Category Archives: Travel

Some pictures from the cruise trip

(We didn’t take many pictures during the trip mostly because 1. in lots of occasions it was inconvenient to carry a camera; 2. there was no point walking around with an iPhone with absolutely no service. Besides, we wanted to just relax and enjoy the time, our first ever cruise trip.)

ship

The ship, Liberty of the Seas, is actually more than twice the size of the Titanic.

shipside

more looks at the impressive vessel (the second largest cruise ship to date)

2carnivals

Two Carnival ships side by side basking in sunset

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Resuscitation, 2008, and moving forward

About a month ago on Facebook my friend Jun used the word “resuscitate” to describe the action I needed to bring this blog back. She also volunteered to teach me CPR… ;-)

Although I did not take up her kind offer, I have been thinking about how best to “resuscitate” ever since. Lots of things have happened since my last post on August 4, 2008; it doesn’t feel right to just skip the past 6 months and suddenly start posting the latest things I want to write right now. I need a “bridge” post, I’ve decided, if only just for the one or two readers who were not with me on Facebook the past 6 months.

So here’s a really quick look back to the last few months of 2008, up till now:

  • The Beijing Olympics. During those 3 weeks I subscribed to almost all the Olympics blogs by major media sports writers and journalists in my RSS reader, and read just about everything that’s been written every day in the western media, NYT, ESPN, FoxSports, Guardian Sports, BBC Sports, Yahoo! Sports, CNN, ABCNews… On top of those I also read tons of message board posts and did my share of postings. It was pretty crazy. So many things happened. There were times I felt powerless. sad. And there were the times of pride. awe. and inspiration. They could go on a separate post of its own, but somehow I have lost the drive to write it.
    (or perhaps it’s the courage to write them that I’ve lost, like a climber facing an insurmountable mountain…)
  • The U.S. Open. The first time we went to see live tennis. We went on the Labor Day weekend and later for the men’s finals. Notable players/games that we watched include: Zheng Jie/Yan Zi women’s double, Djokovic vs a pretty good young guy, Li Na vs Dementieva (the freshly crowned Olympics Gold Medalist), and of course, Federer vs Andy Murray. I was hoping for a Nadal/Fed final but didn’t get it.
    Live tennis games are fun. I highly recommend you try it once, if you watch tennis on TV. Don’t buy the worst seats though, you need a reasonably good view to get yourself into it.
  • Yellowstone Trip. We were lucky enough to have caught the perfect weather, beautiful foliage, and plenty wildlife sightings that include: a black bear (next to a dead elk body), a grizzly bear (walking in the woods at roadside), a wolf and an antelope wandering in the same valley (and missing each other!), a fox-like wolf in the vicinity of a bison (of course neither was interested in the other), three different types of deer, a coyote, a group of sheep, and the best of all, an army of bisons walking right in front of our car (and right next to it within an elbow’s length). The geysers and hot springs were also amazing as advertised. They look even better on photos :c).
    One lesson learned from the trip: you need a binocular, a video cam, AND the best camera/lens you can afford to go to Yellowstone. All three are necessities.
  • The Financial Crisis. The best thing that came out of the whole thing is, it prompted me to start paying real good attention to my 401k… ; ), which then resulted in me delving into a reading fever on some of the best, and academically sound if you will, investment advices that I truly wish I had learned 10 years ago.
  • New Year Eve. Another first: First time we spent the countdown watching a ball drop with a crowd outside. It was freezing like hell, but I really wanted to go, to send off this crazy year of 2008. When it counted to 0 and all the fireworks erupted, I was cheering with everyone else from the bottom of my heart.
  • Movies. 2008 was a great year for movies. I’ve been putting in short, one paragraph reviews on Facebook (via Flixster) for movies I watched lately. Maybe I’ll make a compilation of them into a post later. I think I’ve watched 3 of the 5 best picture nominees as well as some very good ones like The Wrestler and Revolutionary Road in the last couple months alone.
  • New Food. Nepali is now added to my list of Cuisines I’ve Tried At Least Once, as #25. ;-)

Lastly, to whoever that noticed, the kitties pictures on the right is replaced with the latest Flickr photo feed. There seem to be something wrong with Flickr’s RSS feed on a set that caused the kitty set photos all broken. Until I figure out the problem this is the only feed that works here.

Vegas Trip, Spring ’08

If it weren’t for the 4 rollover days I carried from last year and must use before April 1st per company policy, this trip never would have happened. I wasn’t exactly in the mood of going on vacation and the choices for destination took us a while to settle on. Some place warm, some place domestic. Florida? been there more than once. New Orleans? read somewhere that safety is now a concern. Police advises tourists to not fight purse snatchers. As soon as we read that it was off the list.

So Vegas it was.

Bellagio

BellagioFront 

It is a very nice hotel, for sure. The indoor botanical garden (and a butterfly house!) is always attracting tons of tourists, whether they stay at the hotel or not, to take pictures. The famous, signature music fountains in front of the building definitely gives it something that distinguishes from other hotels. We have over the course of our 5 day stays watched the performances at least 4 times, each with a different song.

Garden_tree      Garden_ladybug

(pictures taken in the botanical garden)

“O”

Last time we were in Vegas we watched Mystere by Cirque du Soleil, because we couldn’t get any tickets for “O”. So we booked the tickets in advance this time. The show was pretty good. My expectation going in might be a bit too high though, I ended up a little unsatisfied. But the opening was really spectacular and impressive.

The Buffets

We went to the one at Bellagio and the one at Paris. Both were among the best in town. Both had huge lines. You won’t go wrong with either one. The smoked salmon and mushroom salad at Bellagio were so tasty, so were lots of other things in both places.

The Chocolate Fountain

Inside Jean Philipe, a French pastry shop located in Bellagio hotel, there was this “world’s tallest and largest volume chocolate fountain”. The photos were taken using our cellphone camera so the quality was not very good, but you should be able to read the print (click to enlarge) that described this very interesting (and delicious) design.

chocolatefountain1 chocolatefountain2 chocolatefountain_sheet

Coca Cola Tasting

Another thing interesting we discovered was a Coca Cola store near MGM Grand. They sell a $7 tasting set where you get 16 glasses of Coca Cola soda, each a different flavor. The flavors are actual products Coca Cola sells across the world, in 16 different countries. So we paid our 7 bucks and got these two trays of colorful drinks, along with a list of what each drink was and where it’s from.

CocoColaTasting2 CocoColaTasting

That was a real fun way of wasting some time in a nice, sunny day.

(As for the tastes, most of them were just so so, a couple were quite bad, a few, including one called “Smart Apple”, were really good.)

Gambling

As usual I didn’t win money gambling. I never do at casinos, no matter what I do. Playing live poker games with a table of strangers for the first time was not an enjoyable experience to me. I had trouble keeping track of the pot size (which is important for calculating pot odds when you are facing or making any bets) and got easily distracted by all sorts of things going on at the table and the surroundings, people chattering, overhead announcers etc. The speed of action was faster than I thought too. It was overall kind of chaotic, and very, very different from playing online, where concentration was not an issue.

But that’s not even the biggest problem. Players in a casino are in general much worse than those online, maybe because they are mostly tourists rather than poker fans (you have to be into poker a little bit to seek out an online poker site like PokerStars to sign up account and play there). Some of their plays were so inexplicable it made any assumption you made (and any conclusion you drew) basically useless (and sometimes totally wrong). Common “poker sense” didn’t seem to exist there. It was quite frustrating and turned out to be costly too.

I did have a better time playing at one of the daily poker tournaments at Caesars Palace. I made the final two tables but busted out after making a mistake on one of the hands preflop, because I wasn’t patient enough. But overall I enjoyed the experience. It was my first ever live tournament in my 3 short months of playing poker.

BallysSlotMachine

At Bally’s we walked past a standalone, super-sized slot machine (picture above). We put in some bills and instead of pushing the button, took turns pulling on the huge handle on the side to roll it, so it felt more like real gambling. It was fun (and silly :-)).

The Aloha State: O’ahu and Kaua’i

The view from the top of Diamond Head, a volcano crater in O’ahu, Hawaii:

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Aloha!

Just got back from Hawaii vacation. Immediately felt guilty that I haven’t posted for almost a week. The trip was nice (and warm!) but the last couple of days we caught the rain. I also got an unexpected “souvenir” from a kayak-hiking-river-crossing trip: mosquito bites! A whopping 40 of them!! All within one hour of walking in the woods! My legs and arms looked like, well, I can’t think of anything that looks quite like them. It’s quite a sight.

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