Saturday, December 22, 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

ultimas de 2018

Posted by Hippobean at 11:48 PM 0 comments
Xmas and bdays party at Casa Hippo:


Airhogs mini drone and light bluetooth speaker for Tomaso:


Hip holding T's light speaker:


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Umas poucas

Posted by Hippobean at 7:14 PM 0 comments
From the Berkeley Potters Guild, hippo ceramic by Patricia Uchill Simons:

ceram (blown up image by A.Racca)

Displays at the Nomad Tibetan restaurant on Solano Ave in Berkeley (yummy Momos and hand pulled noodles):





Selfie at the Berkeley Potters Guild:


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Open Studios 2018

Posted by Hippobean at 11:58 PM 0 comments
In Santa Cruz. Gorgeous! We saw many beautiful things.

My favorites:


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Labyrinth and the Falkor

Posted by Hippobean at 5:47 PM 0 comments
at 7:55AM of sept 20, the RV Falkor (named after the Luckdragon of the Never Ending Story) of the Schmidt Ocean Institute docked at pier 15 on the san francisco bay. It is the Falkor's second call to San Francisco. The Hippo was invited to its exclusive reception. The late afternoon weather in the Embarcadero was cold but a bit sunny, and the Falkor was floating majestically on the bay. Its dual satellite white domes, its huge square QR code and shiny logo on the chimney were very eye catching. The food at the reception, which included crab cakes, kobe beef, spicy mango bites, Mumm champagne with blueberries and some sort of pink lemonade (which tasted absolutely nirvana), a table station of a variety of cheeses, crackers, french bread and breadsticks, and grapes, and another station of dim sum (dumplings and potstickers), and a full bar offering vine, beer, water and lemonade, was absolutely totally first class.

Speakers included the Schmidt Ocean Institute founder and VP Wendy Schmidt (Google ex-executive chairman Eric Schmidt's wife), who talked about the beloved ROV (remotely operated vehicle) Subastian (named after Bastian of the Never Ending Story), the COO of Saildrone Sebastien De Halleux who introduced the USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) Saildrone which was used to collect ocean data and sailed alongside the Falkor, Flightwave Aerospace CTO and fellow of the University of Porto Underwater Systems and Technology Laboratory, Trent Lukaczyk who demonstrated how the Edge UAS (unmanned aircraft system) drone could aid in oceanic researches , and the final speaker shared her experience of the White shark Cafe research. Named and discovered by the researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, who study the sharks by using satellite tracking tags, the White Shark Cafe is an area of approximately 250km radius, halfway between Baja California and Hawaii, at 23.37°N 132.71°W, where mostly male white sharks congregate to smoke pot, drink beer and talk about the females (just joking). Nobody really knows why the great white sharks go there.

we were given a private tour of the Falkor after the reception. The ship crew was very friendly, extremely knowledgeable about the ship, and very open and willing to answer our weirdest and most probing questions. Tom, who was onboard for a 2 week research mission off Hawaii, got a most amiable welcome back, and I took a photo of his bunk bed in the cabin he occupied during the 2 weeks mission. Falkor is state of the art, using the newest oceanic/maritime high tech and even has its very own 3D Printer, so if a certain piece of instrument did not work well, they could make adjustments and quickly print a new one. the Hippo was most impressed. After the tour we returned to the reception to hob nob with the scientists and had some more dim sum. The schmidt ocean institute not only partners with other non-profits, such as NOAA and MBARI, but also invites artists to sketch or paint about the RV's missions, and some of these paintings were on display at the reception. the Hippo took photos of some of them.

Next to the Exploritorium, we admired the buckyball, a 25 foot illuminated structure that has 2 nested geodesic spheres. We stopped to photograph its many changing colors. The night got colder as we returned to our car in happy mood and minds filled with new knowledge. gosh it's good to have a friend who's in the scientific community so the Hippo could learn new things and enjoy them. Obrigada Tom!

Photos of Hippo's Falkor visit:

Before visiting the Falkor, the gang went to do a bit of hiking in Lands End in the Golden Gate Recreational Area. First we had a light lunch at Louie's, up the hill from the Cliff House. It's been many many years since the Hippo ate there. The day was cold and foggy but the coastline just looked more romantic if not a bit haunting. We hiked alongside the coast and descended to the outcrop just above Mile Rock Beach, and walked the classic seven-circuit Chartres labyrinth, and got a bit dizzy. From this vantage point, well, for a while anyway, before the fog completely covered them, we could see the bases of 2 towers of the Golden Gate. Cargo ships slowed sailed by. otherwise the ocean was calm and quiet. On our return, we stopped by to see the ruins of the Sutro baths, now delapidated with dirty pools and graffiti on the walls of the rooms.

After the Falkor, we returned to MarDar's for the slumber party. We were all stuffed with the reception food (that dim sum was supper and of course the Hippo absolutely stuffed herself), so we just had drinks and talked into the night. The next morning we cooked up an enormous brunch and enjoyed it in the backyard under very fine weather. it's been a most awesome weekend!

Photos of Lands End, Labyrinth and slumber party:

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Biz class final time

Posted by Hippobean at 11:03 PM 0 comments
Actually quite looking forward to flying biz class again. checked out the lounge at denpasar airport. Not very clean, old sofas and food was bland. but the wifi was secured and I was able to check emails. the flight to singapore was a 2 seater in biz class but still plenty of room. I got the window seat. Not quite as private as the long haul since you have another person next to you but the center armrest was wider and TV screen just as wide. Back in changi, i showed my biz class boarding pass to enter the silver KrisFlyer lounge. Good quiet dim lighting ambience, plenty of food, indian, chinese and western. however, the wifi was not secured so I couldnt gmail. Got some beef jerky at Bee Hang and Clinique Happy perfume at the duty free. The lounge in HK was dirty and dark but they did have sweet bean curd soup. One more advantage of flying biz class is the movies. The wider TV screens and better headphones allowed me to really 'watch' movies that if in coach, wouldnt have been enjoyable: the black panther (quite good), avengers infinity war (not bad), the new lara croft tomb raider (really bad, joliePitt so much better), pacific rim uprising (waste of time) and the last jedi (again). That was probably my one and only chance to enjoy biz class. I guess from now on, flying coach again would be a nightmare. why did I do that?

so this wraps up south east asia. Indonesia offered many unexpected fine surprises but also many sore disappointments. Disappointments perhaps due to my over research and therefore high expectations. What I've thought to be a well planned trip with 1 week on volcanoes and 1 week on beach resorts, it turned out it rained on the volcano and it rained on the beach. the only one time I forgot to bring my umbrella. it would have made the trip tremendously more enjoyable had I had my own umbrella. Would certainly had ventured out more to explore. But i did enjoy the tropical rain (just not while hiking a volcano or on a beach) as CA's been very dry and I did miss the rain very much.
I didn't think i'd enjoy garden hotels since there were water and trees everywhere and therefore prone to mozzies, and garden hotels usually are bungalow types. however, to my pleasant surprise, I did enjoy all the hotels as they all had a porch where I could do my evening teas and enjoy the quiet of the night, and some did have rooms on upper floors. Even the most basic ones felt comfortable. The bathrooms though were an issue. the windows couldnt be closed and thus not only mozzies could sneak in, but ants, the humidity and the heat, and no total privacy (if you could hear the people on the outside, they could hear you doing your bathroom things on the inside).
I ate so well in vietnam, the pho, the fresh seafood, the noodles. Neither Java nor Bali had any really fresh seafood, and both noodles and rice dishes were not up to par. the bebek goreng, the crispy duck at the original dirty duck diner, was actually quite tasty but very dry and with little meat. other crispy ducks were simply no good. I didnt even try the nasi goreng since I dont like fried rice anyway and didnt know where i could get the best one. Breakfast always had some sort of dry and unappetizing noodles and fried rice. The bread was always sliced, most horrible, tasted like it was made of tapioca.
For archeological monuments, Indonesia is temple galore and you'd be templed out. Prambanan was very beautiful but we got there just before sunset so the photos came out rather dark, and I did like tirta empul, with the most beautiful hindu towers, and the cave temple gunung kawi, with shrines cut into the cliff-face, much like the ones in lalibela but in a very much smaller scale, but the rest of the temples werent all that spectacular. after angkor wat, no temple could be spectacular anymore. didnt see enough buddhist temples although borobudur was quite impressive.
But it was the volcano views that were worth all the while. even without the turquoise lake and blue fire of Mtn Ijen, the smoking volcanoes and mountains were sights to remember.
Again, we traveled on all modes of transport, buses, train and boat. And Snowie, luckiest of all stuffies, was simply on top of the world, and took many photos with the volcanoes and mountains. He even made a friend, Lilephant, Kenneth's very cute and bashful stuffie . Now how much luckier can a stuffie get?

In the end, like all my trips, I've always enjoyed them but they always end too soon, and then it's always back to the grind, the stress, the worries and the anger, and the miserable daily routine.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018


Posted by Hippobean at 10:27 PM 0 comments
The beach front hotel looked inviting and I was planning on spending the day on the white sand beach followed by a massage and then shopping. But the noise of water dripping from the roof drain all night long proved that indeed it rained all night and it continued in the day. I have saved swimming in the sea for sanur because i didnt like the black sand in pemuteran. So now there would be no sea swimming. braving the downpour, Arinto took us for walk in town, navigating the wet streets, ending up at the hardy's mall. There I finally made some purchases. Quite satisfied, we taxi'd back to the hotel. I knew hotel massages were never great but since it was raining, I've decided to go for it. The bali massage again was just an oily gentle one and I've added a body rub of local herbs. the AC was at full blast and I had to ask to have it turned off. It was a freezing uncomfortable massage. Last supper was at the Hub inside a modern glass building. i chose the crispy duck and it was not crunchy nor tasty. the Hub sold coffee, tea and souvenirs. I bought some 100% arabica and lemon grass tea. It was not a good day.

Sanur a bigger city than Ubud, not quaint nor vibrant. I did not like it much. Due to the rain and the cooler temperature, there was no beach lounging nor sea swimming. Last day, disappointed.

Around 10pm, the earth shoke slightly in undulating motions. I was already in bed and did not bother getting up to inspect.

Sanur photos:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 2018

lava field and pele might be angry

Posted by Hippobean at 11:22 PM 0 comments
I opted out of the Batur summit and went to walk the lava field instead. Batur erupted in 63, 94 and 2015 among other times. The lava field was extensive and long, some volcanic rocks very dark and heavy (unlike the ones on the big island of hawaii) and some grey-ish, from much older eruptions I guess. I picked one of the darkest ones for the rocket scientits and hope pele wont get angry with me. It's a different volcano, not her domain, so I supposed it was OK. After a brief rest with ice tea and some local delicacies that again, came wrapped in banana leafs and soft tapioca flour wraps, with palm sugar and peanuts (which I didnt like), we went for a free hot spring swimming in a local hotel resort. It had several pools with 2 facing the sea and an infinity pool. The water was just warm. I was disappointed since I thought hot spring meant pools in a natural setting, not swimming pools inside a hotel resort. but they did provide towels and showers.

the last temple on this trip was the goa lawah, set in front of the sea. it's a cave temple with lots of local inhabitants, the bats. The 10 levels tower was probably the one featured in postcards, fridge magnet (i bought one) and featured in the logos of the kintamani plantations. Quite pretty in a small setting.

Then a long drive amidst on and off rain, we reached our hotel in sanur. it turned out we're staying at the Diwangkara instead of the swastika. again i was a bit disappointed as I've wanted to tell folks back home that I'd stayed at the nazi hotel. But the Diwangkara was beach front and the swastika was a few blocks away from the beach. i was given a room on the 3rd floor which, if not for the very tall tree right in front of building, would have a direct sea view. The room was spacious, excellently appointed, with all the amenities and a front porch with chair and table, of course. The bathroom had a nice big shower stall and the water was very hot but intermittently hot and cold. The mozzies werent so crazily hungry here. I've enjoyed this comfy modern and quite clean room and specially the room and hotel location. a memorable final hotel.

Mtn Batur photos:

Goa Lawah temple photos:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Posted by Hippobean at 9:08 PM 0 comments
Today we drove to Kintamani, the coffee area, located inside the caldera rim of Mtn Batur. First stop was to visit the Gunung Kawi temple, set amidst lush rice paddies and featured rock cut shrines, the 'candis' carved into the cliff-face. this temple was very interesting as it had both hindu and buddhist attributes. Lots of people were preparing flowers and food offerings. The surrounding rice terraces provided an awesome tranquil setting.

next we visited the most beautiful temple, the tirta empul, a hindu temple where balinese come to bathe and purify in the holy spring waters. There were many groups of local hindus waiting at the main gate, getting ready to go in to wash the bad spirits away. Tourists alike took to the baths as well. Above the spring, the temple had many intricately adorned towers, quite a feast for the eyes. I liked this temple the best.

After the temples, made a stop for coffee tasting in the Cantik Agriculture plantation in Kintamani. The tray came with small cups of coffee to be tasted by everyone around the table, with a spoon! Coconut, ginger, chocolate, ginseng, every flavor coffee, plus the Luwak, which cost us 50,000 rupias each to sample a cup. Tasted just like shitty coffee. We saw the Asian palm civet (weasel) in a cage, looking bored. The beans to make the kopi luwak came from the civet's poop. It's the partly digested coffee cherries that the civet ate and defecated. Thus shitty coffee. The world's most expensive coffee. I think they just make a big deal about it. Didnt like it at all. But did purchase small packages of coconut coffee (I liked this one the best), ginseng coffee and lemongrass tea for folks back home.

After the coffee, we drove up to the caldera rim and along the way we got views of Mt Agung, which erupted just a couple of months before but now it was quiet. we had buffet lunch at a restaurant situated on the caldera rim with spectacular views of the Mtn Batur, Agung and the Batur lake. it is probably the best view in the entire trip except for the view of smoking Mtns bromo and semeru in Java. After lunch, we drove down to our very basic hotel, the segara, located inside the caldera. Before dinner we hiked around lake Batur with direct views of the Mtn Batur double craters and Mtn Agung from afar. The hotel segara was quite lovely, with rooms around a central courtyard. We dined on local fish from the lake at the hotel open air restaurant. the fish was just so so. cooler here but mozzies still invaded us so Cheng gave me a mozzie coil which I burned all night in the bathroom.

Gunumg Kawi Temple photos:

Tirta Empul Temple photos:

Kintamani photos:

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Posted by Hippobean at 11:54 PM 0 comments
Since we're not leaving till after lunch, while the rest of the group went snorkeling, Kenneth and I painted the small town of pemuteran. Just 1 main drag with nothing to see and nothing to buy. We went up and down the drag, mainly talking to catch up. Back at the hotel, we walked around inside the resort to photograph its many statues and different room types, and we had a small lunch at the hotel beach front restaurant. It was really nice to just sit there and feel the cool sea breeze and smell the salty sea.

The drive towards Ubud was slow as we wound up and down small hills, but the views were catching, with many balinese houses with gorgeous and interesting house temples passing by on both sides, and got to the Ulun Danu Temple just right before dusk. This water hindu shiviaite temple was located on a small jut of land on lake beratan. It would look as it's floating on the lake had we seen it in bright daylight. With the sun almost set, it just looked gloomy.

We checked in to the Sahadewa hotel at the heart of Ubud's vibrant main drag after dark, lights and people everywhere. The rooms filled 1 long lane behind the reception. the bathroom was all open to the bedroom, with no doors separating it from the rest of the room. The bathtub was enormous with just a curtain to shield it from the bedroom. There's a drain right below the tub, on the bedroom side. another entryway for mozzies. Doors again had padlock in front (locking it took some maneuvering, again) and a bar on the inside. Impossible to keep the door completely closed (again) thus allowing mozzies to freely enter the room (again). in its hay days, it might have been a very modern and sophisticated room. but now everything looked old and tired, stained and cracked. The hotel pool was just a small fountain. However, 1 block away, there's the cocomart and a bit further down the famous original dirty duck diner. That's where we went for dinner. Much anticipated since I've first learned of it from the Travel channel. the crispy duck, bebek goreng, was very dry with very little meat. but it tasted absolutely delicious with all the 'secret' spices. i really liked it and didnt mind having it again. Satisfied with experiencing the famous dirty duck, we went shopping at the cocomart. found small packages of bali coffee, robusta and arabica. grabbed some for gifts. First time we had a TV in the hotel room but no english channels. in fact, every channel was snowy, impossible to watch. didnt feel like reading, so it was an early night for me.

I spent the following day with Kenneth exploring the busy and lively town. Tons of shops selling clothing, hiking gear, souvenirs and wooden carvings. We stopped at the Palace (not much to see, only the courtyard was open to the public) and a few small temples. The major temple the puri saraswati did not allow any tourists in, so we just took a few photos of the front gates. Next we visited the puri lukisan museum which had interesting bali cloth paintings and wooden statues. In the afternoon I had a bali massage at the Sang 2 spa. I found it online and it had good reviews. After getting lost looking for it, we finally found it on a quiet back street. Before the massage, they did wash my feet but not in ginger water like in Myanmar. The bali massage was not a trigger point nor deep tissue, just a simple rub really, but it felt good. The service was so attentive, I tipped my masseuse quite well. On my way back to the hotel, I took the main drag to hit the shops but could not find the blouse I wanted for Mom. We skipped the monkey forest as well, we didnt like aggressive monkeys. Arinto took us to an expensive nearby restaurant for dinner but they had no duck. Disappointed. The restaurant decor was very nice but food was not so great. I quite liked Ubub, small vibrant town with narrow long lanes filled with shops and restaurants, but too many tourists.

Ulun Danu Temple photos:

Ubud photos:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

bali and beach

Posted by Hippobean at 11:27 PM 0 comments
An early morning rise again. Still raining but I felt a bit reluctant to leave since I've enjoyed the setting of this plantation hotel and the rain (even though it completely ruined our volcano hike). We caught the 11AM ferry to Gilimanuk in Bali. Due to the sea currents, instead of cruising in a straight line to Gilimanuk harbour, the boat had to first go north, then turned to head back south again, thus the crossing took almost 45 mins. I've enjoyed this ferry crossing very much. As we sat on the top open deck, we got to view the Ketapang harbour on the java side, with many boats docking and leaving, the indian ocean on the 1 side and the bali sea on the other, the bali island with its many volcanoes, and the bali harbour. Snowie also enjoyed the boat ride. he's a most lucky stuffie as he's experienced flying business class, nice garden hotels with evening teas on the porches, smoking volcano craters, a train ride and now a boat ride. He's got much to tell when he returns home.

The Pulaki hindu temple in pemuteran on the north bali coast, was infested by monkeys. a small lovely temple with a nice drum tower, the bale kukul, a stone candi bentar, the slip portal, and over decorated paduraksa gate. Our beach front hotel resort was just 5 mins away. The beach was black volcanic sand, not to my liking. nevertheless i've spent the afternoon lounging in front of the sea, feeling the cool breeze, reading Gideon Crew, the Pharaoh Key (not as great as the other preston and child's books). The hotel resort was very lovely, 2 pools, beach front open air restaurant, a small shop and spa, with individual 2 room buildings scattered in the compound, in front of the beach. The bathrooms were all open air, with sinks inside the room, full complement of toiletries and towels. The bed had mosquito net. but no TV. giant padlocks in front of the doors, with a bar on the inside. Again hard to lock and unlock. Again the doors left a crack in the middle, allowing mozzies to come in. Front porch with chairs and a table of course. Very lovely rooms. We dined at the beach front restaurant and had a free show of bali dancers and a band who played very old easy rock. We all had the local fish entree with morning greens and jasmine rice. The pineapple coconut drink was excellent. With not much else to do, I put on my headlamp and lied in bed to read my book. Such a nice hotel, wish I could stay another night.

Pulaki Temple photos:

Pemuteran photos:

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

wet miserable disappointing volcano summit

Posted by Hippobean at 10:50 PM 0 comments
It was raining in Kalibaru when we arrived at the Margo Utomo plantation. The hotel was lovely, with a big comfy reception and rooms facing a central garden behind an open air restaurant. Even though the room was big, it was sparsely furnished and the bathroom with an open window that cant be closed, and a showerhead that only dripped water and must be manipulated to get a steady stream. But the water was hot and a porch in front of each room made it ideal for evening teas and relaxation. No time to sleep this night either as we're due to start at 1AM for the 2 hrs drive to Ijen for our volcano hike.

It was still raining when we got up and it continued to rain on and off during our 2 hour jeep ride to Ijen. After a cup of tea or instant coffee at the base of the summit, we put on our plastic rain coats that came with a hood and our headlamps, and started our hike in the dark. Dunno whoss grand idea it was to hike to the Ijen summit in the rain. We'd all wanted to see the blue fire and the turquoise lake on the crater, so with this kind of weather, what were we thinking? The path started out with a gentle slope that gradually turned steep. About 3/4 ways up, the wind picked up and punished us like the idiots we were. I've never seen so many people hiking and in such a miserable weather. I guess we werent the only idiots that day. We soon lost both of our guides. I ended up hiking by myself the rest of the way. All I saw was people going down, and soon I was the only one going up. The steep slope gave way to switchbacks and then the path flattened. Around the final bend, I finally saw the sign 2799m, the Ijen summit. A big open structure with just a roof was packed with hikers. couldnt find any members of my group in this multitude. The wind was gusting and rain lashing hard. I was soaked and my boots totally ruined. sloshing in my miserably wet boots, with my muddy jeans clinging to my legs, I turned the other way, to the viewpoint. Attendants were wearing oxygen masks. probably due to the gusty wind and rain, the smell of sulphur wasnt as bad as I've anticipated. I didnt even wear my mask. foggy to the max, absolutely no view of the crater and the turquoise lake and of course no blue fire. i turned around and headed back down.

What seemed to be an eternity slowly negotiating down the slippery wet path, I finally made it back to the parking lot. peering into every jeep, finally kieran opened the door for me. shed the wet things on my body and noticed Kieran's legs were steaming. He said mine were too. Then the breakfast boxes arrived and we ate like hungry bears. Bearing another long 2 hrs, tired and absolutely sopping, we got back to the hotel. It took me almost 2 hrs to reach the summit and a little over an hour to get back down. All for nothing.

everyone hung their wet clothing and gear on the porches in front of our rooms, but with the rain still coming down in full force and 100% humidity, none of our wet things would ever get dry. I took off my totally soaked through boots and poured out the water. The rest of the day I just hung out in my room, resting and beating myself up for being such a total idiot to summit a volcano in such lousy weather. Guess the volcano goddess wasnt kind to us that day. As it was still raining, I forgo the afternoon plantation walk and missed the coffee tasting. So I bought a couple of robusta packets from the hotel. It was a miserable disappointing day. But the evenings were memorable as I sat in the front porch enjoying the cool rain (CA's been very dry and i miss the tropical rain) and the dark evening, with a cup of steaming hot tea and Snowie as companion.

Kalibaru photos:

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

early morning to see the smoking crater

Posted by Hippobean at 9:30 PM 0 comments

It seemed like we've spent the day in and out of transports. Leaving Batu, we first went to see the Cuban Rondo waterfall, a park infested by monkeys. After seeing Iguazu and being on top of the devil's garganta, no waterfall could be spectacular to me anymore. It was a good fall though with enough water streaming down and good spray but not too impressive. Next we drove to Malang but I skipped the local meat and bird market. seeing too many markets and they were all too crowded, dirty and no longer interesting to me. Lunch was at the Tukut posh hotel whose owner traveled the world extensively, and had all his travel memorabilia on display in his hotel, expensive dinning table and dinning sets, his family rich photos, statues he collected, and even an entire room with fake statues of angkor wat and giant faces from the temples of siem reap. the hotel staff gave us a tour and it was quite interesting. The hotel dinning menu was extensive and the food luxuriously prepared and tasty. At Sukapura, we switched to jeeps to climb up the hill to the tengger caldera. The air thinned out and it became cool and foggy. Once up on the caldera rim, it was clear as we're now above the clouds. To my disappointment, we didnt stay at the lava view hotel, but its sister hotel, the lava cafe, which was lower on the other side of the crater, with no views of the smoking volcanoes. the lava cafe was actually a hostel, with lots of backpackers but we were given the superior rooms with views of the town below. the one and only restaurant was adjacent to the hostel and the food was terrible. Nothing to do after supper, only a short sleep before our 4AM drive to the viewpoint to see the sunrise over Mtn Bromo.

Malang photos:


Up and bundled up for the summit cold, we took our jeeps again for the short ride up the caldera. Multitude of people and jeep everywhere and after a short walk, we found a spot on Mtn Pandangan for the viewing. Among the hordes of tourists, we waited 2 hrs in the cold and dark for the sun to rise. The sunrise itself wasnt spectacular but once the rays hit the cluster of the volcanoes inside the Tengger massif caldera, the smoking bromo, the smoking massive and tall Semeru, the lesser Batok and Widodaren, was a view to remember. Snowie took quite a few photos posing in front of the smoking craters. Arinto offered us hot coffee and fried bananas and tempes. We took the jeeps again to drive down to the center of the caldera and then a hike on the sea of sand, dodging horses that carried people and avoiding the horse droppings, then a gentle slope climb and then the 200 some steps up to Mtn Bromo smoking crater. Tons of people and we had to wait to get up the steps, reminiscing of the wait at the base of half dome in yosemite. Once up on the Mtn Bromo rim, we had to fight people to get a view of the smoking crater. quite a site to finally see a smoking caldera, but the crowds put me off so I didnt linger. I remember reading about sunrise over Mtn Bromo and the moonlike landscape of the sea of sands online. The author didnt enjoy the sunrise but after seeing the sea of sands, he declared the early morning rise and all the trouble of getting there worthwhile. The sea of sands was nothing spectacular. Just dust everywhere. Breakfast was at the lava view hotel. finally there, so much anticipated, but the view disappointed me. although the view of the cluster of volcanoes was there and the day was fine and brilliant, i felt sorely cheated for not spending the night there. The buffet breakfast included a chocolate pudding, much like the one made by Faty's late Mom, the pudding I loved so much but could not find anywhere. that was such an unexpected delight and so delicious, I had 3 servings. After breakfast, back on the jeeps to get down to Supakura and back on the bus for a long drive to Kalibaru for our next volcano hike.

Mtn Bromo photos:

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

train ride to Batu

Posted by Hippobean at 10:30 PM 0 comments
Left Yogya in early morning to catch the train to central java. Riding first class on comfy seats, the train was quite modern and the ride quite pleasant. Trolley came selling good instant coffee and sealed paper cups with ground coffee inside a miniature filter (never seen these before). The view through the ride wasnt spectacular, just a lot of distant volcanic scenery and rice fields. Arrived in Mojokerto, went to see the Majapahit museum, very small, with an open air display of a few interesting statues. next we visited the temple of candi bajang, just what's left over of a gate really, the paduraksa (gateway with towering roof). I had wanted to see an ancient candi bentar, the slip gate that marked the entrance to a temple or ancient building. quite unique as all ancient buildings or temples had enormous decorated split gates, and even some new buildings in java have these portals, 1 on each side of the entrance. In fact, all over Java, there's a candi bentar to mark the entrance to a region or district. Next, the candi tikus (tikus=rat), once a royal ritual bathing pool, now dry, that was taken over by rats, thus tikus. A long drive later, we arrived at the town of Batu, small but busy, with a beautiful white mosque with a javanese tower. Our hotel the Kampung Lumbung was very unique. The rooms, each unique in design and shape and all eco friendly, were scattered on a hill, connected by meandering small paths that gradually wound up and down the hill. The room doors had padlocks on the outside (quite impossible to lock and unlock) and a cross bar on the inside. Mine was at the bottom of the hill, with a tiny balcony that overlooked the infinity pool. The room had so many cracks on the walls and on the thatch roof, that even at night with the room lights off, the light from the outside could penetrate the room. Air was cooler up there. The night was quiet with only the toads croaks to break the silence. I quite liked this unique setting and really enjoyed my stay there.

Mojokerto photos:

Candi Bajang Ratu photos:

Candi Tikus photos:

Batu photos:

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

borobudur and boring village

Posted by Hippobean at 10:55 PM 0 comments
the biggest bhuddist temple ever, they said, borobudur is. influenced by Indian Gupta and post-Gupta art, it is shaped like a stepped pyramid with three major levels: a square base, a middle level of five square terraces, and an upper level of three circular terraces. total of 9 concentric vulcanic stone levels, the lowest one
with carvings of earthy desires, illustrating kama-dhatu (the realm of feeling), next up, reliefs depicting rupa-dhatu (the middle sphere and the realm of form) through the life of Gautama buddha. The upper level illustrates arupa-dhatu, the realm of formlessness, or detachment from the physical world. At center top, an enormous stupa which was almost entirely destroyed and rebuilt, surrounded by a lower level of smaller stupas. this monument was stunning. The view of the surrounding mountains as a backdrop made the entire area serene and quite beautiful.

in the afternoon, we rode in horse carts called dokars, on the small lanes of the village of Candirejo, lined with traditional houses and plantations. We've stopped to play the gamelan, the traditional indonesian music using instruments like metallophones, xylophones, drums, and gongs; and visited a local house that made cassava (tapioca) crackers. small villages by now no longer interest me as much, but the highlight for me was actually when we stopped for tea and local delectables, spring rolls, rice cakes and tapioca pastries with peanuts and palm sugar. yummy! We also spotted a banana tree with a banana flower (never seen a banana flower before), lots of jack fruit, papaya and avocado trees (the local guide called them guacamole trees), jasmine and lemon grass.

Borobudur photos:

Candirejo photos:

Monday, August 06, 2018

Monday, August 06, 2018


Posted by Hippobean at 10:16 PM 0 comments
Since the take off of Silk Air from Singapore Changi, the view of the islands below never ceased. The Sumatra shoreline was very long. Soon Java came into view. Very long and very narrow. The volcanoes were on the other side of where I was sitting (as usual), but the plane made a right turn and circled above Yogyakarta several times as if to give everyone onboard a chance to view the volcanoes. the summits of two were in plain view, above the clouds. One was of course Merapi and the other could be semeru which was spewing white smoke. Such a nice welcome view to Indonesia!

I've never heard of Yogya until I saw the trip. Our hotel, the Duta Garden, full of greenery and watery pools, was located in the old part of the city, nestled among alleyways, a micro city within a city. I quite enjoyed this hotel. the walk to the main drag where there were restaurants, shops, banks and convenient stores, was through a meander of alleys, lined on both sides with quiet single residences. I really liked this place.

java decor was not known for extravagance. The sultan palace, the Kraton, was constructed in traditional javanese architecture of simple black and white decor, nothing like the brilliant multi-color tiles and statues of, for example, thailand. I'm not sure if i prefer the toned down or the attractive eye catching colorful decorations. upon entry to the palace, everyone was first attracted to the gamelan musicians who were playing a monotonous tune that sounded very japanese. paused a moment to let the melody soothe your soul. here we've learned about the current and past sultans of Yogyakarta, the special region of Indonesia, in a museum dedicated to the last sultan. Next the Taman Sari water palace with bathing pools was also simple in decor. We climbed the narrow steep stairs to the top of the tower adjacent to the pool, but the view wasnt that great. We took the becaks, the bicycle rickshaw, to explore town. I've never enjoyed these things. They were bumpy and uncomfortable.

in late afternoon, just as the sun set behind the 9th century towers, we visited the temple compound of Prambanan, which from afar, almost resembled angkor wat. 3 main towers for the 3 main deities, Brahma, Shiva and Vishu, with their respective smaller temples in front of each, dedicated to the vahana (mount) of each god, Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. the hindu architecture not as stunning as the khmer ones. didnt tug my heart as much. but nonetheless still interesting and impressive.

on the second evening, we had very good laksa in one of the restaurants. It came in red, green and yellow curry. I had the yellow one, normally not my favorite, but I felt like some potatoes that evening. It was really good albeit a bit too spicy for my taste. I really liked this town.

Back at the Duta Garden hotel, took Snowie to meet Lilephant, Kenneth's stuffie. Snowie was a bit shy at the start and gingerly checked out lilephant who was much smaller, grey with grey and white ears, pale eyes and a long trunk, absolutely cute and very very bashful. But after a while they relaxed and cozied up. Cute stuffies.

Yogya photos:

Prambanan photos:

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Saturday, August 04, 2018

polaris lounge and Business class

Posted by Hippobean at 4:00 AM 0 comments
I had travelled in first class twice. once with british airways and once with turkish airlines. But singapore airlines business class proved to be the best. I've never been to an airline lounge before. the polaris lounge at SFO had comfy sofas, silent suites, very nice bathrooms with hand towels but the food was just OK. nevertheless, it's nice to just sit there away from the hustle bustles of the terminals. my window seat 12A was spacious, with nooks to put things and lighting everywhere, big screen TV, proper headphones and the seat could be completely flatten for a bed, almost to my exact height, with a thick blanket. the service was attentive and the food excellent with 3 choices for entree, always a seafood starter, dessert, followed by cheese and fruit to complete the meal. I had the entire overhead compartment all for myself. The lines to check-in and boarding were short. I looked over to the long queue for economy and I almost laughed. It was a most comfortable flight ever. I kept thinking 'i could get used to this'!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Saturday, June 09, 2018

SpaceX n JPL open house

Posted by Hippobean at 11:16 PM 1 comments
Chewing on a piece of grass
Walking down the road
You don't care, I know
Ventura Highway in the sunshine
You're gonna go I know
'Cause the free wind is blowin' through
Your hair
And the days surround your daylight
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air...

except we didnt go there! But we did, of course, play the song ...

Been awhile. always air smoggy, hazy, dry, hot but sunny. Always that headache. always in socal is like being in a different country. but always loved it.

The Courtyard at Marriotts was nice but rooms are tired and not very clean. No real restaurant, just a starbucks bistro, small pool, getting to the elevators one needed to navigate a maze. But location right in the old town Pasadena.

eye opening visits included the falcon 9 rocket booster that stuck the landing back on earth, showered and repainted, on display in full glory minus the top, in the spacex HQ on 1 Rocket Road in Hawthorne. Then a mad dash through notorious LA traffic to JPL in Pasadena, where 1/10 scaled down models of all current and past spacecrafts were on displayed, life-size Galileo, the Mars rovers Curiosity and Spirit, miniature Mars helicopters, and after an hour of waiting Disneyland style, the assembly facility, where the new Mars rover was being assembled. Another mad dash to see the operations room, empty and abandoned after 4PM. Extremely generous of the security guard who let us in. the rocket scientits was ecstatic, like a child, running here and there in a hurry, eyes wide open in total awe. so truly a space junkie.

No time for the Fahrenheit 2018 at the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) in Pomona, to see Mari's winning ceramic piece. But meals included a fantastically savory bone broth of noodles with beef, crab lumpia, chinese donuts and clams (salty over the top) and papaya salad at the Bone Kettle (loved this place, gotta go back for more food) on Raymond Ave, followed by a leisure stroll in Old Town Pasadena; for breakfast, Venezuelan coffee, my choice of the El Torero, with Spanish Chorizo, melted Gouda, eggs, spicy mayo aioli, tomatoes and greens. Lunch was simply frozen lemonade for the Hip and burritos for them. Last supper was with the kids, Chris who worked at SpaceX and his girlfriend, and Catalan scientist Ivan from Barcelona, who worked with sonars, at Malbec Argentina, in the new part of the city. No parilla on the menu, but they called them sausage platter I guess. I got the papardelle with beef and porcini mushrooms (except I couldnt find a single porcini). OK, not great. The rest has 8 or 14 or 16 oz of ribeye. The argentine malbec was smooth, full of flavors, and I did like it a lot. however, not so for the food.

In the last morning, we drove to the LA Port to sneak at peak the falcon 9 rocket booster landing platform (wooden plank the Hip called it) and T and A were caught on camera. The patrol just happened to drive by and caught them trespassing. well just standing on the rocks to photograph Elon Musk's Mr Stevens. The day before Ivan did the same and was caught as well. Their security was super tight and I guess, working!

Brunch at the 22nd St Seafood Bar and Grill, with direct view of the port, different size ships docked. Gorgeous day and here, next to the ocean, the air was a bit breathable. Quite enjoyed socal, as usual.

See SpaceX and JPL pictures:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018
Posted by Hippobean at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Posted by Hippobean at 11:23 PM 0 comments
Meow with Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale burlesque concert at the SF Davies Symphony Hall:

A&T with Meow Meow

Us at the Symphony Hall:

Tom charging his Bolt at the NASA Ames electric charging station:

day of rest

Posted by Hippobean at 10:32 PM 0 comments
Woke up but the headache's till there. Ate some bread for breakfast and downed some coffee with condensed milk. On our way back to the mainland, our boat pulled next to the boat selling fruit (what happened to the floating market? that was it?). We sampled some awesome ripe mangos. i dont like jackfruit, so I didnt touch those. Back on the huong sen hotel in Saigon, I was given a corner suite which suited me just fine. After a proper shower, I went around the corner to have the same pho I had before. The rest of the day I simply chilled and watched australian open women semis. Glad Simona made it. Last supper was at restaurant where they trained under privileged to be chefs. These types of restaurants although with good intentions, just like the ones in Laos and Cambodia, they're usually a bit more expensive. The menu was extensive with over priced fixed dinners. I've ordered the garlic morning glory which was excellent and the grilled squid which was so so.

The EVA flight to Taipei wasnt as comfortable as the one on my way here. But I've discovered the games on the flight entertainment. the guy next to me was playing millionaire and losing badly. So on my next flight leg, I've played battleship and after 20 rounds of millionaire, I've finally made it to the million $. And learned quite a bit on the way. Now I know how to spend time on a flight. I've never had special meal on a flight before but since Eva offered seafood meal without extra charge, I've thought I'd try it. both the lunch and breakfast was shrimp and calamari. By the end of the flight, i was totally shrimp and calamari out. And since I've eaten so much seafood on this trip, I think I'd abstain from seafood for a while.

So the entire southeast asian peninsula is done. Vietnam offers incredibly stunning natural beauty, the sea, the rivers and limestone peaks were a wonder, but totally lacks any unique culture. Everything except the Cham monuments were chinese. HạLong Bay, Hội An and Mỹ Sơn were worth visiting. The rest not really. But the food has been excellent simply because i love seafood and pho. From the 5 countries, I still prefer Cambodia because of its Khmer temples.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

mekong delta on a headache

Posted by Hippobean at 10:34 PM 0 comments
3.5 hours ride to Vinh Long on the Mekong delta. First we visited a very strange temple called cao dai. It's a very small but pretty temple with 2 colorful towers. This religion honors 4 deities: bhudda, confucious, lao tzu and jesus. In fact, 4 statues representing all 4 deities were on the altar, all under the 'all seeing eye'. go figure. After this strange temple, we got on a boat (how many boat rides have we had so far?) and cruised the delta to see orchards and sampled lots of local produce, jackfruit, water melons, bananas, dragon fruit. Stopped to see a cottage industry of rice paper, coconut candy and rice popcorn and snake wine. there was a python in a cage. It was the shop owner's pet.The snake looked relatively mild, so I've touched its skin. scaly, hard, sharp, smooth and shiny. We observed how rice paper, coconut candies and rice popcorn were made and made some purchases. The sampan ride on a small channel lined with small houses and gardens and wooden bridges, was very tranquil. All sampan had women drivers. the lunch at the eco tourism was out of this world. Fried elephant ear fish in a fantastic presentation, hooked on a stand. we cut up the meat and wrap it in rice paper, mixed it with cucumber, lettuce and peanuts. This is the typical mekong delta appetizer. It was heavenly delicious. Next small deep fried chicken spring rolls and giant prawns with heads on, of course, grilled. light veggie soup with small meat balls (typical of a mekong delta meal), a pork dish and steamed rice. jack fruit for dessert. Food this good, how can the women here be so thin? Next more orchards and more fruit trees, durian, jackfruit which looked exactly like durians except the skin arent pointy and sharp, green guavas, bell apples, bananas, longans, tamrind which looked like long peanuts (very ugly fruit), star fruit (carambola), rambutans, avocados, and lots and lots of coconuts. I was all fruit out.

We finally made it to our delta homestead situated at a very shallow and narrow channel. The homestead offered very basic accommodation. the rooms designated for us were inside a big guesthouse built in the style of local mekong delta house. all rooms, although each had its own door, are all open on the top, under the guesthouse roof. Bathrooms were wet rooms (shower and toilet in 1 room) and communal, unisex. Sinks were outside the wet rooms. The living/restaurant area was all open, with a few hammocks. I've climbed on one and was happy for while until a terrible headache started to develop. for the rest of the day I could barely stand the pain. Went to my room, lowered the mosquito net and sprayed deet all around. A small dirty looking towel was offered but didnt use it. I brought my own towel and went for a shower, which was a huge mistake. The shower head barely produced any warm water with any pressure and the floor was of course completely wet. good thing I remembered to bring my flip flops. Dinner though was very good. The owners showed us how to make tamrind pancakes and I've made a small one because with the headache, i didnt have any appetite. the delta appetizer of fish, rice paper, rice crackers and some veggies came of course, this time the fish was boiled. I couldnt even eat it. The waiter made one wrap for each of us, but I had to give mine to John. Lemongrass chicken, light veggie soup and rice followed and i couldnt eat those either. Pineapple and water melon for dessert. i just looked at them and sighed. I've excused myself and went back to my room and crashed. half way through the nite, I had to use the bathroom. All lights were out except for 2 fluorescent tubes above the wet rooms, so I had to use my flash light to illuminate the way. Almost stepped on the dogs that were sleeping in front of the bathrooms. Lowered my pants to pee and scourge of hungry mozzies attacked my deet free butt. had to remember to deet my butt as well next time. needless to say, i didnt enjoy the homestead. had i not had the debilitating headache, the homestead on the mekong delta would have been a nice relaxation.

Mekong Delta photos:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

the whole town in celebration

Posted by Hippobean at 10:30 PM 0 comments
Sài Gòn - drove back to da nang and flew to saigon, now HCM city. and went straight to sightseeing. the war remnants museum was boring. american planes, tanks and helicopters on display in the garden, a few replications of prison cells and 3 floors of nothing but photographs. not interesting. however, the lunch was very special. i had coconut salad and duck confit on a bed of super delicious egg noodles. again, was totally stuffed. Afterwards, we visited the reunification palace, which was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt. Again, not very interesting. quite simple and no extravagance. Had wanted to see the notre dame cathedral but it was closed for renovation. At the market inside the post office building, i finally purchased the Trung Nguyen coffee, only to find out that the coffee store was but a block from our hotel and it was cheaper at the coffee shop, and i could purchase whole beans there too. ah well, me, stupid tourist! the hotel huong sen was 1 block from the city center/time square, 2 blocks from the opera house, 3 blocks from the union square. the rooms were excellently appointed and with balconies. Skipped dinner that night as the lunch just about made my stomach explode. Stayed in the room and watched australian open tennis. Quite good. Breakfast was at the hotel terrace. Really liked this hotel.

the following day we did the cu chi tunnels. A picture depicting how the tunnel structures were was very interesting. disguised openings, traps, rooms for sleeping, dining and even teaching, and openings to the river. however, the 40 meters of the total 60m of tunnel I've crawled or rather walked bending over, was not all that fun or interesting. Just a low dark place. Displays of traps, guerrilla soldiers, shops to sell vietcon soldiers uniforms, hats and boots (made of rubber tires, they called them uncle ho's boots), nothing much else. not sure why all the fuzz about these tunnels. Not exciting to me. Returned to saigon for a pho lunch, just around the corner from the hotel. the pho was quite good. and i had a coconut juice right from the fruit. not as good as the ones in cambodia or myanmar. another free afternoon at the hotel watching tennis on tv.

A little before 7, i was sipping cold green tea in my balcony, when suddenly a big commotion started on the street below. a crowd waving the vietnamese flag was shouting. I thought it was some kind of political uprising. Soon the motorbikes joined, banging pot and pans tops. More and more bikes came and filled the streets in front of our hotel completely. Then I've realized this was their AFC cup semi-final victory parade. By 7 we headed out to hunt for dinner. The streets were filled with bikes, people carrying the nation's flag, shouting, banging pot lids. we had a hard time crossing the street, jumping over bikes. We eat on the top air conditioned floor at the Lemongrass, quite an upscale restaurant. I had soft shell crabs which were gigantic and deep fried seabass that was expensive, good but not excellent. For drink I've tried the 'car driver' which was grenadine, pineapple, lime and ginger ale. it was super delicious. My bill totaled almost 400K dongs, my most expensive meal in vietnam. Going back to the hotel took another daring motorbike filled street crossing. somersaulting over bikes again. back at the hotel, we watched the never ending sea of motorbikes from the hotel terrace. It was quite a sight. the victory parade didnt stop until around 3AM.

Sài Gòn photos:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

finally some temples

Posted by Hippobean at 11:16 PM 0 comments
Mỹ Sơn - I've never heard of the Champa people until I came to vietnam. and this afternoon we visited the Cham civilization's spiritual home, after admiring their intricate artifacts at the Cham museum in Da Nang. My Son was one of the ancient Cham's sanctuaries, where they buried their kings as early as the fourth century. The orange stone towers had an entirely unique architecture than I've never seen before, stone upon stone without mortar. imposing structures, with a haunting feel. there the guests were offered a free show of Cham dancing and music. the dance resembled laotian and cambodian dances with the fingers curling backwards.

In the morning, I went back to use up my old town ticket's remaining tabs and visited the cantonese chinese assembly hall. They were all the same, with buildings with chinese style roofs and dragon motifs. on my way into the old town, i've spotted a light green blouse with a pretty cut and buttons on the side. on a whim i've bought it along with another the same color but with a big button in front. I knew vietnam makes good clothing so I was happy with my purchase. I've also tried an Áo dài, but they were too long for me and didnt come in green. In retrospect, I should have had it made in one of the tailors but now it's too late because we're leaving the next day. ah well, i have no occasion to wear it at home anyway. besides, it would look better on tall slender women. it wouldnt look good on me. finally on my way back to the hotel i found the tiny restaurant, more of a take out place, that had real bánh mì, the one John told me about. indeed it came with real toasted baguette and wrapped in a banana leaf. I chose the beef. this thing was the most delicious sandwich I've ever eaten. the baguette was crunchy, the veggies cut to perfection (long thin round strips) and the beef savory. it was so good I've almost went back for another one. So today was a good day. For dinner we just walked to the first restaurant we encountered in the old town and the waitress stayed late just to serve us. I had some nice grilled squid. Was good but not terribly excellent. After our meal, we saw the waitress put on her helmet and get on her motorbike to go home. very typical. I've really enjoyed hoi an, the nice hotel (would have been nicer to have a room with a view), the night strolls under colorful lighted lanterns, the food and the cham temples.

Mỹ Sơn photos:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

city of lanterns

Posted by Hippobean at 11:49 PM 0 comments
Hội An - going into the old town needed a ticket. one price to visit 5 historical places. the ticket came with 5 tabs. walking through the japanese covered bridge took 1 tab. next an old chinese house, not much to look at, took another tab. Then a chinese community hall which was like a temple. another tab. so I have 2 more tabs left for latter. The old town had narrow streets lined with restaurants and shops. I've looked and looked but could not find anything interesting to buy. The houses on the other side of the Thu Bon river were very picturesque and exactly as they're shown on the photos and postcards. Very pretty. Went back to the hotel to change room and the 2nd floor room had a balcony that faced a balcony of the building right next door. the 2 balconies were literally next to each other and one could climb over easily. That was the best they could give me since our group rate did not cover any better rooms. Others in the group had balconies that faced the wall of the adjacent building. so I guess mine wasnt too bad. I've decided to go for the bicycle ride this time which was a mistake. We first had to cross some heavy traffic streets to get to the outskirts. that wasnt entirely bad but a bit on the dangerous side. when we got to the rice paddies with absolutely no cover, it started to rain. it poured so hard we're all drenched. We stopped at a store to get ponchos but what's the use. We're already soaked. My quads were beginning to ache when we finally made it to riverside to get on the round boats. these boats are completely round so 3 people would sit on 1 bench across the middle of the boat. the boat drivers were very skilled as they pulled banana leafs off the trees by the river and made us jewellery to wear, rings, necklaces, bracelets and even earings and glasses. the boat driver paddled us through small tributaries of the river, with vegetation all around. the ride was short but very pleasant. After that we cycled upstream and boarded a boat to bring us back to the old town. it was early evening now and all the lanterns were lite and people out on the streets in the old town walking by the river.The bridges and buildings were lite by colorful lanterns. I quite enjoyed the night time in Hội An. We dined at an expensive bar restaurant and I had fried tofu with lemongrass and giant tiger prawns. They were good but not excellent. on TV we saw vietnam winning the semi final shoot out for the AFC cup. Everyone yelled. The walk back to the hotel was again quiet. tonight I had a good nite sleep as i was tired after the effortful bicycle ride and the hallway was quite. really love this town. I'm finally enjoying vietnam.

Hội An photos:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

cooking class

Posted by Hippobean at 11:02 PM 0 comments
From Huế to Da Nang was about a short ride of 130Km. I've only ever stayed at the airport in Da Nang on my way home from my thai/laos/cambodia trip, 40 mins at the airport. Da Nang is a very modern city with wide streets and big name hotel chains on the beach front. There was no one on the beach. The sky was still grey but air humid and hot. So far I havent seen the sun in vietnam yet. The Cham museum was a delight of buddha and hindu statues, altars and pedestals, steles and tablets with Cham's writing and decorative works taken from the Cham temples. truly enjoyed this museum. Lunch was the typical famous quang noodles that were thick and wide rice noodles in an unique sauce, not quite a soup, and I chose fish for protein. Although not hungry and stomach not totally well to accept normal food, the noodles were so good, I ate the whole bowl. Strangely I felt better after the meal. We next visited the marble mountain with bhuddist temples and tons of caves. Up there we could get nice views of da nang and the surrounding area. Half hour later we arrived at our hotel the Silk hotel in Hội An. very new, with rooms and villas and 2 swimming pools. Rooms equipped with the usual southeast asian hotel room amenities and the bathroom modern and with a rain shower. However, we were given rooms on the first floor next to the lobby. I dont accept first floor hotel rooms so I've asked to change to a room on a higher floor. Was shown another identical room on the 2nd floor. however, the sliding door opened to a hallway. no way I was staying in a hotel without a window to the outside and for 3 nights. So I've insisted to get another room. the hotel was full that day (their usual response) so I had to stay in the 1st floor room and change to a higher room the next day. Although the room was very nice, the window opened up to a low wall with plants on it and the room was dark. I dont usually sign up for cooking classes but since it was vietnamese and therefore easy cooking, I've decided to give it a try. The chef came to the hotel to pick us up and took us to the market to show us the ingredients. Then we went to his restaurant and learned how to make turmeric pancakes, papaya salad, chicken spring rolls and mackerel wrapped in banana leaf. We tasted our own cooking and mine wasnt bad. The chef also showed us how to use a special shredder/peeler/cutter utensil that was a plastic rectangle with rows of sharp round metal holes to shred and flat metal edge to cut. I bought 2, just a dollar each. My first cooking class, no major disaster, kinda fun. We walked back to our hotel and the streets after 8PM werent busy like in hanoi. The night on the first floor was noisy with the hotel restaurant just under my room in the open basement, and rowdy hotel guests parading on the hallways and the elevator right next to my room. hope tomorrow night I'd get a better night sleep in a quieter room.

Da Nang photos:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

ancient capital

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
Huế - should have followed Anne's example to rest at the hotel but didnt want to miss the sightseeing. The Tu Duc mausoleum was again a disappointment. dilapidated, not ornate, just another simple chinese temple. When we went to see the garden tomb, I had enough. returned to the Cherish hotel and slept the whole day. The next morning I skipped the scheduled bicycle ride and just stayed at the hotel to rest and finished reading 'vulgar'. In the afternoon Anne who also skipped the sightseeing but went to the cycle ride in the morning, and I took a taxi to see the cidadel. The walls were impressive and aside from some colorful halls, again nothing too impressive. Most of the original structures were bombed out. We walked back to the hotel crossing the Perfume river. Dinner that night was on the riverside and I simply ordered a veggie rice noodle, not brave enough to start on proteins yet. So much for the ancient capital.

Huế photos:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

that train had done me in

Posted by Hippobean at 11:58 PM 0 comments
the night on halong bay was cold but although the room was tiny and without heater, it was comfortable and I had a good night sleep. No motorbike or traffic noise. no dogs barking. no people yelling. all quiet and serene. The breakfast was simple but nonetheless absolutely delicious. I had 3 full meals the day before but I've found myself hungry in the morning. The toasted sliced bread was surprisingly good, the fried egg filling and even the bacon was tasty. I didnt do the orange juice as I never did on my trips and didnt taste the banana but took a few pieces of pineapple for vitamin C. The coffee was OK and I was still waiting for the good vietnamese coffee. The boat chef showed us how to peel the fishing net from a carrot and how to cut a cucumber into a flower. This dude, who cooked our super delicious meals, was very young and good looking. He bowed and smiled and allowed us to take his picture with his creations. Back on land and the 4 hours drive back to the May de Ville hotel to pick up our big luggage. A few hours to while away before boarding the overnight Reunification train, for the 500KM to Hue. We found a french bakery and I had my first cake, a black forest that was neither sweet nor chocolaty. Bought a small round pizza for the evening meal on the train. Our first class cabin with soft beds was tiny for 4 people, with 2 bunk beds and I took one of the upper ones. however, the linen looked fresh, the walls equipped with good lighting (even reading light) and plenty of storage space on top. It even came with a table with complimentary water bottles, snacks and flower. 2 toilets, one on each end of the compartment. one was western and didnt smell too bad but the floor was wet because of the train rocking motion. 2 sinks on this side. the other toilet was eastern, smelly but the floor not so wet. After munching the cold tasteless pizza, I walked the train to discover what other classes were like. 2nd class compartments exactly the same as the first except for the cleaniness, lighting and complimentary stuff. 3rd class was airplane seating and then the next lower class simple hard benches. the toilets and sinks progressively got worse and smellier as you go down in class levels. The restaurant looked dirty and unsavory. Didnt linger there. back in our first class cabin, I perched on my top bunk and continued to read 'vulgar' while my 3 roommates played word games. The ride was jerky and loud with frequent hard brakes that woke you up. Nonetheless I've expected a good night sleep although the bed was hard (you call that a soft bed?) Around 5AM i ran for the nearest toilet and puked. Guess the pizza didnt get digested because it all came out. For the rest of the journey, I hung on our cabin door, in front of a big window, on the corridor. Never had motion sickness so bad, I thought. My last overnight train journey from budapest to bucharest was enjoyable and fun and i slept all through the night. and the cabin wasnt even as clean and nice as this one. so what happened this time? I puked a second time and the rest of whatever I had the night before came out too. When people started to wake up and get out of their cabins, I've discovered I wasnt the only one sick on the train.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

dragon descending

Posted by Hippobean at 11:55 PM 0 comments
HạLong Bay (ha = descend or below long= dragon, like in chinese) - a 4 hours minibus ride brought us to the halong bay harbor and the sun peeked out every now and then. We had the entire boat to ourselves. lunch was steamed whole shrimps with the heads on, deep fried spring rolls, grilled calamary, cucumber and tomato salad, a pork dish and warm cabbage salad. With steamed rice of course. It was one of the best seafood meal I've ever had. After lunch, we went on the top deck to admire the stunning bay with its emerald waters and the thousands limestone peaks while we cruised the bay. It was cold, sky grey but just a little wind as the boat wasnt going fast. In fact I much prefer the weather like this as the peaks looked more romantic in the mist. I probably wouldnt have like the bay more in full sunshine. In the afternoon we got on the ferry and met up with a fishing boat and banged bamboo sticks to scary the fish. It turned out, the fisherman had lowered a fishing net a few feet from the boat so the noise would scare the fish to swim away from it and get caught in the net. True enough, when the fisherman pulled the net, we got prawns so huge I've never seen anything like it before, small flat fish and crabs. next we visited the sung sot cave, not the deepest I've been in, but the main chamber so vast, it blew me away. the cave ceiling resembled desert sand floor. very interesting and quite impressive. I've enjoyed this cave very much. Back on the boat, I had a steamy hot shower. The room although tiny, the bathroom was actually quite spacious for a boat bathroom and with a good size shower stall. By the evening all the boats parked in a designated area for the night. Dinner was pan fried prawns, with heads on of course, grilled oysters wrapped in foils, crab meat on sticks, papaya and carrot salad, cold cabbage salad, whole fish from the bay covered in a fishing net made of carrot, and yellow curry chicken. And the customary steamed rice. I'd never eaten so well. The Brits were practicing salsa after dinner and then took turn playing their favorite songs from their phones and we did 'name that song'. After everyone called it a night, I went on deck to commune with the night sky, the quiet and the smell and ambience of the bay. Although the sky was grey, some stars were out. Quite a magical nite, stars abound, flat quiet water, nearby boats illuminated, and the sound of distant music. Peaks all around in silhouette. Loved nights like these.

HạLong Bay photos:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday, January 14, 2018

ascending dragon

Posted by Hippobean at 11:51 PM 0 comments
Hà Nội (ancient name Thăng Long,"rising dragon" over the red river) - arrived in a rather gloomy day with grey sky and quite cold. the ride to the hotel took almost an hour, the usual southeast asian city traffic coupled with lots of road constructions. people said hanoi was one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I wondered why. narrow streets, the french colonials lacked impressive architecture, not one single monument stood out. Nothing in particular to see in the old town. Instead of visiting the presidential palace, which only opened to the public in the morning and the line was over an hour long, according to our local guide, we got talked into visiting the ethnology museum instead. Sour point as I very much would have liked to see the palace. The museum itself wasnt impressive but the reproduction of the Cham's houses (first time I've heard of them) in the outdoor garden was quite interesting. Didnt really enjoy the Hoa Lo prison, the hanoi hilton. It was scary as they put human statues right in front of the prison cells so you'd get a shock if you peeked into the cells. Much like the ones in phnom penh, they were simply eerie. The temple of literature wasnt particularly interesting either for me. It was but a scaled down version of a Chinese temple. It got colder as the day went on. Thuy took us to the phở 10 lý quốc sư, the best pho in town. This place, frequented by locals and tourists, we had to wait in line and just grab any available spot on any table. We sat with a local girl and a singaporean tourist, and was told this place was the most popular pho in town. I've ordered the well done beef and it was good but not excellent by any means, although the singaporean girl declared she never had better. I've skipped the dinners and just stayed in the hotel room to read 'vulgar favors' which I couldnt put down. totally fascinated by this spree killer's life story.

The May de Ville hotel offered great hospitality with very friendly and attentive staff. My room faced a side street but still very noisy all day and night. The bathroom was enclosed in a translucent glass which I didnt mind but the door didnt quite close all the way and with the poor ventilation, after using the bathroom, the smell and steam permeated into the room. all the complimentary room amenities, toothbrush, combs, razors, cotton swaps, shower caps and kettle with free coffee and tea, of course. Wifi was good. didnt expect anything less in a southeast asian hotel.

The Eva flight over was very comfortable. The food was excellent although the entertainments lacked any good movies. The 11 hours to Taipei flew by. The Taoyuan international airport was dingy, dark, with only high end stores and very few restaurants or cafes. Hard to find a place to sit. the 3 hrs flight to hanoi again got by quickly, with an excellent meal. Will probably fly Eva again tho.

Hà Nội photos:

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Saturday, January 06, 2018

We did it ... with LOTS of hints

Posted by Hippobean at 12:47 PM 0 comments
  Pandemic Zero at Omescape

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