structure building turned into a lovely shopping mall standing majestically in one of the major streets there. Walking along the canals and seeing ferries taking passengers, you almost like to join the ride. The public tram cars, although they ran cautiously, we made sure we move and cross the street with the crowd so as to avoid being hit by it.  Gushing of people from every direction was dizzying.

Finally we reached the plaza, took quick pictures of us with nice building facades as background, alternately with my wife and occasionally with Markell. I had to stop at Sex Museum and took a solo picture at the entrance. Three Euro was needed to get in, but it was the flight schedule that we were chasing now as we needed to head back to the airport.

Overall, the atmosphere in that afternoon - though hurried, was fun. Drizzling and the ground had puddles of water almost everywhere we stepped on, but that's a good trade-off to see the beauty of its people and the welcoming city of Amsterdam.  
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Our twilight sightseeing of Swiss landscape (1)

Sunday, February 17, 2013
The sudden drop of temperature (from what I perceived looking outside from our private cabin) and the quiet but secure uphill crawling of TrenItalia in the crevasses of this mountainous landscape of the Alps - dotted with exquisite little village houses from a distance tucked-in along the footings of snow-blanketed hills and snow-capped mountains were my indications that we were entering the lovely country of Switzerland.

After exploring several cities of Italy with a guide tour and friend, it was time to visit more cities of mainland Europe. We had enjoyed an evening with friends in Milan a day prior, in time for welcoming the New Year. Also a couple of days earlier, we went to Milan's Centrale and attempted to reserve seats for a New Year trip going to Monaco, Barcelona, and Madrid before going south to Paris . The plan was scraped as the train operation was shut-down January 1. To make it worse, January 2 was already fully booked for these destinations, we were told. Lesson learned: no reservation too close to any day of intended trip. A contingency quickly occurred at this time and subsequently asked ourselves: "Why don't we head out to Zurich, Brussels, Luxembourg, and finally Paris?" It worked for us and fate seemed to be in agreement with the new plan as we were able to get our seat reservations from the counter that quickly.

It was early in the afternoon when we were sent off of our train from Centrale terminal by our friends. Soon, the train started on its way. The weather was nice, but chilly. After settling to our cabin, I took a nap. It must be a short one though as I was awaken from the sound of heavy footsteps of military in their Italian fatigue randomly checking passengers' travel documents. Shortly, it was our turn. I showed them our passports. Amid their imposing presence enhanced by their snugly-fitted brimless beret, rifle slinged to their shoulders, and all, I remained placid. They demonstrated an ideal way an officer should approach any civilian: an amicable expression and a rather courteous request of documents.

Can't say for sure, how long we were at the comfort of our seats, but after awhile, the view from outside became a bit darker. It must have been around twilight. I began to think of it as a thrilling prelude to  a serene landscape sightseeing which I was about to sketch in my mind. Imprinting them on my mental canvas was the best effort I could make if I want to capture all the interesting pictures reeling - as fast as our moving train, before my eyes. The camera was a lesser help at that time as the train had turned into a faster-moving metal beast chasing nothing but time in the occasional slopes and meandering terrain of the Alps. Nevertheless, it still was a surreal experience beholding all the scenery before us: the smoke-spewing chimneys from quaint little village house, the heavy fog spread across the hill, and some occasional solitary tree in their barest form as well as tall Aspen trees clustered together and side by side standing bravely in that lonely winter evening. TO BE CONTINUED... 
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A day after the Big One! 1 - (TOKYO, Japan - Saturday, March 12, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"The posted note about "No Vacancy" at the foyer made the dilemma to the situation even more obvious."

Last night was not so good. This morning, we tried to resume everything to normal, at least from between ourselves. For example, we had our breakfast and sat down to plan for the day. But is was difficult. We're still dazed from horrible aftershocks last night coupled with an update from the staff that majority of train is not working, and no one I met from the hotel was encouraged to use train/subway anyway. Now all these printout bulletin posted in the lobby and to each floor and rooms added to my worry that everything is getting more serious: don't use the elevator; in case, of tremor head-out of the hotel; etc. 

Every time I go to the lobby, guests are either on pay phone calling somebody (to their families, I guess) or asking the staff the same questions I asked before, "Is Narita or Haneda fully operational now?, "How about Kesei SkyLiner?" Those locals who forcibly checked-in themselves for the night for an available room last night were checking out now in the lobby too. I could only imagine their relief last night as soon as they're able to secure rooms here at the hotel. When the whole train network went to a complete stop yesterday due to the earthquake, a lot (specially women) had to scramble to find a place to stay or they would face of spending the night at a crowded train station. The posted note about "No Vacancy" at the foyer made the dilemma to the situation even more obvious.

(to be continued...)



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Leaving with sinking hearts for the Japanese 1 - (TOKYO, Japan - Sunday, March 13, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"As my wife and I look at each other searching for a consensus, another steady jolt befall around us, another depressing wail from one of the survivors of tsunami being flash on TV screen, another distant siren and PA warning announcement (in Japanese) outside the streets of Tokyo. These happenings deride our sense of already heightened fear..."


So far last night was a bit tight sleep for me. Could it be that I consciously exhausted myself during the day so I would go straight to bed? or because I intentionally turned off the TV to mentally block-off these dreadful scenes of the aftermath that linger in my mind longer after I've gone to bed? Whichever it was, I'm glad I mustered four hours of quality sleep until my wife wakes me up with the TV set turned-on this time.

Another series of horrible news update from the coastal region of Sendai. This was followed by breaking news about an explosion from certain nuclear plant. I just recall that yesterday, Japan's US Ambassador was off-putting speculations about a nuclear reactor explosion. Good grief!

Just like yesterday, our plan to head out today to the airport is put on hold because of precarious feelings we have using the train coupled with crowded stations with no service or intermittent one, at best.

"And what about the airport itself? How are they handling the situation? Could it be better that we extend our stay in the hotel for a few more days which, aside from the occasional creaking sound of ceiling and the ominous swaying of curtains every time an aftershock hits - is quite sheltered from all these panic and bustle?" These are series of questions we asked ourselves.

This may be changing.

As my wife and I look at each other searching for a consensus, another steady jolt befall around us, another depressing wail from one of the survivors of tsunami being flash on TV screen, another distant siren and PA warning announcement (in Japanese) outside the streets of Tokyo. These happenings deride our sense of already heightened fear. I almost threw-up.

We're leaving. We're taking whatever risks may come up along the way, but we must leave now. We need to get to the airport today!  (to be continued...)
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Tokyo before the tragedy 3 - (TOKYO, Japan - Thursday, March 10, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"There was no hint of anything ominous to come. The city was full of life that evening. Toyotas and Hondas join the left-hand traffic flow of Tokyo's busy streets amid the ostensive flashes of traffic lights. A teeming crowd who emerged from Ueno subway station swarms forward in unison to cross the street..."
 (con't...)
Leisurely strolling along Asakusa-dori back to our hotel after our quick supper that was concluded with a brimming cup of green tea may have regained my energy. Or, merely surveying at what I think was a typical scene of Tokyo's urban life has indeed engrossed and occupied me deeply- with cautious-moving step-through frame bikes careening with finesse along the pedestrian lane past through those passersby carrying a composed and collected expression on their faces, if not the calm and cool evening.

There was no hint of anything ominous to come. The city was full of life that evening. Toyotas and Hondas join the left-hand traffic flow of Tokyo's busy streets amid the ostensive flashes of traffic lights. A teeming crowd who emerged from Ueno subway station swarms forward in unison to cross the street at the signal of green light all seemingly gung-ho to carry on their end-of-the-day tasks. The enticing colourful banner of udon and sashimi and the likes swagger at a brief whiff of air signalling passersby a welcome greetings at each restaurant's entrance door. I stood still for a brief moment to appreciate all the activities.

Oblivious to the oncoming group of mothers with their little girl mounted at the front of their bikes, my wife pulled me to the side. Surprisingly enough, all I got in return was a seemingly apologetic gesture of head-bowing from the group; surliness and annoyance untraceable from their faces. It was my ignorance that wronged them! I shook my head out of admiration, and as an afterthought, asked my wife: "Should I be the one to give an acknowledgement to my fault instead?" Their tolerance and patience were beyond belief.


In a moment of epiphany, all the dazzling encounters we had with the locals in a short period of time since we're here have come-up reeling in to my senses, glistening at the rays of light and wriggling with life like a series of fresh catch from the ocean. I wanted to dive-in and explore more of it! Their exceptional characters and good manners that I thought had drifted away from most of human's day-to-day interactions are still here and alive!

The reservations, if not spiteful thoughts, toward their stoic manners and preoccupied  facial expressions have now waned and blotted-out from within me. It won't ever reduce my admiration for the the Japanese and their culture. Japan indeed have human face, as stoic as it may seem - and a broken one at that, post March 11. It is a face that needs help, understanding, compassion, and beyond it all, faith; I will embrace them like a new-found brother.

Later that night, I lay in bed thinking of what the following day may bring to us here in Tokyo.

(NOTE: series continued with title "Caught up in Tokyo". Click Home link at http://arvtar.blogspot.com/ to follow the story...)
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Caught up in Tokyo! 4 (a prelude to earthquake) - TOKYO, Japan - Friday, March 11, 2011

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"There's a collective haunting elements which I couldn't explain at that time while we were exploring the park. Compounded by windless afternoon...a set of multiple stone lanterns stands one after the other; moss crept-up to most of its columnar structure evokes a rather melancholy picture against a backdrop of overcast sky. Statues...are in repose of utter abandonment. In retrospect, they portend a horrific event about to come to Japan that afternoon."
 cont'd...
Stone lanterns
At around two o'clock in the afternoon while leaving Asakusa area, my wife's yet another delightful determination to see Tokyo Tower that day had us veered our feet off to a Metro station nearby to pursue her tower visit. With highlighter pen and a map, the station's staff we asked had then jots of x's, circles, and arrows marked down over other few attractions on the map for us.

The initial feeling of diffidence towards my own limited perception of how to handle a basic Japanese conversation - or inquiry for that matter, afterward, was transformed to a hastened series of bows of comprehension and gratefulness for the attendant's undivided attention of showing us how to get to those places.

Wanting to cover most of them in a single day, we both agreed to proceed with the plan the following day instead, the 12th of March.

Tori

Out of alternatives, the Ueno Park and the nearby Ameyoko night market which are few minutes walk away from Oak Hotel came up to mind. Ah, what better way to spend the rest of the afternoon amongst yet budding cherry trees, Shinto shrines, stone lamps, and colourful fire lanterns!

Several shrines in the park that we began to explore had the usual ambiance of the park itself as a whole, but only more. The silence here was extra-ordinarily deafening. I could almost hear my heartbeat. One of the things I found interestingly enough was its "torii" (gates) painted in deep orange with inscriptions engraved in each single column. Each singular torii canopies the whole length of winding steps down to the shrine house where a set of canine statues caped in red cloth guard the entrance. This shrine house is not as huge and grand like other shrine, but it is as serene. The inviting lanterns hanging by the entrance almost tempted me to enter the shrine, but I was not sure enough if the information placard in Japanese means "no public entrance". I backed-out. Those wooden prayer tablets - each with unique inscriptions written in almost altruistic manner from the petitioners (i.e., a prayer for world peace) by the way, is worth mentioning.
Shrine house

Elsewhere in the park - appreciation-aside from these little brightly-hued paper lanterns festooned and hopping from one cherry tree to another and a lone group of young buskers showcasing their captivating talents, there's a collective haunting elements which I couldn't explain at that time while we were exploring the park. Compounded by windless afternoon, the flowerless cherry trees did not offer any type of visual anticipation for springtime. Nearby, a set of multiple stone lanterns stands one after the other; moss crept-up to most of its columnar structure evokes a rather melancholy picture against a backdrop of overcast sky. Statues of remarkable personalities of the country's historic past are in repose of utter abandonment. Only fewer crowd dotted the park's wide avenue. In retrospect, they portend a horrific event about to come to Japan that afternoon. (to be continued...)


down the shrine house

busker on the street

wooden tablets

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Caught up in Tokyo! 3 - (TOKYO, Japan - Friday, March 11, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
 " Clearly, that was the intention, but...excitement...and foretaste of the action that'd be...will be transformed with paranoia of the aftershocks, fright for what might happens next, an extreme mental anxiety for our safety, and great sympathy for the Japanese people...." 
(con't...)
After our brief stint in Asakusa area, we went the opposite direction going to Ueno Park. Along the way, we dropped by at Lawson's (more like a dollar/loonie store) to grab bottled water. Oddly, this is the only convenience store with a western name I noticed in the vicinity. A 7/11 store with its familiar colour of green and red caught my eye, but only with a strikingly dissimilar-looking logo as compared from ones abroad.

Credit card purchase as opposed to paying with cash at most place of business here in Tokyo - I realised once handing my plastic card to pay for our purchase, is not as common. Surely, they have remained highly entrepreneurial yet tend to be more traditional and seemingly less commercialized as far as doing ordinary businesses here is concern. With this, I admire Japan for effortlessly fusing their own way of doing things while heading forward as being one of the most-advanced industrialised countries in the world! Rightly so, I won't be surprised if they rise from this overwhelming tragedy with utmost resilience than ever before.

Surprised that the store won't accept payment thru a credit card transaction, the staff indicated to me that a 7/11 store across the street has a withdrawal machine. Anticipating the potential predicament in future payments while we're here in Tokyo, we took-out extra cash than we would normally have in our hands. Having the actual paper bill may prove helpful afterward when rummaging through sales at Ameyoko flea market nearby.

Clearly, that was the intention, but my wife's excitement for a new find fashion piece and my foretaste of the action that'd be right in the market (for example, sampling those Japanese street foods and finding a set of dependable running shoes) will be transformed with paranoia of the aftershocks, fright for what might happens next, an extreme mental anxiety for our safety, and great sympathy for the Japanese people. 

In the cool breeze of the afternoon, we head up to the beautiful Ueno Park of Central Tokyo. (to be continued...)
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Tokyo before the tragedy 2 - (TOKYO, Japan - Thursday, March 10, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"The ensuing trade-ins of "Hai!", crossing of forearms for a "no", and showing of pictured food offerings are acknowledged with my only well-known Japanese  'Arigato(u)'..."

(cont'd...)
As normal as the things could possibly be, after checking-in with the hotel staff and putting away our luggage in our suite, we went out to have our supper.

Though the hotel has its amenities such as kitchen, the impressively arrayed small restaurants - juxtaposed one after the other on sidewalks, each with clear glass display windows showcasing an artfully arranged plate and bowl of sushi, tempura, udon, etc. (almost like bric-a-brac objects in a museum), are overwhelming enough to summon our suppressed gastronomical desire that night. We pick and enter one restaurant further away from our hotel. 

Couple of things that strike us most are the Japanese people politeness and respect of time. They would sense right away if one's a non-local, and would try all their might thru gestures and pictures to convey.

The ensuing trade-ins of "Hai!", crossing of forearms for a "no", and showing of pictured food offerings are acknowledged with my only well-known Japanese word "Arigato(u)" and in return, concludes our order by their polite agreement thru head-bowing. It was indeed an adequate way to ensure we would have the right noodles we anticipated. And we did!

The universal knowledge that Japanese are exceptionally hardworking emerged from the restaurant patrons' way of dealing. No one inside the restaurant tend to hang around after each meal, but gladly would give away their seats once they're done! Customer would place their payment in a cash tray (no literal handing of money) before a cashier accepts it and conversely, for a change. The customer would leave the restaurant right away.

This and other admirable traits of the Japanese people we experienced are some of the many reasons our hearts sink with them at this horrific tragedy. (to be continued...)
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Caught up in Tokyo! 2 - (TOKYO, Japan - Friday, March 11, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"Our vivid memory of Tokyo - now orphaned by the horror it has suffered from, is now a faint tremor that jolts occasionally to our very sense and understanding of humanity's frailty."

(con't...)
We started today with so much anticipation. Our trip that had been hold-off since last year is finally a reality. As a matter of fact, we pretty much discussed what we want to see in Tokyo since last night after we arrived.

That morning, once we left our room and went down at the foyer, the immensity of selection of sights to visit printed at each brochure are arranged meticulously eye-level along the hallway. Too many, as a matter of fact, we ended up deciding to explore the immediate neighbourhood of Ueno for today to ease ourselves of unnecessary urgency of picking which place has to take precedence on our list. Tomorrow's date is spared for a more grandeur exploration; however, that is not going to happen as fate will unfurl its unthinkable course of events from tomorrow as well as the succeeding few days while we're there.

The Asakusa area south of our hotel is walkable by several minutes from our place. Clearly, the small shops and restaurants with festooned lamp lanterns and Kanji-scripted banners sprouted along sidewalks are delight to our eyes. Our camera keeps capturing every engaging framework of new-found culture and its people's way of life.

Once there, a Richshaw man offered us his service to explore the Sensoji Temple area. We declined because strolling gives us more freedom to examine every corner of the place. At this point, we're like kids reveling excitedly inside an amusement park. When my wife plead me to have a picture taken of her with a group of young girls in their traditional Kimono, she feels ecstatic; one list off of her Japan's bucket list. The Happi coat - a workcloth for Japanese men interests me, but forgot about it as we move along.

The Sensoji Temple itself is grand, and with the spectacular display of reverence the believers and guests alike demonstrate, our curiousity kept our stay longer in order for us to watch and mingle with them. The incense urn, the water fountain shack, the humogous red lantern with an almost-cabalistic inscription hanging by the temple's main hall, and the pristine brook nearby collectively typify the peacefulness of what Japan once was. Our vivid memory of Tokyo - now orphaned by the horror it (the whole country) has suffered from, is now a faint tremor that jolts occasionally to our very sense and understanding of humanity's frailty. (to be continued..)
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Caught up in Tokyo! 1 - (TOKYO, Japan - Friday, March 11, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
We're here since yesterday. Given the remoteness of the earthquake's epicenter to Tokyo, the strength is still unimaginable. The forceful shaking struck while we were in the park. Other tourists that we talked afterward, say they're not as fortunate since they were in the subway underground. It's difficult for me to differentiate, I must have felt the same terror as everyone here in Tokyo had. Totally  terrifying! We're okay. Stayed in our hotel that night, but the more frequent strong aftershocks make us awake in bed almost all night. The sirens and PA public announcement we hear from the street to our suite add to my worry (they're in Japanese but you know the announcement has something to do with the earthquake). All important things (nissin, water, and passports) are bunched together by our door ready to be picked up if in case we need to evacuate and in case we need to hurry down out of the hotel. (to be continued...)
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Tokyo before the tragedy 1 - (TOKYO, Japan - Thursday, March 10, 2011)

Saturday, March 10, 2012
"The would-be experience - among others, was stronger to motivate us to go ahead with the trip and not heed of my friend's honest and far from being insidious pleading that we postpone our trip."

When we left Canada on the 9th, we brought with us a sense of excitement and list of itinerary we intend to do in Tokyo. Seeing first hand the dodging action from flying fish activities in Tsukiji Market and enjoying a sushi breakfast afterward, and checking some of the numerous pagoda architecture at temples were on my top list; my wife, riding up to the Tokyo Tower and visiting Ginza district. The would-be experience - among others, was stronger to motivate us to go ahead with the trip and not heed of my friend's honest and far from being insidious pleading that we postpone our trip.

Sixteen hours from our scheduled trip was when he phoned me about a 7.2 magnitude off Honshu coast.

"Quite strong, but aftershocks from it won't be anymore greater than that! Besides it is far from Tokyo!" in an curt, almost-braggart manner of reply I fired back away to his iPhone.

We went ahead on our packing. There was the feeling of trust in God. Relatively, the idea of outstripping due to 'minor' tremor all the mental and physical preparations we've done prior to this trip wouldn't be fair.

"Everything will be alright!", I said. And so I thought.  

We arrived at Narita Friday afternoon (the 10th). After going thru a maze of seemingly confusing streets grid of Tokyo from Ueno station - walking and heading on shoulder-to-shoulder with well-dressed and facemask-donning Japanese pedestrians, and bicycle riders slithering smoothly amid the pedestrian lanes crowded by locals and tourists, we finally located our hotel. Thanks to a pictorial direction instructions I printed from the hotel's website. (Using landmarks pictures instead of street names and numbers brought back my memory of the City of Venice). 

Everything went alright by the time we reached the hotel. And so tonight, we would discuss about our priority of what to see and explore first by tomorrow morning. It would be the opposite situation by tomorrow. (to be continued...)



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Disneyland - Anaheim, California

Wednesday, April 13, 2011








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The Philippines Dancing Inmates

Monday, April 11, 2011
Two years after I did a personal writeup tribute about Michael Jackson following his demise in 2009 (http://arvtar.blogspot.com/2009/06/goodbye-michael-jackson.html), I am still flabbergasted at the other thousands of online videos people created for him. Below is one of them I happened to come across lately. These are talented prisoners from Cebu City in southern Philippines. Enjoy!

(No copyright intended)

Philippines Dancing Inmates

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The picturesque Canal and a flapping banner (2) - Venice, Itay

Sunday, April 03, 2011
"Heading out in the now quiet alleyway and into Vaporetto station, my wife and I took a last glimpse of this ancient and surreal surroundings: the centuries-old Venetian apartments whose old-world dwellers once lived and listened to Marco Polo's adventure..."

cont'd...
Narrow lane of Venice full of striding feet
The clear and starry evening sky, the ornamental minute blue and incandescent light-bulbs hang overhead along and throughout each lane, and some occasional lonely brass light-posts did its duty to help us find our way back to the apartment.

Moments later, we were all together at the dinner table with me recounting our late afternoon stroll. Few of Dave's friends came over and met us. Our conversation went on close to midnight, and soon afterward we left the apartment as we had planned earlier to catch a midnight train to Rome.

Heading out in the now quiet alleyway and into Vaporetto station, my wife and I took a last glimpse of this ancient and surreal surroundings: the centuries-old Venetian apartments whose old-world dwellers once lived and listened to Marco Polo's adventure; the arched little bridges that connected each alley and helped thousands of wandering feet traverse the "water" city; the perennially magical meandering sub-canals whose romantic association with falsetto-voiced Gondoliers has never faded throughout the centuries; and the one that epitomize all of Venice life and dreams, the gondolas. Now docked and resting in the middle of the night over calm water, each partially shrouded by tarp to protect it from elements, I guess.

"Sleep now and rest," as if I was speaking to someone, "for tomorrow you are going to invite and capture once again the hearts of many - whose desire was to intimately glide with you along the canals and pass underneath the majestic Rialto Bridge - transcending their most-favoured dream into a reality!"

Gondolas in slumber. Zzzz...
At this time, a little banner at the end of a post where the gondolas are docked now being caress playfully by cold midnight breeze, is gently flapping as if bidding its goodbye to us.

I stopped momentarily, gave out a little smile and in my mind silently uttered words, "Thank you for the wonderful experience, until next time, my friend!"

Meanwhile, I noticed my wife was starting to pull my hand, urging me and said, "Come on, we've still got to catch the midnight express train to Rome!" I then obliged without delay. (to be continued...)
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The picturesque Canal and a flapping banner (1) - Venice, Italy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Out here, there seems to be no decline of crowds. A scene that ironically went in agreement with the settling late afternoon sun so hesitant to descend yet out in the horizon..."


It was only such a brief time that we had there in Venice. Though as stunning the city of Venice as it could be in every seasoned traveler's lips, it is indeed a hundredth fold better once you travel down its cobblestone alleys, explore its myriad of canals or browse its centuries-old Venetian apartments.

The beauty of Venice has been visually immortalized numerous times - as far as I've become aware of, in various travel television programs and magazines.

The evoking image of Grand Canal with the Salute Church as backdrop; gondolas gliding over the sparkling emerald water; the numerous stilts sticking out and lined-up by the side of the Grand Canal corralling those idly-docked gondolas. Truly, they depict and represent the stunning uniqueness of the city of Venice that have spell-bounded its visitors throughout the ages.
Saint Mark Square being bathe by the afternoon sun
Saint Mark Square - the place where we emerged from our last phase of strolling, faces Venice's main train hub from a distance, separated only by the Grand Canal itself.

Out here, there seems to be no decline of crowds. A scene that ironically went in agreement with the settling late afternoon sun so hesitant to descend yet out in the horizon. It was a bit overcast and foggy, but the orangey hue of sunlight blanketing a whole expanse of the Square, the Canal, and train terminal subdues a rather gloomy atmosphere. It did not seem to matter anyway, since most of the oblivious crowd were busy clicking the shutter of their cameras to capture the frozen-in-time beauty of the place; we were one of them.

From Saint Mark Square's open court, we continued to lazily stroll along the Grand Canal. At one point we just sat close to the waters and listened to the serene sound of gentle waves - rippled and generated by each passing gondola, lapping and breaking off right before our feet against the concrete wall and affording us even to relax further watching activities in the Canal.

Gazing out from our where we were - the emerging outline of Salute's dome-shaped roof and a series of apartments adjacent to it, was strikingly formed by the settling sun behind them. It reminded me of asymmetrical figures you would see peeking from a kaleidoscope. We stayed a good one hour there.

Although the breeze turned-out colder at the onset of the early evening, that did not diminish the number of people wondering to and fro. I actually thought it was busier than it had been during the daytime we were out.
Heading back to my friend's place for dinner, we again followed those whimsical narrow alleyways cautious not to depend too much on street names, but depended wholly on whatever sort of specific points of interest we've remembered on the way out earlier that afternoon. (to be continued...)
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Although the author has no professional writing credential nor an all-embracing traveling experience, it is the inspiration drawn out from lives surrounding him as well as sharing his works with readers that make him enthused about writing; his occasional travel - often spontaneous, inspires him to pen such adventure. He currently lives in western Canada with his wife. ***COPYRIGHT TO ENTRIES RESERVED EXCEPT OTHERWISE INDICATED***
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