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Driving around entire Ireland in 6 days

I’ve planned Ireland trip with two of my friends during August.  When I was given an opportunity to present CarSense with Intel at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it was clear that I would have to meet up with them after.  Previously I’ve only been here through a very short stopover, now I got the chance to experience Ireland in it’s whole.  Throughout the trip we’ve learned about Irish culture, landscape, and friendliness of Irish people.  Since there were too many interested things we’ve encountered, I will focus this post about our top 3 adventures.

First thing is planning, driving across entire Ireland in 6 days was pretty ambitious, while planning to see the entire Ireland, we barely scratched the surface.  We’ve spent more than 80% of our daylight time on the road, making it quiet easy to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the country.  I was quickly picked up from airport right after arrival in the afternoon, and we stayed in B&B and hotels in Waterford, Dingo, Galway, Causeway Hotel, Shannon and Dublin for our 6 night stay.  Visiting many national parks as well as heritage sites including Wicklow Mountains, Killarney National Park, the Cliff of Mohar, Glenveagh National Park, Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Museum in Belfast, and Guinness Store in Dublin.  Throughout the trip there was no rest, and the lesson here is that if we want to see any county in detail, we’d seriously have to spend about a week just in any location in Ireland, it’s rich history and heritage is not something that can easily be overlooked.

Second adventure would be Kerry, upon arriving at the Ross Castle, we quickly went through the tour and headed to explore more about Killarney National Park.  The storm and rain gave us a better adventure than we can bargain for.  The views in the park were stunning, even when it was in the rain, especially at a viewpoint known as Lady’s View.  We quickly drove through the park, and stayed the night in Dingo.  We’ve learned that Christians came over and lived on the islands off Kerry almost 2,000 years ago, using local building their community in those beehives like structures.  These structures were done centuries before Celts have arrived.  Due to timing, we didn’t have time to explore the entire area.  I would love to come back next time to stay for at least a week, so I can do some hiking in Killarney and drive through Ring of Kerry.

My third adventure would be NewGrange near Slane.  Upon learning this is one of the World’s Hertitage Site, we’ve decided to go through the tour even after driving to the wrong location (you have to go to the visitor center and not the site in order to go in).  The weather didn’t help either, we were greeted with rain right upon arrival at the entrance.  But when we went inside it felt this is truly worth the suffering we’ve gone through.  The site is supposedly built at 3,200BC, 300 to 500 years before the pyramids.  The structure allows the light to shine in during winter solace, giving it a magical feeling that people can build a such amazing structure before wheel was invented, but more questions arrived after learning about this structure, where did Neolithic people go?  What kind of language did they speak?  Did they interact with the Celts after 3,000 years?  Aside all that, it does give me more hope towards humanity to see people were able to do amazing things and solving big problems given very little knowledge at the time.

The Ireland trip felt extremely short, the schedule was quiet hectic, but after seeing a preview of the Island, we’ve learned about entire place through experience.  Also, I’ve seriously doubt I would ever drive across entire Ireland ever again, I’d love to come back and visit, but I will stay in one location over a week to enjoy the parts in detail.

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Winning AT&T Developer Summit with Anti-Snoozer in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is my last stop of the around the world trip, the purpose of the trip was to be part of AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon and CES.  My sister Nancy has always been interested in going to Vegas, this became a perfect setting for both showing her around as well as making her participate her first hackathon.

With a couple of friends decided driving, our road trip from San Francisco went relatively smooth, upon arriving at the hackathon we were giving the opportunities come up with ideas.  With so many sponsors giving out good prizes, the idea generation part was relatively difficult.  I’ve just gotten my Intel RealSense camera upon returning to San Francisco due to my month of absence, giving me more reason to utilize the SDK. 

I’ve been working on facial tracking technology for a while, but the first glimpse of Edison provided further than I have ever gotten.  This made it both easy as well as fun to use.  With my aunt being permanently disabled from a car accident due to my uncle’s drowsy driving, I’ve quickly came up with an idea that would utilize RealSense and Edison to help preventing such tragedy that can happen to just about anyone.  With little bit of research, my sister found out 46% of American drivers have admitted driving drowsy in the past, making our commitment towards the Car area.  Coincidently, Intel and AT&T Drive Studio was one of the sponsors at the hackathon, giving me more of a reason to combine RealSense, Edison and AT&T Drive Studio API to create an app that can potentially change our driving behavior.  My sister came up with the name, and that’s how Anti-Snoozer was born.

Anti-Snoozer uses Intel RealSense to track whether the driver is  drowsy, through yawning, rapid eye blinking, eye closure, or not focusing on the road.  When the software detect the potential drowsy driving, it would send alarm sound to Intel Edison’s buzzer, as well as set of Crystal LED to warn the surrounding drivers.  Simultaneously, AT&T Drive Studio would sets off car displays as drowsy driving is detected for both users as well as passengers to see.  If user has a phone or a wearable, it would vibrate, hoping to awake the driver.

This was my sister’s first hackathon, since she came up with the pitch she became the sole presenter.  And because we have an working demo rather than the vaporware, lots of the judges gets to try it out through first hand experience.  We’ve made it to the final round quickly.  On our final pitch, Nancy delivered a stunning pitch which won the audience vote overwhelmingly.  It was quiet an experience for all of us, and I felt proud of my little sister not just for winning the grand prize, but also for her to step out of her comfort zone for giving out the pitch.

After the Hackathon and AT&T Developer Summit I was able to give a brief demo for my previous app CarSense at Intel’s booth in CES.  After that my around the world trip ended here in Vegas.  I am both happy and sad about my adventures ending, but I did make a lot of friends, learned a lot of lessons, struggled through hard times, enjoyed good times, and hopefully these experiences would last me throughout my lifetime.

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Shanghai, my last stop before coming back to US

After adventures in Thailand, Shanghai became my last stop before heading back to United States.  While not being my first time in the city, but I had the pleasure of finally joining my friend instead of spending time with family this time.

Shanghai has always been an interesting city, from both historical as well as modern perspective.  After landing, I was taken to a restaurant where they served steamed Shanghai dumplings that’s perfectly made, and I did not have the pleasure of enjoying that throughout the entire trip.  The skin of the dumpling is simply a thin layer but able to handle entire weight of it without broken when picked up by chopstick, the soup inside can easily come out after biting a hole, the sizing of is neither too small or too large.  The specs of the dumpling is simple, and yet hard to master, every dim sum place seems to have it, but most of them does not make it right .  I forgot the name of the restaurant, but I’ll be back there next time when I am in the city. 

While my friend has a previous meeting arrangement on the second day, I was left alone getting lost there by myself.  Among the very first thing I saw was parents using their child begging foreigners for money, what’s interesting is that they never go to any Asian looking poeple.  Looking at the scene, I immediately stopped and helped the British family understanding this type of tourist touts.  It is really unjust to train the child to be a beggar, and using sympathy of westerners to make a living.  It may provide a quick meal for the day, but I do not think you’d have any long term benefits, especially for the children themselves.

Another interesting thing happened at the Bund was Chinese Medicine stores, labeled chinese medicine center, I was both excited and curious to learn more about herbology.  Upon arrival, it seemed every shop is selling the same products, and all the product does the same thing.   The very salesman can not tell the difference between any of their products, since they are all “good for you”, “makes you stronger”, “helps your immune system”.  Some of these herbs cost over thousands of dollars per pound, the minimum expectation I have from salesman is to get some specifics of what it does, and yet I’ve failed to do that.  After all, eating an apple is good for me as well.

Over my three day visit, it just seemed the general population lacks the will of being passionate, or trying to be good at what they do, from simple tasks like being a restaurant waiting to complex tasks of craftsmanship.  Being part of Chinese heritage, it really saddens me there aren’t any domestic role models that they can follow like the ones we do in United States.  Hopefully my next visit to China would have better experience.

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travel

A week spent in Thailand

My time in Australia was short and sweet, and after a stormy stopover in Brisbane I latterly landed in Thailand.  Upon arrival I was taken to Khao Lak and headed straight into Similan Islands via my dive boat Dolphin Queen MV.

The first four days of my stay took place strictly on the boat surrounded by a friendly crew and amazing cuisines.  Having just come off a dive boat, I found that I was banging myself on the head for getting on dive boats in back-to-back sequence.  But what’s interesting about this boat is that all the dive instructors were foreigners whilst crew members were Thai locals.  I found out later that a lot of natives do not particularly enjoy water diving, resulting in a lack of interest to personally instruct, which is where foreign instructors for these great diving sites come into play.

The visibility was not the best throughout the four-day period, but we did get to see giant manta rays on two of our dives during the third day.  The amazing creatures flew directly above us, inciting an resounding sensation of serenity. Even though the current was strong throughout those dives, we came back with so much more experience than we anticipated.  Aside from giant manta rays, we encountered a higher concurrence of octopus sighting in comparison to other diving spots that I’d experienced in the past.

After the dive, I found myself back in the water partaking in regular touring with Captain Mark’s, with one day spent in Ao Phang National Park and another on the Phi Phi Islands.  Throughout the boat rides, I was continuously astounded by the beautiful characteristics of the islands formed through limestone over the course of millions of years, providing me with another element that I’ve yet to experience prior to coming here.  The structures built up to as tall as a few hundred feet, providing support for many bio-ecosystems around the area.

I was warned by Captain Mark about touts illegally using gibbons to lure tourists into photo opportunities. What really made me angry was seeing people actually involving themselves in the scheme on Phi Phi Isalnds.  With the fact that gibbons are endangered in mind, it’s disheartening to witness people kill parents of the gibbon just so that tourists can hold the corpse and take morbid photos.  It felt pathetic, disgusting, and evil that such behavior still exists and is accepted in our modern world, that tourists value the captivation of such photos more than they do the well-being of a species.  I really hope that the government will sustain more enforcement in the future, as well as educate tourists prior arriving to Thailand about the circumstances so that tourists don’t get trapped into these touts.

While I was once looking into these activities: I’ve avoided elephant rides as well as tiger petting after learning that tigers are being perpetually drugged for complacent purposes and that elephants are being chained. As I was leaving Thailand, I was overcome with sadness that we abuse the prosperity of other species simply for our own entertainment purposes in name of tourism.  However, the injustice of it does provoke in me the motivation to help promote a better world. I hope to be a part of alleviating future suffering in this world.

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Inspiration | travel

Having fun in Cairns, Australia

After the dive boat experience at the Great Barrier Reef, a group of us coincidentally found ourselves in a boat together again-this time visiting Cairns. That delightful and random occurrence encouraged us to band together, and it was great to be in the company of friends when it came time to explore the city as well as the rainforest nearby. Some of us ended up lodging at at the Galligans Traveler Hostel wherein the party scene was prevalent. The liveliness and vibrant energy made me reminiscent of my partying years; although I longer categorize myself as part of the partying demographic, I still found the hostels energetic vibe to be entertaining and well-spirited.

A couple of us expressed our desire to visit the Daintree Rainforest the following day. To be quite honest, I wasnt really expecting anyone to show so I was pleasantly surprised when the turnout tallied seven people, enough for our designated driver Alex to resort to renting a van. We had so many adventures lying ahead of us and it felt great to set out on them on this family-style trip knowing that wed be sharing these experiences with each other. We formed a bond through those shared memories, and that is something we can all hold no matter where we may find ourselves after this trip. Once we made it to the Daintree Rainforest National Park we were informed the this is cassowary hatching season, meaning that an actual sighting would be something of an far-fetched event. We also came across some other travelers that had been there for days without spotting one, so although we let ourselves hope for the inconceivable, we minimized any expectations we had harbored for a possible cassowary encounter.

We set off on a hike at the entry of the rainforest and attempted to locate a beach at the end of the forest. We soon learned that Australians are having a hard time swimming in the ocean due to the presence of jellyfish and just as hard a time swimming in freshwater lakes due to the crocodiles. Having been told there was a beautiful beach situated just before the 4WD required zone, we spent hours avidly scouring to find this hidden gem.  During the course of our search, we came across two German girls that has been living in their car-which happened to break down in the rainforest-for the past four months. Funnily enough, we had a German guy named Hendrick in our group who just so happens to be a mechanic; he ended up fixing their car while we continued on our mission to uncover the Legend of the Elusive Beach. 

On our way out of the forest,  we witnessed the rules of inconceivability be defied in the form of a cassowary followed by two chicks. The German girls had spotted them just as we were approaching the outer parameters of the rainforest. After a moment, the cassowaries became aware of our loud and very visually apparent presence and proceeded to continue inwards into the rainforest. I immediately scrambled to follow their trail until the abundance of spider webs became too big a hindrance for me to continue. Later on, I learned that that following after them was a crummy move as these birds are extremely aggressive and would have likely chased after me had they known I was alone. Thankfully I came away unscathed and our group came out of that forest with an air of privileged demeanor, having been graced with what felt like a small miracle. If there is such a thing as perfect timing, we witnessed it in full effect.

The entire road trip/forest expedition-including food-costed us approximately $40 AUD which almost felt like a steal for such all fulfillment and excitement we received for it.

On Day 2, a couple of us visited the tropical zoo at the Palm Cove wherein we were able to see most of the native and exotic animals that inhabit Australia. We were afforded the opportunity to feed the kangaroos, which was memorable to say the least. They didnt show much fear or apprehension towards us, making the feeding feel like a casual and natural dynamic, which was inspiriting to be a part of. I also got close and personal with a koala that didnt mind being held (as opposed to wild koalas reaction to being held, which I learned may potentially reduce their life span because of how unfamiliar they are with human contact) and hopefully doesnt mind that hes featured in what is now my Facebook profile picture.

I have just one outstanding complaint to make about Cairns-their crying lack of cocktail choices.  We came across a nice, standard bar with great decor and a vibrant atmosphere, but their consumptive selections threw me off entirely. While a sweeping sector of their inventory was solely dedicated to beers, I found that they didnt even have something as basic as vermouth in stock (meaning they cant even throw a simple vodka martini together!). This struck me as odd and considerably underwhelming for a liquor establishment.

The Esphalana area was a unique experience: when looking up we would see the sky fluttering with colonies of bats circling overhead; we lapped the scene up, as we did with the majority of Cairns sights. Theres something magical about seeing things that dont belong or exist in your usual surroundings. I realize that as we get older, we are less enchanted by life because new experiences and feelings seem to be so few and far between, so much so that sometimes were convinced weve seen all there is to see, and experienced all this world has to offer. But coming to Cairns-and more generally, exploring these new and foreign regions in the past month-I feel that prime sense of child-like wonder that comes with moments like this.

My days in Cairns hold so many meaningful and fun-filled memories of experiencing new and enthralling things with great company. As I left Cairns, I felt such appreciation towards the city for imparting to me these good times, ones that I know Ill be telling for a lifetime. 

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Hiking | travel

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list for quite some time, though it always seemed like a far-off excursion that I would put off for some time. I never imagined I would be checking it off so soon and even after booking my live-abroad tour with ProDive Cairns months in advance, the trip still felt surreal. But months later, the time finally arrived: only then did it really hit me that I was really going forward with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Cairns was my sixth stop of my traveling itinerary. Hauling my scuba gear across the handful of previous destinations didnt strike me as a practical move so I shipped the equipment over to DoubleTree Hotel and retrieved it upon arrival.  At 6:30AM sharp the bus picked me up and just like that, I was reef-bound. Being that I was traveling the entire day prior to this and had only racked an underwhelming four hours of sleep that night, I was exhausted when we arrived at the docks.  Luckily the trek to the outer reef lasted about four hours, so I was able to catch up on some much-needed rest to prepare for the four dives I would participate in later that day.

This time of year proved combative to the water visibility which can be explained by the simple fact that this is the optimal period for the reef to spread its spores out for reproduction. But even with these untimely circumstances, I still perceived the Great Barrier Reef to be one of the most enchanting sites Ive ever ventured to. The region appeared to be highly maintained as a result of mechanisms induced by the government as well as locals. I observed that there were giant concrete blocks at the bottom of dive sites used for boat anchoring-the incorporation of these blocks productively ensure that the boats dont anchor on live coral; it also provides divers a sense of direction. ProDives intricate albeit flexible routes appeal to two classes of divers-those who wish to explore with their diving buddies and those who wish to solely follow the guide.

Perhaps the most captivating highlight of the reef was the live corals we witnessed among our first few dives. The movement of most of the corals gave off a very evident differentiation from the places I have visited.  The reef fish who live amongst these corals were undoubtedly one of the most aesthetically-pleasing clan of sea creatures Ive seen-after gaining that visual experience, I know trying to replicate and recapture that vivid scene with fish tanks and aquariums would be doing it a severe injustice. Another thing Ive noticed is that many of these corals act as a cleaning station for the big sharks, turtles and other big fish, with the reef fish serving as the appointed cleaners.  It was truly enthralling to witness the ecosystem of daily life in the reef, which entails the feeding station, jelly fish farms, and the cleaning station. There was unexpected solace to be found in seeing the different entities carrying out their specific purposes in life, in knowing that this unexplored sea world has established and maintained interdependent roles, and in realizing that nature just has a way of sustaining life through organic workings.

Another major highlight was a night dive excursion on the second day: we went through a dive site called Mickey Mouse at the Flynn Reef.  Having dived there on during the day, we were fairly familiar with the layout but this time around, we became acquainted with a sizable turtle that had an appetite to match-his days are spent munching on jelly fish at the outer reef, but by night he returns to a pretty sweet abode situated under the coral. We were advised to be respectful towards him and not direct any flashlights in his direction, and though we followed that sensible protocol, he surprised us by coming out of his coral cave apartment anyway.  Of all the things that may have been going through his mind, I imagine his most resounding thought at the time was, Jeez, what does a turtle have to do to get some sleep around here?? As we returned from our dive, we encountered a couple of reef sharks surrounding our safety stop; it felt as though we were literally planted in the middle of the shark pit, a notion that inevitably provoked an adrenaline rush. But I have to admit, the slightly perilous nature of this adventure made it all the more thrilling.

The boat provided an excellent selection of food, and the wifi-capability was a welcomed commodity. The boat even accommodated my slumber as I found the sways and movements of the boat was very much comparable to the soothing sensation of being rocked to sleep in a cradle. After being granted this sneak peak of the reef, Ive developed a fervent desire to visit Cod Hole during the whale season and become more intimate with the reef and its inhabitants, and after seeing this overwhelmingly gratifying experience through with ProDive, Im just waiting to pounce on another opportunity to dive with them again.

When I set out on this adventure, I was convinced I would be undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Following all the action within the reef amidst such breathtaking scenery has given memories I will treasure for a lifetime, but it has also given me so many reasons to come back to make more unforgettable memories. Great Barrier Reef: thank you for this rewarding experience. Until we meet again!

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Inspiration | travel

The Singapore stopover

My flight from Hong Kong to Australia ran through Singapore wherein I had a stopover. I wasnt going to let the 14 hours of layover time go to waste when it could be spent exploring new territory.  On my flight over to Singapore, I met a Jewish guy named Avi who is currently in a semi-permanent residential situation in Singapore; he was kind enough to pass on some of his local-based suggestions on places to visit in Singapore with the extremely limited time I had to get acquainted with the city. After getting briefed on Singapores must-sees, I entered the city equipped with Avis condensed list of recommendations and a determination to absorb all that I could in that mere half a day.

My first stop was MBS (Marina Bay Sand), a popular casino with a unique architectural structure that attaches three buildings together. I was provided free entrance, a privilege that is extended to all visitors. However, gaining admission to the casino as a local requires a relatively steep expense of $100. As an third-party perspective to the matter, I dont have a problem believing that the local policy is a pretty efficient way to reduce gambling habits in the city while still capitalizing on the wealth of foreign entities. The MBS arranges a great water show at the plaza that integrates a projection with the water fountain. The building across the street gives way to a rooftop bar named LeVeL33 from which you can take in the spectacular view of MBS. Whats more, the establishment brews its own beers right there at the bar.

My next stop was Lop Pa Sak which is located around the center of the city. In a nutshell, its a farmers marketplace that vends a vast selection of street foods.  My favorite was the satay, which I found at the Malay Corner for a well-spent 60 cents. Having spent most of my money back at the bar, I was left with $20, but that quickly diminished as well what with my hasty inclination to sample all the stands at the market square.  At around 8:30 I found myself in a state of monetary ruin; having no money left on me at a time when all the banks had already closed was quite simply an adverse position to be in. I resorted to begging for money in order to afford the train fare, which would be my golden ticket to one of the only money exchange places open in town-Mustafa Centre, an establishment tucked within Little India.

Upon arriving to Little India and maneuvering the somewhat unkempt neighborhood, I couldnt help but notice that this is the only part of the city (that I had seen, at least) that did not maintain the immaculate conditions I was accustomed to with the rest of Singapore. However, I paid no mind to the neglected state of the streets once I reached my destination. It appeared as though Mustafas inventory likely carried everything besides cars and houses; they seemed to have just about every conceivable product imaginable in stock . Whats more, my wallet and I were pleasantly surprised to find that the price-marks were cheaper than other shops in the city.

After exchanging my money and indulging in a nice authentic Indian cuisine-themed dinner, I took a cab on my way back to Lop Pa Sak, this time clad with financial security. But when we neared the destination, I was disappointed to find that the market squares lively atmosphere did not carry into the night. Most of the stands had already closed shop which I should have half-expected given that it was 11:30PM. This turn of events left me with the choice of booking a nearby hotel or just killing the next four hours exploring Singapores nightlife. Knowing that I would probably be spending the same amount either way, I asked the cab driver to drop me off at a neighborhood with a prevalent nightlife, which led me to an area (the name of which is eluding me) that encompassed a strip of bars situated just by the riverside. I had no interest of getting drunk and dealing with the morning-after repercussions whilst traveling. However, I later figured that I didn't have to be all that cognizant in my alcohol intake having come to the conclusion that cocktails are not one of Singapores more distinguished specialties. Nevertheless, I was pleased to have scouted out a couple of bars that satisfied my palate.

My time was arguably too brief, but I feel that even within this radically limited time frame, the city spoke to me through some of the more evident appeals: the notably sanitary atmosphere/streets, the inexpensive and convenient transportation, and most importantly, the level of safety I felt as a tourist here, which is more than I have sensed in any other city Ive visited or lived in. Fourteen hours is not nearly enough time to capture the soul and spirit of the country, but I intend to get the full experience next time around.

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Inspiration | travel

My three days in Hong Kong

Hong Kong was our fourth leg on the trip as well as the last and final destination that the five of us would travel as a group to.  Having booked an Airbnb within Sheng Wan, we were able to obtain access to most of the public transportation services.

Considering that we had already explored major parts of Hong Kong in past ventures, we decided to take our journey to a site we’d never seen: the Tian Tan Buddha statue, a popular tourist attraction that we felt attracted to because we felt it would provide a degree of religious insight to our travels.  After spending a week visiting countries that were home to historic cathedrals, we were hoping that the Tian Tan-a monumental Buddhist statue-would contribute a new dimension to the group’s religious perspectives and comprehension. It certainly catered to those hopes as the site taught us quite a few things about Buddhism and even other religions. For one, we learned that in the same general manner in which Christians pray to saints, Buddhists pray to bodhisattvas. Another point of insight that stood out to me was that the temple does not provide services on a daily basis as opposed to cathedrals, which do. As a Zen practitioner, that makes me a little uneasy-the notion of temple service limitations is, in a sense, a limitation on my practices. During my time absorbing the Buddhist monuments I also developed a sense of appreciation for the the Christians whom built the cathedrals, as the sound architectural structures are capable of  accommodating both worshippers and tourists. On the other hand, I feel that the heavily prominent tourist population at the some of the Buddhist sites (which are not as grand or lavish as cathedrals but instead more quaint and humble in infrastructure size) somewhat diminishes the religious integrity of temples and the Tian Tan statue in particular. 

After the statue sighting, we proceeded to take a bus to Tai O brought us out to an old fishing village wherein we gained a deeper understanding of a village that has maintained a pronounced fishing culture over the years. Tai O Heritage Hotel assisted us in satiating our curious appetites-we were catered with samples of shrimp paste in our fried rice, which is made from foul-smelling shrimp bricks produced locally. For the most part, the briefing provided us with a unique experience that other cities did not offer.

Dim sum was a pronounced high point throughout our Hong Kong trip-the food was inexpensive and incredibly satisfying.  Then came the check: tipping culture left us a little bewildered, to say the least. After an instance of extending a 20% tip to the owner of a street food joint, we were heavily scolded for the gesture and our basic token of appreciation was sharply dismissed. Looking back on our time in Hong Kong, I can now say that the even after a few days of indulging in the recycled routine of dim sum for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it never got boring or repetitive.

After three days of exploring the city, my traveling group and I reached the divergence-while they wanted to keep exploring Southeast Asia, I had my sight set on Australia and continued en route to the next adventure in store. 

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Inspiration | travel

The Amsterdam Stopover

Our third stop was Amsterdam, wherein we were had over eight hours to explore the city.  To sum that experience up quite simply: it was far too short a time.

We took a bus to Leidsebosje station where we booked our boat tour and proceeded to miss it. We replaced the experience with something much more authentic to Amsterdam’s culture-a good old visit to the local coffee shop. My throat hadn’t fully restored itself from partaking in cigar smoking back in Prague so I sat out for this leg while my fellow travelers smoked on a couple Amsterdam joints.

We caught the next boat tour which was extremely informative and tied up not only the grand scheme of things around the area; I think we better understand the Dutch culture after hearing about their background and perfections in the water. Amsterdam is actually the only city thats climate-change proof, meaning that rising of sea levels will not affect the city.  That intrinsic quality may save the a chunk of the human population some day when global warming drowns the rest of the world.

Within just hours left, we were able to visit the Vincent Van Gogh museum, located in the museum’s  quarters. The audio tour led us through the highlights of Van Goghs sad albeit fascinating life.  It accurately depicts the tribulations of an artist’s genius and talent when it is unrecognized by the people of his time; his brother Theo-who showed unwavering faith and support in Van Gogh’s masterpieces-foreshadowed our present captivation with the late artist’s works. After the visit, my preconceived belief that his genius stemmed from his insanity dissolved entirely. It was replaced by a clear understanding that his hard work combined with his talent to express his anguish in an artistically innovative manner were factors that resulted in his inevitable success.

 

Eight hours was inarguably not enough time to capture all of Amsterdam’s wonders, but it did grant us a fun sneak peak of the city.  Id love to come back sometime in the near future and explore the other magical crevices of the city.

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Inspiration | travel

Prague, the Medieval Fairy Land

Prague was the second destination in our trip around the world, and it was undoubtedly a beautiful one. After our taxi picked us up, we proceeded to witness a night view of the castle as well as the city, and the only similarity that I’d drawn to the states was that this looked like Disney World, except real.  For the majority of the trip, the city called out to us like a medieval theme park; it wasnt until later that I learned that Prague has had few chaotic attacks in years past, so the city is easily able to preserve the original architecture, which includes some dungeon-resembling medieval basements.  

I woke up early the first morning to pay a visit to Charles Bridge. 7am promises a shortage of people, which created a great opportunity to take photographs and explore the city.  The consistency of the architecture added a tremendous touch to the city; every crevice of Prague was another scenic masterpiece, showing great details that blessed the city with its intricate beauty.  It also gives me a feeling of collectivism-the buildings themselves appear to be built not to stand out, but to complement one another.  The detailed sculptures perched on each building not only add to the style of the building, but also sketches an overall look towards the city.  This made me realize that people who built these buildings and lived there did so for the benefit of society rather than individuals, and the city is simply a reflection of that ideology.

Getting lost in this beautiful city can not be more appealing. After my venture to the bridge I somehow found myself at the Castle without a map or directions.  In the beginning I was wondering what the process of entry was; it wasn’t till later on that I discovered this is Prague’s biggest tour spot.  The St. Vitus Cathedral was magnificent, presenting its gothic style both through old portion as well as the new portion.  The rain from the previous day left drops of water on the gargoyles’ mouth for a natural touch to the sculpted monuments.  For just 100 crowns I was able to book my official tour from the castle, which granted us access not only to the Cathedral, but also to the tombs of Charles IV, his four wives, and Rufus II, both Holy Roman Empires.  The relic viewing in the afternoon showed many unique pieces, one of the most interesting being a piece of cloth from Jesus Christ himself, donated by the Vatican.

My second day entailed getting lost in the city again.  To linger around the Old Town is to expect the flocks of tourists surrounding you.  Walking towards south end of the city, I successfully exited the central tourism spot.  Ive walked as far as Varylestic; the balastica was setup for the first King of Behomia, the modern day Czech.  The architecture never fails to impress-the old stone building managed to maintain its form after 500 years, blessed by the saints for whom the chapels were built.

Prague lives in my memory as some form of medieval wonderland. The rich history and beautiful architecture paved the way for tourism around the world. The inexpensive pricing gives a better reason for any explorers that want to visit the city.  I don’t doubt that I’ll find myself back here in the future so as to get lost in the fairyland trance once again.

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