Ejected from Meerkat and Friends

Cat cafes are nothing new in Tokyo and have existed since at least the turn of the century. We’ve visited a couple of them. The concept has also grown popular in a number of other large East Asian cities. In terms of uniqueness as a business model, it’s possible that cat cafes have become a bit passé. In Tokyo at the moment, owl cafes and hedgehog cafes are a thing. It’s a workable model for probably any cute animal that doesn’t smell awful or attack your patrons. Prior to our short visit to Seoul on this trip, we were excited to learn about a “Meerkat Cafe” there. Not just Meerkat… “Meerkat & Friends”. Some small fox and other adorable animals seemed to be in the mix. Our niece Emma is obsessed with cats in the way that a six-year-old can be obsessed. A brief visit to a cat cafe last year made a lasting impression. We held back on this find, the meerkat cafe, as a “surprise” once we got to Seoul. Continue reading Ejected from Meerkat and Friends

Oceans of Green, Fields of Lavender

Sometimes pictures don’t fully communicate the enormity of a landscape… a barren desert, an isolated island in open ocean, jagged mountaintops in a cascade to the horizon. The Mongolian steppe is another such place. The simplicity of grasslands, smooth and undulating like gentle waves into the distance, is an odd landscape to take in. The uninterrupted space is completely at odds with the environment we experience almost anywhere else. You get lost staring into it.

If you’ve followed this blog over the years and taken in some of the thousands of pictures, I’ll let you in on something: photographers, myself included, are oftentimes total liars. Continue reading Oceans of Green, Fields of Lavender

Tokyo For The Kindergarten Set

Once again, catching up on the last trip, right before we head out on another. This is a picture gallery from a family trip to Tokyo last fall. After touring Taipei for a few days, we spent about a week in Tokyo. As usual… long aimless days and no time to post any updates. The love affair really hasn’t waned. Like Taipei, this visit included our 5-year-old niece, so a few elements were different. 

One thing we noticed that was new for us is the way rules get broken or amended with a small child in tow. Especially a cute and well behaved one. Continue reading Tokyo For The Kindergarten Set

Mainlander Finishing School

A friend once told me that “if you wish China was more like Japan, you’d really like Taiwan.” I won’t attempt to touch on the myriad of problems with that statement, but I think I know now a bit of what he meant. Our first stop on this little two week family trip is in the capital city of Taipei. Something a little different for this jaunt is that we’re traveling with our 5-year-old niece and her parents, who are all visiting these places for the first time. To that end, Taiwan has been very visitor-friendly. As Americans, we didn’t have to be concerned with any visas. The capital city is clean, with great public transit, and no internet firewall shenanigans. I certainly don’t appreciate all the cultural and political differences between Taiwan and (People’s Republic of) China, but I do understand that they both try to hold the claim to being the “real” China. That’s nothing I can comment on meaningfully. However, if I had to throw in for one side, for purely selfish reasons, I am finding Taiwan to be a vastly more polite and civilized place to visit. As far as comparisons to Japan, I know there is a history of intermingling going back to colonial times, and you can see the influence in the present day as well. There is a lot of culinary and cultural overlap insofar as I can appreciate as a foreigner. Continue reading Mainlander Finishing School

Sabbath Ghost Town in Tonga

Our last island stop for this trip is a visit to the main island of Tongatapu in Tonga. While a Sunday on this island is certainly a surreal and interesting experience, it is also, by most holiday metrics, a wasted day. No normal restaurants, no shopping, no transport, no tours. Nothing. Thankfully, we had a couple other days in Tonga. Additionally, the weather was kind of lousy on Sunday, so it made for a decent rest day. Continue reading Sabbath Ghost Town in Tonga

Interlopers on Robinson Crusoe Island

Our flight from Vanuatu brought us into Fiji in the early evening and we opted to overnight at a fairly modest airport resort before transiting to our private island resort the next morning. We stayed overnight at the “TokaToka”, which seemed to evoke like a low-priced Disney Polynesian Resort. The place is literally across the street from the airport. Thankfully we were just passing through.

The next day, we caught a domestic flight in a small double-engine prop plane with another couple headed to the Royal Davui Resort, where we were staying for several nights. As we approached the outpost landing strip, we ran into some lousy weather, with driving rain and low visibility. Our pilot had a student with him and we had to loop back twice and increase our altitude after they misjudged our initial approach. Without being a pilot, the upper lip sweat on both of them told us all we needed to know about the situation Continue reading Interlopers on Robinson Crusoe Island

Tiptoeing On The Edge of Restricted Airspace

Prior to some island-hopping in the South Pacific, we had a couple days transiting through Sydney and Brisbane. Our original plan was to connect through Brisbane and spend a couple nights in The Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, weather delays in Brisbane had us overnight there and rearrange the next leg of the trip. If you’re planning a trip to any of the island nations in this region, you’ve got to be flexible. Many of the flights here are only scheduled once or twice a week, so if any number of factors throw that off, your plans can get pretty screwed up. For us, we had to miss our Solomon Islands stop. In exchange, we got an unplanned day in Brisbane and an extra day in Vanuatu, so not a big deal so far. Continue reading Tiptoeing On The Edge of Restricted Airspace

Here, There, and (hopefully) Back