2.23.2008

moto madness

hello moto
in vietnam the growing economy has created a new class of consumers, especially in urban centers like ho chi minh city. although one still sees folks riding around on bicycles, they have been largely replaced these days by scooters and small motorbikes.

at intersections like the one above there are swarms of bikes waiting for the light to change. in a car or van one is completely surrounded and when traffic is heavy the bikes thread and weave their way around, making forward progress as one sits there stuck.

unfortunately i missed taking pics of some of the more interesting things we saw- like one fellow carrying a refrigerator on the back of his motorbike and families of 4 or even 5 all squeezed together on one bike.

the next upgrade from motorbikes is to a small car. with traffic as bad as it is now in vietnam i can't imagine what it'll be like when that happens. it could even rival the worst of the worst... bangkok traffic!

how to spend a million in ninety minutes

millions of dong
lunch for four at a hotel in ho chi minh city - 1.44 million dong!

2.19.2008

a inundação grande

flooding in lisbon
this morning's drive began at 7:30am with the idea being to leave lisbon early, beating the traffic, and arrive in alcobaça at around 8:30am to get a nice early start to the day.

well last night was like monsoon season in bangkok- pouring rain and lightning so bright i could see it behind closed curtains and closed eyelids. this morning it was still bucketing down and after an hour of driving in heavy traffic we still were not out of lisbon.

we found a road closed so we took a detour to the highway and were faced with the above- the road was turned into a brown river which no cars dared to brave. another hour later and we were finally leaving lisbon.

total elapsed time, three and a half hours. all was not lost, however, as i exercised my thumbs with the blackberry and irradiated my brain with mobile phone calls to get a lot of work done on the way. the miracles of modern technology!

2.18.2008

a rainy day in lisbon

a rainy day in lisbon
with a free day in lisbon i thought i'd venture out and explore the city rather than holing up in my hotel room. a tour of the city was booked for the afternoon so i started by a lunch in the hotel restaurant. pictured above is one of the extra-strength portugese coffees that are more like triple espressos. one of those and i'm ready to start the day- or maybe run around the block twenty times!

a rainy day in lisbon
first stop was the castle of saint george and wandering the small nearby streets. unfortunately of all the days i've been in lisbon it decided to rain on my one free day. the good news was there weren't many tourists around the outside destinations and some of the streets, like this one, looked almost abandoned.
a rainy day in lisbon
a canon looks down towards the city. although by the architecture of the city one might think it to be extremely old, most of it in fact dates back to only the second half of the 18th century as a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed around 80% of the buildings in the city in 1755, killing a third of the population.
a rainy day in lisbon
the national museum of azulejo was the next stop- an interesting historical tour of the world of portugese ceramic painted tiles.
a rainy day in lisbon
the museum is located in a beautiful restored convent and also showcases some modern art pieces.
a rainy day in lisbon
these tiles are from the middle of the 18th century and depict three saints. i'm not sure who the one on top is but she looks a bit unhappy, perhaps not surprising as she has seven swords sticking out of her.
a rainy day in lisbon
the weather started to clear towards the end of the afternoon so i took a stroll outside, followed by a visit to the impressive jerónimos monastery which contains the tomb of vasco da gama among others. with the enormous ceilings and impressive architecture, it boggles my mind to consider that the original monastery in this photo was built 500 years ago.

in all a great day out in lisbon, even if i did see only a fraction of what the city has to offer.

2.17.2008

camões square

bairro alto hotel balcony panorama
i've been in portugal for the past week enjoying far too much local cuisine between ceramics factory visits. my return to hong kong has been postponed so i'm having a quiet weekend in lisbon at the bairro alto hotel.

the hotel is located in the upper part of the old city district of bairro alto which is on the edge of a restaurant and nightlife district. so far i haven't seen much as we managed to work late enough last night to have an 11:30pm dinner nearby. tonight i'll venture out and explore the area.

click on the above thumbnail to see a panorama taken from my room's balcony on the first floor of the hotel. last night the area around the statue was packed with drunken revelers until the wee hours so i slept using the old college 'one pillow under and one pillow over the head' routine.

tonight's plan will be to sample the local port wine, so i don't think the extra pillow will be needed.

saúde!

2.03.2008

a statue of mom

i found this creature in a temple in chiang mai thailand:

statue of mom

maybe it was the sculptor's mother-in-law?