Tuesday/ Bangkok the world’s ‘best’ tourist city?

I was a little stunned to learn that Travel+Leisure magazine’s readers – 16,000 of them voted –  awarded the No. 1 ranking to Bangkok as the world’s best city (to travel to).    I do think their hospitality is top-notch.   And the temples are gorgeous, the airport is great and modern.   But for the rest – a somewhat run-down metropolis with high-rise buildings dotting it.    What about Paris in the spring?  Or Cape Town in April?    

The readers cast votes from December to March and the polling stopped a few days before civil disorder erupted in Bangkok that lasted 10 weeks and ended May 19 with nearly 90 dead and 1,400 hurt.   Picture – Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra poses with World’s Best city award during a press conference in Bangkok earlier this year.

Friday/ returning from Bangkok

The hotel’s swimming pool is where we spent most of Friday.    I will spare my readers the sight of my lily white body getting a little sun!  .. and then it was time to check out and make for the airport.    The blue placard is from the Democrat Party.   Remember the red shirt protests in May?  Things have settled down but there was another peaceful march in the streets on Thursday and the country’s political state is very much unsettled, still.

The rest of the pictures are of billboards on the way to the airport.  The Shingha beer bottle lion is my favorite.   We flew on an Air-Asia plane like the one sitting on the tarmac across from ours.   The flight went smoothly without delays – a welcome difference from the flight in on Tuesday night.   On that flight one passenger held the plane’s departure up for almost two hours.    There was a mix-up with his baggage, he claimed.    The end result was that he stepped off of a plane full of very irate passengers.   Sir!  We do not know your problem.  But SIT down! yelled some passengers. Others came forward and complained to the captain and the flight attendants.   All while the flight attendant call button dinged repeatedly – another way passengers showed their discontent.

Thursday/ in Bangkok

Since we saw lots of temples and buddhas on Wednesday, we spent some time at the hotel’s swimming pool.    The first picture shows some of the Marriott hotel property on the left with the water taxi on the Chao Phraya river (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา).   The Chao Praya is a major river in Thailand and it ends in the Gulf of Siam.

On the other side of the river we tuk (took) a tuk-tuk to downtown.  The picture is taken from the one we are on, and our tuk-tuk is similar to the green one with the poor mascot dangling from the rear bumper – see it?  (A roughish ride it is with limited side vision out from under the canopy!)

The evening show with traditional folk dancing and costume was put up right at the hotel later that night.   Another trip out on the water showed what the river and some city skylines look like at night.  Bangkok does not have a city center with clustered skyscrapers.  The tall buildings stand apart.

Wednesday/ in Bangkok

I am in Bangkok !  (Long Thai names and lots of pictures of buddhas and temples ahead.   I will post pictures of street scenes and more mundane items tomorrow).

The greater Bangkok has some 12 million of the 64 million people living in Thailand.   95% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada  tradition.   Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia  and Laos.

My co-worker Will and I hired a private tour guide to take us around to the temples.   The first series of pictures are from the former Wat Pho Buddhist temple – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  The full name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan  (Thai: วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร) and it is located in Phra Nakhon district directly adjacent to the Grand Palace.     The mother-of-pearl elephant is one of dozens of inlays in the Reclining Buddha’s feet.   All the other pictures up to the water bottle with the red and white lion on was taken in and around this temple.   It is hot and humid – we are only 14 degrees north of the equator, after all.

Next up was The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang).  It is a complex of buildings and has served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards.  Construction of the Palace began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I, when he moved the capital across the river from Thonburi  to Bangkok.  The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time.

The pictures painted on the walls in this hallway have intricate detail of battle scenes with mythical creatures and gods.

Our final stop for the day was at Wat Trai Mit –  one of the most popular tourist destinations for Bangkok visitors because of the Golden Buddha statue.  It is 3 meters (9 ft) high and made out of 5500 kg pure, solid gold – it’s the biggest Buddha statue made out of gold in the whole world, and it is estimated that is more than 700 years old, created during the Sukothai period.

Tuesday/ Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

There is a PricewaterhouseCoopers communication in my inbox this morning that the PwC office in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia is now officially open.    The opening coincides with the start of the Discover Mongolia 2010 Mining Conference.

Let me borrow the start of Wikipedia’s entry for Ulaanbataar – look up the rest, it is very interesting!

Ulan Bator (pronounced /ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtər/) or Ulaanbaatar  (/ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtɑr/; Mongolian: Улаанбаатар, English: The Red Hero), is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. The city is an independent municipality, not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 was just over one million.

Located in the north central part of the country, the city lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial, and financial heart of the country. It is also the center of Mongolia’s road network, and connected by rail to the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Chinese railway network.

Sunday/ arrived at Dameisha

‘My boss is getting married on 10-10-10 at 10 am’, said the guy in front of me to someone as we were boarding for the Hong Kong flight.   The ‘Relax’ sign is posted at Hong Kong airport at the top of two giant escalators that run down to the shuttle train that takes one to the main terminal.   In other words :  don’t rush down the escalator two steps at a time to the train waiting below and then fall down and break a leg!

I did get some sleep on the plane, but I am ready for more – so off to bed with me.

Saturday/ at the airport

I’m at Seattle airport.    The security process was pretty normal, and with the summer travel season over, the airport is not too crowded.  Of course it could be due to it being Sept 11 as well.

I thought I would post a picture of an intrepid traveler other than ME this morning .. found his picture at one of the pubs here in the airport.  Frank Dorbandi, Teller Alaska.   So Teller is a location in Alaska? Yes, see the spot marked A on the Google map!     Intrepid* indeed!  with the year being 1929 and with a flying machine that could hardly be called an aircraft.

*Intrepid -characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance : )

Friday/ checking in for trip #8

I am checked in already for my flights to San Francisco and Hong Kong.  I leaving tomorrow morning.   Yes – Sept 11, not the best day to fly I would imagine! – but I have to be at Daya Bay on Monday morning.

A neighborhood right by the San Francisco International airport is in the news this morning.  A natural gas explosion started a fire that destroyed about 50 homes. At least one person was killed and more than 20 others injured.

The two pictures below the one of the fire were taken with my new camera in Seattle’s SoDo (South of Downtown) neighborhood this morning.  The Komodo dragon is at Starbucks headquarters, and the mural from a grocery store on 4th Ave close by.    Click on them to blow them up .. the truth comes out then, which is that the compact camera has a much smaller sensor than an single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, and therefore it cannot possibly match the detail of an SLR’s pictures.

Thursday in the USA/ home

I am home!  The first picture was taken shortly after take-off from San Francisco (see the red Golden Gate bridge? No? Click on the picture to enlarge it !).   The second picture is again from my airplane seat, just as we stopped at the gate at Seattle airport.  I thought : better take pictures of these United Airlines planes since the merger with Continental Airlines has been approved, and their logo will disappear from airplanes.

Thursday/ San Francisco bound

I am sure there are many songs referring to San Francisco, but Scott Mckenzie’s about wearing flowers in your hair is my favorite.   (Even though my hair is too short and I have no flowers to put in them.   And I’m only touching down there en route to Seattle!).

So yes – I am at the airport.  Inquiring about the flight status and the weather at check in, I was told ‘No sir, there is NO problem with the weather.  The typhoon might not even come here.’     Well,  I think it’s good that I am not sticking around to find out.

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there
For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

Wednesday/ at the airport hotel

The typhoon is still some 400km (250 mi) away and is moving very slowly, so I hope I will be able to fly out in the morning.    There is no breeze at all (the calm before the storm?), so the air quality and visibility is poor.   The picture is from the border crossing at Shenzhen.    I had dinner here at the Hong Kong Skycity Marriott hotel and then ventured out on the metro to Tsing Yi station.   I used the fast airport line which goes at a good clip but which also costs a little more.   (You are assumed to be Mr Businessman.  Time is money!).

The moon cakes are sold at Starbucks at Tsing Yi station.  My driver today told me to get some .. these are Chinese pastries with fillings, traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival which is coming up later in September.

Tuesday/ watch out

It’s the 31st! The month of August* is on its way out .. and it looks like I might have trouble finding my way out of Hong Kong on Thursday.   The typhoon is twisting towards Hong Kong !

*and do you know the meaning of the word august?  it’s  ‘marked by majestic dignity or grandeur’

Severe Tropical Storm LIONROCK
at 17:00 HKT 31 August 2010

( 20.6 N, 118.4 E,
about 480 km east-southeast of Hong Kong )

Monday/ typhoon Lionrock

Why does it seem to me every time my travel back to the USA comes due, a typhoon is approaching?  (I am scheduled to leave on Thu morning).   This one is called Lionrock, named after a famous hill in Hong Kong.    It is located in Kowloon and is 495 metres high.    We drive though the Lion Rock tunnel on our way to Hong Kong on Fridays.

From Wikipedia : Lion Rock is famous for its shape and is visible from various places in Kowloon; its resemblance to a crouching lion is most striking from the Choi Hung and San Po Kong areas in East Kowloon.   A trail wends its way up the forested hillside to the top, culminating atop the lion’s head.   The trail can be followed across the profile of the lion, eventually linking up with the MacLehose Trail.   The rock provides a beautiful view of the city and Hong Kong Island in the distance.   The entire hill is located within Lion Rock Country Park in Hung Mui Kuk,  Tai Wai and is made passable by vehicles by Lion Rock Tunnel, which connects Kowloon Tong and Tai Wai.


Saturday morning we took the Star Ferry from Hong Kong island to Kowloon.   It’s a quick 10 minute crossing, mostly for tourists.   The metro or the traffic tunnels under the harbor is a much more efficient way to get across!   The sky was hazy .. not as clear as Friday.

We found this painter in Kowloon Park, and the Chinese banyan is from Nathan Road right by the park.   We stopped at a coffee shop for lunch.

Saturday night three of us from work went to the Pacific Place mall to go to Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill for some American comfort food.   The menu says Warning! We serve American-sized portions. A young Asian couple that sat across from us ordered one item from the menu and shared it.    The neon sign is from Tsim Tsa Tsui district, my favorite night-time haunt in the city where I went after dinner.

Friday in Hong Kong

In the first picture I pose with those same cumulus clouds I saw from my hotel room earlier – this time  from The Peak’s observation deck.   (The clouds seem to look down and laugh at the so-called skyscrapers far below).   After dinner I went for a walk-about in Central district on Hong Kong Island.    Those are the tops of the Bank of China building, the Citibank building and the HSBC building.   The stone lion is from the front of another bank building nearby and that’s a lion cub under the lion’s paw.   ‘The Stool Pigeon‘ is a new locally -made movie that started showing, about the police and informants.  (See the reflection of the name of a famous South African diamond company in the picture?).     Then I went over to Kowloon and stalked this Lamborghini in the late-night traffic on foot until I could take a picture of it.   Moments later the light turned green and it was gone with a roar.

Friday morning

It’s a gorgeous day in Hong Kong with puffy cumulus clouds out over the harbor.   I’m working from the hotel room .. but my colleague Vic and I want to take advantage of the weekday this afternoon to take the Peak tram up the hillside overlooking the city.   The brand-new 110 story International Commerce Center building has not yet opened its observation deck – they will do so by the end of the year, says the website.   Now back to work !

Sunday/ out and about in Hong Kong

It was very warm out today .. the public service banner does not say Beware of heat stroke for nothing !  (Isn’t the dog with the flapping ears cute?)  It is so humid along with the heat.    My camera malfunctioned on Saturday – the shutter started firing uncontrollably as soon as I switched the camera on.     Today the problem was gone, but I read in the Sunday newspaper this morning that many iPhone users in Hong Kong have reported problems related to the 95%+ humidity in the city.

The self-picture is from the MTR station at Wan Chai,  and there is a guy on the  on-coming tram  taking a picture of me taking a picture of him : ).

Tuesday/ fly Kulula Air!

I posted pictures of the proposed livery for airplanes of the merger between Continental and United Airlines about a week ago.

Then yesterday I got pictures from a friend showing the livery for Kulula Air’s airplanes.  (Kulula is  South Africa’s low fare airline).    The pictures are all from their website at kulula.com.   It shows their route map, the flying 101 plane, the camo plane, the daylight savings time plane (the airline is campaigning for daylight saving time in South Africa), the jet setter plane and the this way up plane.

Sunday in Hong Kong

These pictures from Saturday .. the trams on Hong Kong Island are always fun to watch, all of them decked out in attractive artwork.    I thought this next one was a martial arts picture but no, it’s the billboard for Step Up 3D, a dance flick.  The giant cutie pie doll is from a Japanese store window in Harbour City shopping mall.  Basketball player Yao Ming left big shoes to fill –  this is in a sporting goods store in the same mall, as is the Tag Heuer watch.    I drooled at it inside the store, but it is too expensive to buy! – about US$3,000.

While I was checking out at the Marriott hotel on Sunday, the giant touch screen’s headline ‘Hooker advances in pole vault‘ made me look twice.  (Hooker is an Australian athlete).    Next one – we accidentally found our own company’s offices in Hong Kong’s Central district in a building where we stopped for lunch.

The final three pictures are artwork from Times Square mall in Causeway Bay.   No, I didn’t upload the picture with the bronze figures with distorted pixel dimensions.   I’m really not sure how the artist made real three dimensional figures with distorted proportions.   Same for the girl at the mailbox – it is as if her image was distorted by a curved mirror.   Finally, check out the very very creative use this artist put rubber tire shreds to.     A mean muscular black rhinoceros!

Monday night/ in Dameisha

We arrived early at Hong Kong airport and the driver did a great job getting me through customs and Shenzhen evening traffic to get me to Dameisha in under two hours.    The first picture is of the Hong Kong-mainland China border crossing just at sunset.

At the apartment I had to run out to get some milk, ended up buying some jasmine tea and iron buddha tea.  (I will need it to perk me up tomorrow).    The brand of the tea is Lipton.    I thought Lipton was an American brand, but I see  Lipton  was created at the end of the 19th century by Sir Thomas Lipton in Glasgow, Scotland.   His enterprise soon flourished and he established a chain of grocers, first across Glasgow, then the rest of Scotland, until finally he had stores throughout Britain.  Today the brand belongs to Unilever.