Preserving pieces of heritage

This article (here) inspired a rant.

As a student of history, I support preservation over redevelopment. In the context that development should not erase heritage that is our inheritance.

In my days of living in China (“YOLOing” in our way), I have seen all too often that the “old” is thrown out. In the name of progress and “advancement”, we have seen vast piles of heritage houses demolished in Shanghai to make way for newly landscaped and manicured gardens and lakes, next to skyscraping buildings.

And in the “second tier” cities, the extent of loss is even more alarming. Historic monuments of immense importance in history are now surrounded by modern buildings so close that you cannot take a photo without that skyscraper serving as the background!

And while at some heritage sites there had been modernizing of facilities to make it more comfortable for travelers, that is positive and welcome. From our standpoint, urban renewal or upgrades to heritage sites are at the heart commercial in nature. The intent on ‘attracting’ even more people in an effort to energize the local economy. And in some places, this has been tastefully done. To the extent that people and nature can find some form of balance.

It is not just China, but also a host of other emerging nations and territories that has been clamoring to build, or rebuild. It is a good social development to have folks coming out to preserve what remains of the past. For while modern day wonders can be created, it is not the same if it the old that were demolished were to be recreated.

The situation in Singapore is the same. As the country progressed from 3rd to first world, many heritage sites were “revamped”, “cleaned up” or “restructured”. Many were demolished outright while the ones designated for preservation underwent extensive cosmetic change on the exterior.

It appears similar warnings are being bandied about for Cuba. Tours are being touted to bring you to see a side of Cuba before it all changes. Actually we think it was better before Obama’s visit. Now it appears that the change will only exacerbate.

The drive to explore Izu

What a large serving of sashimi. And you know what? It only costs ¥2500 (barely US$30)! Not sure if you can get this quantity and quality except around here in the coastal peninsula of Izu in Japan.

A joyous road trip filled with food, sights and surprises, continue reading here as we share with you our story of being on the road in Izu…

Get out of San Francisco

So here the thing.

Everyday as we drove about in San Francisco or around it, we have been hit with traffic jams of such magnitude that we cannot imagine doing this each and every work day. So, today we are determined to get out of town and into the bay area for some “peace and solitude” if there was ever such a thing!Rombauer winery4

Napa from our perspective is such a contrast from the city, though somewhat pricier in quite many aspects. Our wine tasting drive took us to four vineyards, some of which offers great views from their wine house.

In the summer, when the skies are clear it is a very enjoyable drive from vineyeard to vineyard. Add in the beautiful wines that we drank (moderately since we drive) + the meals we had, it certainly warrants that we should have stayed out here for a couple of days…if only again we had the time.

Old Faithful Geyser59On the other hand, it was great to get close to and to experience the power of mother nature. At the Old Faithful geyser (one of 3 in the world), the regular eruption of thermal jets into the sky reminds us that it is all very fragile here in California.Old Faithful Geyser48

The radio constantly reminded of the need for earthquake insurance (it’s a sales bid right?) in this seismically active part of the world.

So here we at the end of this segment of our “bleisure” journey. We have driven towards the Big Sur and did not quite make it, stopping only at Monterey bay. Perhaps you can see it all in our journalog next month.

Flying on to the East coast, we are now in New Jersey. A new chapter of this bleisure episode awaits. Watch out for our harrowing drive through Manhattan!


Rise of the Microhotels

I am sure that most folks who do some travel and read up about Japan will know something about the “capsule” hotels. These overnight boxes to sleep can be found in many places in most large cities in Japan. Not that this is something we’d expect to see in the west or even in other parts of Asia. There can be backpackers’ hostels and motels, but none will come close to the capsule format. Unlikely to, ever?

Well there seems to be on a trend going on. An interesting read here on hotel rooms going smaller.

Our thoughts : as budgets shrink (in business) and solo travel rise, a whole new segment is given birth to. And we suspect it will grow.

In our road trips across Japan there had been a rise of chain hotels that offer micro sized rooms – that is, compared to the “standard” rooms in the established industry players. You would have seen in our recent Fuji roadtip journalog (click here to read) that we stayed at the Super Hotel. This chain offers smaller rooms sizes for the “no frills” traveler, much like the motels of yesteryear. Does not mean it’s dingy, in fact the hotel ran with minimal staffing coupled with simple technology helped! No room keys, no proximity cards. Just your own PIN for the keypad on the door.

In our journeys, the hotel room’s main utility is a restful night. One where amenities are available to wash up, relieve oneself etc. As long as it is clean and the bed resonably comfortable (yes it’s relative), it served its purpose. I mean our purpose. We suppose this is yours too?

So, having a really large room and/or paying lots for it does not make sense when we spend 7 hours each night in it. We should be out and about exploring the new and possibly exciting surroundings right?

Thus we say – this development is good. It means more options for us and you too!

Spa with Monkeys?

Its true. There are folks who have bathed with the monkeys in Jigokudani. We saw it on TV! How would you like to do the same?

If not, perhaps savor some of the other delights of Nagano? We certainly did. Read our journey to this fascinating part of Japan. We are sure you’ll like it.

Party away in San Francisco!

Pier 39 seal colony8
They smell and makes lots of noise

A full day in downtown San Francisco is definitely spent jammed with fellow tourists from all over the world. We met folks from the UK who had just finished a tour of the southwest (Las Vegas was said to be 41°C) and thronged the carnivals of the city on a Sunday at Union Square and later at Stockton.

One tip for ourselves is to get to pier 39 early in the day. There were hardly anyone on the boardwalk and the views to the seal colony were unobstructed (ie no photo bombing). The sun is low and the seals are busy sunning themselves.

Also recommended is to take a walk along pier 41 all the way to Forbes island. Great views of Alcatraz and the gate bridge.

Tram ride to Union St 6
Why is Alcatraz so large?

Yet another tip is to board the cable tram at the Powell-Hyde turnaound. Yes it took us 45 minutes to get on the tram with the long snaking queue, but once onboard you can stand on back end of the tram (smile and strike a conversation with the conductor) and view the city as the tram ascends.

See how Alcatraz seems to become rather large in proportion to its size compared to where you see it from the pier? Have you wondered why?

You can probably get the same views walking up Hyde street, but the feeling is definitely different! And next time, take the Powell-Hyde line to get to the top of Lombard street. The other line (Powell-Mason) stops at the bottom and it’s a long and arduous walk up!

Look out for our journalog in July!