Places

I’m in the process of migrating and consolidating information from different places where I have visited to this page.  It is a work in progress because it will take me a while.  If the hot link is not active (not in blue), it means it has to be updated yet.

Europe

Europe banner

2018 March 

2017 March

  • Madrid
  • Salamanca

2016 July + August

2014 August 

2013 December 

2013 March

London, Greenwich, Oxford, Brighton, and Dover (Summer, 2012)

To be added: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Krakow, Bucharest, Istanbul, Bursa, Milan, The Hague, Bruges, Paris, Toulouse, Arles, Avignon, Castres, Region of  Normandy, Granada, Cordoba, Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, and Edinburgh.

Asia / Australia / Oceanic

2018 December and January

  • Australia (Sydney, Hobart, and Melbourne)
    • Sydney: QVB, “I’m Free” Walking Tour, ferry to Manly Island, Library inside Customs House, The Rock (to sample some BBQ Kangaroo), and dinner at Din Tai Fung.
    • The Sydney Opera House is more an entertainment centre containing several performing spaces. it was budgeted at $7 million and construction was scheduled to be completed in 4 years. Instead, it cost $102 million and took 14 years. 
      Wikipedia has a good article if you would like to learn more:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Opera_House
    • Just finished an informative tour of the Sydney Opera House. I purchased a combined ticket hoping for a relaxing dinner before the 8 o’clock show. Having some fish and chips at the Opera Bar now. However, I have to shout my order to the bartender because even the spot furthest away from the speakers has a noise level of 80+dB. Oh, there are also thousands of people here.

    • If you have been waiting for my visit to a local library, you should be as awestruck as I when I stepped into the Mitchell Building of the NSW State Library. In addition to a stunning Reading Room, it has a rich display of artifacts. 
      I also learned today that Australia interned the Germans during WWII. Not sure about if the Japanese suffered the same fate. I need to do some research.
    • Sydney self-walking tour: ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park, Great Synagogue of Sydney, Hyde Park, State Library of NSW, State House, Botanical Garden, and Sydney Opera House
    • Spending most of the day hiking in the Blue Mountains and visiting neighboring towns.
    • My Airbnb host recommended a Shanghai restaurant in the neighbourhood. I didn’t realize there are four adjacent restaurants that have similar names. I picked Nee Shanghai because it had the biggest crowd.  The food was delicious!
    •  A coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Clovelly Beach. I had planned to go further but it started to rain.  I strolled past took several beaches, saw some dramatic rock formations, visited a lawn bowling club, and walked through a cemetery
    • One of the reasons I ventured to the furthest south I have ever been is because of an Australian author: C. J. Koch. His best-known novel “Year of Living Dangerously” was adapted into a movie and Linda Hunt won an Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress for her role as the male dwarf Billy Kwan. I have re-read the novel several times and it’s one of my all-time favorites because of Koch’s skillful evocation of places and exploration of the idea of loyalty and morality.  Koch was born in Hobart and one of his novels “Doublemen” is set in Tasmania. He died of cancer in Hobart in 2013. When I was in Blue Mountains two days ago, I picked up his book of essays: “Closing the Gap” at a used bookstore.
    • Hobart. A walk from my Airbnb in the historic Salamanca District to the pier and the cenotaph and ended the evening with a spicy dinner at a Nepalese restaurant.
    • Walking tour of Hobart; it turned out to be a private tour since I was the only person who signed up. I learned about the rich history of the city: from convicts (some as young as 10) who built the town, to the once thriving whaling industry, and the jams making factories. Many of the convicts had committed debt related, non-violent crimes. The journey from England took about 5 months. Interesting fact that I didn’t know was some convicts were shipped from Canada and the United States.
    • Had a late breakfast with a former WO student who married a Tasmanian. Then spent the afternoon at a most interesting museum (MONA). Museum of Old and New Art is the largest privately funded museum in the Southern Hemisphere and it was founded by David Walsh, a Tasmanian millionaire. The collection and how they are displayed are certainly interesting. The theme of death, bodily functions, patterns, and communication seems to run through most of the artifacts.
    • Several of the displays from MONA that I really enjoy. 
    • More from MONA: I know some of Madonna songs but I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. It’s mesmerizing to watch 30 people who know all the words of her songs. They want their hearts out and seemed to have a connection with the artist herself.
    • My favorite from MONA
    • A magnificent space: The La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria.
    • Melbourne.  After taking flight #4 from Hobart to Melbourne, spent a few hours with the “I’m Free Walking Tour”. We were caught in a torrential rainfall just before the end of the walk. Even though I was completely soaked, luckily I was only a block from my Airbnb.
    • Spent a couple hours at the magnificent State Library of Victoria. Lunch with another former student who happens to be visiting Melbourne. Then spent some time at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). The Gallery has an extensive collection. A number of aborigines works are dreams related. The colonial collection illustrates aptly the world of difference between the Europeans and the natives.
    • I attended a traditional service of carols and lessons at the St. Paul’s Cathedral. When I entered the church, a colourful structure stood near the back of the nave. With a blinking light near its top, I thought it was too modern and out of place. Actually, I thought it was ugly. During the homily, the Dean of the Cathedral explained that the object is a Christmas tree and its material consisted of the life jackets of the Syrian Children who risked their lives in the rough sea to escape the war in their homelands. The artwork is called “Not A Creature was Stirring
      This revelation, of course, made me realized it’s unwise to make a rash judgment. In fact, it reminded of a reporter saying: “No parents will ever put their children on a refugee boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea unless they have no other choice.”
    • Alexandra Gardens and King’s Domain in Melbourne.
    • The Shrine of Remembrance,  Melbourne. Until the end of WWII, Australia has been involved in a number of wars and conflicts but it fought under the banner of the British Empire. After WWII, Australia continues to play a role in a number of battles and peacekeeping efforts. However, it represents itself as a sovereign nation. 
      The Shrine of Remembrance was erected in 1934 to honour the men and women who served in WWI. Since then, it had been expanded to include all Australians who served in a war.
    • Crazy right turn.  One of the reasons that I rarely rent a car when I’m travelling is because there are often some strange rules that would really confuse me. For example, in certain intersections in Melbourne, you have to keep on the far left lane if you want to make a right turn. (don’t forget, they drive in the opposite side. So, it’s like keeping in the far right lane in Canada to make a left turn). Yes, you do have to wait for all clear but it’s hard to process that if you are witnessing it for the first time. The reason for this maneuver is to keep the middle of the intersection clear.  This is an example of how it works.
    • Melbourne $10 for a haircut. Even though there’s a queue, it didn’t take long. What a deal.
  • New Zealand (Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wellington, and Auckland)
    • Queenstown, NZ. This town has been described as the adrenaline capital and they are plenty of activities offered to attest to that. In fact, I think the bungees jumping craze started here. However, only a few minutes walk from the town centre is quite tranquil.
    • A much cooler day in Queenstown and the sun is hiding but the scenery is still spectacular.
    • Took a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound. The bus ride there and back offered some fantastic views and the cruise on the Milford Sound itself was spectacular. I think the government does s reasonable job regulating the crowd by controlling access. The famous Milford Sound Track Will take 4 days but limited to 50 people a day. The mass could access the Sound but there’s only one road.
    • A spectacular day at Milford Sound!
    • Arrowtown Historic Chinese Settlement.  In 1880, over 3,000 Chinese came to Arrowtown during a gold rush. They were forced to live in huts at the edge of town. They probably had to brave the bitter cold winters and work under difficult conditions. The saying on one display etched in my mind because it’s how many people still feel about foreign workers: “Invited but Unwelcome”.
    • Wellington, NZ. When I visit a new city, I usually join a walking tour. It’s a good way to get oriented and learn more about the place.
    • Little Penang restaurant.  Enjoying some Nasi Lemak (coconut rice, chicken, curry and comes with a side of a chicken wing)
    • The National Museum of NZ has a permanent collection of the signed treaties between the European settlers and the different native tribes. The treaties were signed in English and the different native languages. However, because of the different wordings, the same treaty doesn’t mean the same thing. For instance, the natives did not have a word or a concept of sovereignty and certainly did not know what that have signed away.
    • I may be the only passenger on this ride up to the lookout and the Botanical Garden.
    • Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Wellington.
      So many different types with wonderful names: Windermere, Tess, Goodyla, Best Wishes, Outta the Blue, Heart of Gold, Red Sox, Platinum, and my personal favourite, Peace.
    • Wellington Central Library. You wouldn’t think I would pass up a chance to visit a local library, would you? It’s interesting that the library keeps and displays the current electoral rolls and the City Council’s consultation documents in a predominant fashion.
    • Auckland — things that are vertical.
    • Auckland — things that are horizontal.
    • Arrived at the pier this morning to discover no more ticket to Rangitoto for the day, unless I join a tour. So, ended up doing a walking tour and a short ferry ride to Devonport instead. The volcano would have to wait for tomorrow.
    • Davenport merits its own video.
    • Another city, another “Free” Walking Tour. The guide, Marty, was excellent and it’s good to learn more about the city from a local.
    • I have participated in quite a number of them in various cities now and today’s tour was great. I mean how often you get a farewell song at the end of the tour. His name is Marty.
    • Rangitoto Part 1  Rangitoto Island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions about 6000 years ago. The most recent eruption is about 600 years ago. The island is accessible via a ferry but there are no commercial activities on the island. This means visitors are expected to bring in their own provisions. There is also no trash can on the island. Whatever you carry in, you must carry out.
    • Rangitoto Part 2. The hike up to the summit took about 1.5 hours and it was a well-travelled incline. The landscape is certainly unusual and I was surprised to see the number of vegetations. The view of the crater was spectacular but it was difficult to capture it with a phone camera. A drone would have been handy.
    • 1.5 hours climb later. A spectacular 360 view from the peak of Rangitoto.
    • You should know by now about me and libraries. This is the Central City Library in Auckland. Great location, good cafe, and well organized. Of course, free and fast WiFi. The security guards, they have a few when I visited, were a bit intimidating though.
    • Within an hour of walking in Auckland, I took photos of e-bikes that are scattered around the city. I’m not sure how the system works but I was told you just need the app and you can pick one or drop off anywhere. The company has people going around to recharge the battery for the electric motors.
    • If you are a rugby fan, you probably recognize the haka dance because of the All Blacks. The haka is a ceremonial or war dance In the Maori culture. I filmed this at the Memorial Museum in Auckland with permission.
    • The Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (part 1 of 2) is a both a Museum and a war memorial. It has an extensive collection in the history of New Zealand. The impressive building was first erected to commemorate WWI but has since expanded to include other wars.
    • The Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (part 2 of 2) is a both a Museum and a war memorial. It has an extensive collection in the history of New Zealand. The impressive building was first erected to commemorate WWI but has since expanded to include other wars.

 

  • Singapore
    • When I was in Singapore last, I met my friend Karen Hoisington when we were on the same walking tour at the historic Fullerton Hotel. We share an interest in the history of WWII. In fact, based on her extensive research, Karen has written a historical fiction based on the terrible experiences of her grand-aunt Elizabeth Choy during WWII. Elizabeth Choy is considered a war heroine by Singaporeans.
      On my layover, Karen is kind enough to drive me to the Changi Beach, where a massacre against the Chinese called Sook Ching occurred in Feb. 1942. We also dropped by the former Changi Hospital and an area where the British officers compound was before WWII.
    • One of the things I love about Singapore is the fact that several racial and religious groups able to coexist peacefully. Within the same street block in Chinatown, there is the Masjid Jamae (Muslim), the Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu), and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Within two blocks, there is the Telok Ayer St, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church. (Photo missing)
    • The Battlebox tour at Fort Canning. This is where the fateful meeting occurred where Lieutenant General Arthur Percival decided to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army on Feb. 1941. The 150,000 British Commonwealth soldiers were the biggest number in the history of the British Empire. The actual unconditional surrender took place at the Ford Factory.
  • Thailand (Bangkok, and Kanchanaburi)
    • Damnoen Floating Market (part 1 of 3) is about 100 km south west of Bangkok. The market is definitely created for tourists but it’s a fun experience nevertheless. At one time, I’m sure the locals used to frequent a floating market when canals were plentiful and roads were not built yet.
    • Damnoen Floating Market (Part 2 of 3).  Coming to this market was a bit of accident but I’m glad I did. Although it was really crowded I think the locals did try to provide some authentic experience and there were also lots of photogenic frames. I have actually wanted to travel to River Kwai for an all-day tour but the ones I found were either cancelled or full. So I booked one that spent the morning at the market and the afternoon at River Kwai. Unfortunately, the tour spent a lot more time at the market than the River Kwai.
    • Damnoen Floating Market (Part 3 of 3).Traffic jam? What traffic jam?
    • Add a bit of this, a bit of that, and maybe a bit of the other stuff too. A primer in cooking up a bowl of noodles on a boat.
    • JEATH (Japan, England, Australia, America, Thailand, Holland) is one of the museums near the famous bridge over the River Kwai. I believe this one is closest to the Bridge and it’s on the ground of a former temple. Because I was part of a tour and I felt really rush and not able to spend more time with some of the artifacts. The Museum has quite an eclectic collections.
    • Time-lapse video from above about 6:30 am near the Phetchaburi subway station.
    • Street food of Bangkok.
    • Just have a delicious Thai dinner at a “street food” stall. It’s quite a modern and clean set up at the Asiatique waterfront. It’s amazing what it could produce in a tiny kitchen.
    • From Wikipedia:
      The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (known locally as the Don-Rak War Cemetery) is the main prisoner of war (POW) cemetery for victims of Japanese imprisonment while building the Burma Railway. It is on the main road, Saeng Chuto Road, through the town of Kanchanaburi, Thailand, adjacent to an older Chinese cemetery. The Thai-Burma Rail is the one depicted in the movie “The Bridge Over River Kwai” I was there as part of a tour. Unfortunately, I felt rush and didn’t spend as much time at the cemetery as I would have liked.
  • Laos (Vientiane, and Luang Prabang)
    • Vientiane — The former Royal Palace has been converted into a museum and a theatre.
    • Wats (temples) in Vientiane.
    • Definitely lost in translation. (one of the most ‘liked’ photos on my timeline.)
    • Vientiane’s city centre is quite compact. The architecture is a mix of practical structures and colonial buildings. The grandest ones are the wats (temples) and government offices.
    • Green Park is a lovely boutique hotel on the edge of the city centre.   It is adjacent to the biggest mall (I think 4 floors) in Vientiane.
    • Patuxay, literally means the Victory Gate. It’s sometimes referred to a mink mini Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane even though the design is quite different. The surprise of the visit is reading the description plague of the monument (read it yourself; it’s photo #5)
    • Luang Prabang is definitely more lively than Vientiane. The old town has been designated as a UNESCO site in 1995 for its well preserved architectural, cultural, and religious heritage. It was also the royal capital of the country until 1975.  Although the town is populated with tourists, it manages to retain a relax and calm atmosphere.
    • This Luang Prabang Library has a program whereby visitors can purchase books for the children in the villages.
    • Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of Golden City) is one of the many temples in Luang Prabang. I really enjoy the mosaic, paintings, and craving on the doors. Laos’s a predominately Buddhist country and the temples play an impotent role in the society.
    • The famous bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan River. The bridge is only operational when it’s not the raining season. I didn’t get to do as much as I would like for the 3 days I spent in Luang Prabang because it rained the first two days and I have been fighting a cold.
    • Even though the old town is catered to tourists, Luang Prabang manages to retain its unhurried and rustic charm. However, China and Laos government has a joint venture building a high-speed rail linking the two countries. Once it’s completed, Laos would have to find a way to deal with mass tourism.
    • Harvesting coconuts in Luang Prabang
  • Hong Kong
    • Tram near North Point Terminal — Took this video earlier today. When I first saw the track, I didn’t think it is still in use. Well, I was wrong. It is amazing to see how the pedestrians were able to move out of the way nonchalantly. 
    • Two markets: Sham Shui Po and Temple Street. Not too many tourists venture to Sham Shui Po Market but there’s where the locals go. Many of the used electronics find their way there too.  Temple Street Night Market is well travelled but still worth a visit. People have been eating at the seafood restaurants there for years before Anthony Bourdain made it famous.
    • A ride on the upper deck on Bus 6 towards Stanley, Hong Kong. It’s almost like riding a roller coaster.
    • Bus 14: Stanley to Grand Promenade traverses through the Tai Tam Reservoir. The bridge is too narrow for two way traffic.
    • View from a tram: the Hong Kong tram is a slow-moving public transit system and a bargain of less than Can $0.50 for a ride.  This is late afternoon and closer to rush hours. I’m amazed that there’s order amidst the chaos. People seemed to be able to move out of the way at the last moment and then just carried on.
    • A stroll around Central is one of my favourite things to do when I’m in Hong Kong.
    • Busy intersection: this is 1:00 pm on a weekday. So the crowd is actually not at its peak
    • Dropping by to visit an old friend yesterday: the Hong Kong Central Library.
    • I visited the Sai Wan War Cemetery where 228 known Canadian soldiers from WWII were buried. If you’ve read “Forgiveness: a gift from my grandparents” by Mark Sakamoto, you would recognize the name, Deighton Aitken. I said a special prayer at his grave.
    • Ma Wan (Horse Bay) is an old fishing village that has remained unchanged even with the development around it. I also chanced upon some amazing sidewalk art at the old pier.
    • More photos from wandering about near the old part of Tung Chung.
    • Yat Tung Wet Market is a wet market (wet means with seafood and meat). It’s located in a housing estate not too far from the airport but it’s definitely off the tourists’ track.
    • Tai Kwun (the former Central Police Station Compound) houses three heritage buildings in Hong Kong: Central Police Station, Former Central Magistracy, and the Victoria Prison.  It has been converted into a public space for arts and culture.
  • Macau
    • Macau at Night — in 1999, Macau was returned to China, two years after Hong Kong. Before then, it was a Portuguese colony. In fact, it was the oldest European Settlement in China.  Despite the proliferation of mega-casinos in the city, Macau has managed to retain some of its European flares, particularly in its architecture and cuisine.
    • If you find yourself in Macau, don’t skip this government building because it actually offers some repose from the busy crowd in the square across the street.
      From Wikipedia:
      The Leal Senado Building (Portuguese for Loyal Senate) was the seat of Portuguese Macau’s government (Legislative Assembly of Macau and Municipal Council of Macau.
      After the handover of Macau to China in 1999 it became the headquarters of the Institute of Civic and Municipal Affairs.
      It became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Macau in 2005.
    • The walk from the Senate Square to the Ruins of St. Paula is lined with historic buildings and it was one of the major contributing factors why the old town of Macau was designated as a UNESCO site in 2005.
      The iconic facade of the St. Paul Church is the only remaining structure of the original church that has been burned down. The church was erected in 1640 by the Jesuits who were expelled by the Japanese government.
    • Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora do Monte de São Paulo is located just east of the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Its name in Chinese is much shorter and direct: Big Fort with Cannons.
      The Fort sat on top of a hill and offered a majestic view of the city. It also played an important role in repelling a Dutch invasion in 1623.  Since 1998, it’s the home of the Macau Museum.
    • With the fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cuisine, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Macau.
    • Temples of Macau: Because of the Portuguese influence, the Catholic Church is a strong presence in Macau. However, the primary religion is Buddhism or some form of ancestor worship.  Similar to Hong Kong, there is a high degree of freedom of religion in Macau. There’s a mosque in the northern part of Macau but I didn’t make it to that part of the city during this trip.
    • Churches of Macau: Some beautiful Catholic Churchs in Macau
    • The hotels and mega hotels in Macau are similar to the ones in Vegas. Personally, all the opulence and shows are not what draw me back to Macau. However, I must admit some of them are really impressive.
    • A tiny library in the Village of Coloane.

 

  • China (Changsha, and Shaoshan)
    • Changsha is the capital of Hunan (Hu = Lake, Nan = south, south of the lake).  During WWII, it was a site where the Chinese army won the very first battle against the Japanese. After four tries, the Japanese finally occupied the city.  Changsha is also where joined the Community Party of China. Changsha is now an important commercial, manufacturing and transportation centre.
    • Shaoshan is the birthplace of Chairman Mao.  Officially, the latest verdict of Mao’s legacy is 70% correct and 30% wrong. He played a major role in creating modern China. Against all odds, he led the Chinese Communist Party in defeating the better armed and numerically stronger Nationalist Party, led by Chang Kai-Shek. Internally, he managed to remain the leader even when it appeared he had lost the confidence of the party elites.
    • However, against his accomplishments, his Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) was disastrous and caused much suffering. The upheaval of his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) left deep scars in the social fabrics. Tens of millions may have died because of Mao’s policies.
      In Shaoshan, a giant statue of Chairman Mao was erected in Shaoshan in 1993. Mao’s former family home, the elementary school he attended, and a number of other museums can be found in Shaoshan. Annually, the town attracts about 20 millions people visitors.
    • According to our tour guide, this is the only Chairman Mao’s Library in China. It was actually not part of the tour but I told the guide I wanted to check it out.  The building is less of a Library but more of a research centre. Surprisingly, I was the only visitor.

2017 August and September

  • Manchuria
  • Singapore
  • Bangkok
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau

2016 December

  • Xiamen
  • Kinmen Island, Taiwan
  • Chaozhou
  • Hong Kong

To be added: Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melacca, Beijing, and Shanghai.

 

North America

2017 December

2017 July

  • Ottawa / Thousand Islands
  • Philadelphia
  • Stowe Vermont
  • Eastern Townships, Quebec

2015 December

2012 July

 

To be added: New York City, Boston, Vermont, Maine, New Haven, Finger Lakes District, Pittsburgh, Madison, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Madison, Las Vegas, Portland, Vancouver, Nelson, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Eastern Townships, Saint John, St. John’s, PEI, Halifax,

Africa

To be added: Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh.