Wandering around Miami

As a city itself, Miami is fairly interesting. Although I ended up staying in the boonies, I took the opportunity to drive into the city every day, and variously explore. One of the most fascinating parts of Miami, in my view, is the entire arcade over on Ocean Drive (so Miami Beach and thereabouts). The entire section is built in 1920s Art Deco style, and all of the buildings survived the years – so you get a massive throwback to a century ago, though obviously framed in today’s kitschy wealth, night clubs and legions of tourists. But if you go a street or two away from Ocean drive, you can find some pretty interesting buildings. I armed myself with the National Geographic Miami Walking Guide and a camera, and went to explore.

I can’t do as good a job as NG does in describing the architecture, so it’s worth a read over there if you’re interested. What I can say is that the buildings are absolutely fascinating. It’s a throwback to the 20s, and by extension, a certain alternate-universe 1950s, where everything has rather peculiar shapes, each building has a certain individual style, and overall, the design is certainly unusual.

One thing that saddens me greatly is the multitude of bars and overall commotion on the street in front… it’s basically impossible to enjoy the architecture without getting run over by a Maybach, or a crazed group of tourists hunting for souvenirs, or by a drunken college frat party looking for the next joint to crash. That’s a bit of a downer. I’d say “maybe I should come in winter”, but … yeah, this is Miami, there isn’t any winter. They wear fur coats when the weather drops to the mid-20s.

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While everything on the main strip seems to be doing fairly well financially, not all the buildings off the strip are quite as lucky.







Of course, there’s always the ultra-wealthy to spoil the landscape. Not that I’m advocating class warfare, but really, some shit is just in bad taste. Behold – the Versace Mansion, which went from a madly over-the-top playground for the well-connected, to a funeral home, to a hotel, to a club, to a hotel, to a club, to an abandoned house, and I think it’s a club now. Or something of the sort. Look at all those Medusa statues!




Back on Miami Beach, a commotion was happening. Curious to see what was up…


Turns out it was a sports display of some sort by the local heavies. Maybe taking a break from bodyguard duty?



On to the beach… of course, a cruise ship in the distance.


Remember how I said it’s never winter here? It’s almost 5pm and the temperature is still 90 degrees F (~29C).


Headed off to other places. Pretty cruise ships, if that’s your thing:



A view of them from the Intercontinental Miami:


Crossed the waterway to the mainland via Venetian Way – some really, really nice sights to see there:





And finally, for a few night shots of Miami. This is from the Intercontinental:


And this is from the marina on Miami Beach:



It’s a gorgeous city at night, all things considered.


And that’s about it for Miami. Stay tuned for the next installment – Seattle, this time!


Oddball cars of Miami

Miami is known for its wealth, oddities and transient celebrities, and when all of those mix together, you get all sorts of peculiar amalgamations on wheels. This was taken over just a few days, and while not all cars are necessarily odd or weird, it’s just interesting to see the wide variety of motor culture – anything from Wraiths to 70s Chevrolets on bicycle tires.




A striped Maybach…



(with some potentially unsavoury figures inside – I mean, who else would have such godawful taste)






… just really, really strange wheels …



Funny cars…


Sausage cars…


Yeah, I heart DJ Sex I’m sure.


More ugly wheels on otherwise nice cars…


The occasional really nice car, not too massacred…


A Ghost…


… and a Wraith …


Trucks that take up half a lane even when parked…


More lowriders on terrible wheels…


More lowriders on terrible wheels… (it does seem to be a pattern):


An occasional reasonable car (that I honestly wondered whether it would be a good grocery run car, and for occasional Ikea runs, what with the trunk space and all…)


And a complete abomination. Apparently, it’s called The Hulk, and someone seems to actually be proud of it.



So that’s it for the interlude. Just some really strange cars.

[EDIT TO ADD] In an “only in Miami” twist, the day before I left, the MacArthur Causeway was closed. Because of a car accident. Where an Aventador crashed into a gold Hummer.

You can’t make this stuff up – this is Miami.


Onwards to Miami!

I think I’ve procrastinated long enough on the blog – I’ve gotten some requests to keep my posts up, and it’s literally been a year – and there’s still traffic here,which means some people haven’t given up, for which I am appreciative. So I’ll try to pick up the pace and at least catch up with my travels; but my life has sped up quite significantly, so it’s not going to be easy. I’ve flown 170,000 miles in 2015 alone, and 160,000 in all of 2014, so that’s something like 240,000 of miles of travel to account for. Well… better get to it!

After our trip to Myanmar, I had to go to “training” for work. It was a six-week program, three of which saw me in Miami (the horror!) and three in Seattle.

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Day 16: the Holy Grail (aka Singapore Airlines Suites) – READ to the end

There are some things that are so exclusive that you actually have to get somewhere in life to be able to achieve them. Singapore Airlines First Class is one of those things. SQ has been considered, for the longest time, to be one of the best airlines in the world – and they are extremely protective of their first and business class – and even more so, Suites. None of them ever get released on points except to SQ’s own members, and at $15,000 and up per seat, it’s not like one can easily just get one’s hands on them. So when I had my ticket finally reissued following the CTA ruling, I lived on needles for months, because like any travel aficionado, I wanted to try SQ Suites and the A380 for an eternity… and this was my chance. I suppose my anticipation was somewhat diluted by the Emirates experience I had on the inbound flight, as the in-flight showers are probably the most wonderful invention ever, but I still had very high expectations of what was about to come.

I had no idea what I was in for, however. What went on to happen is absolutely the most unexpected chain of events that one couldn’t script even if one wanted to.

But let’s take it in sequence.

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Day 15: Bagan, Day 3 (last day in Bagan)

Our original plan on the last day was to spend the morning relaxing, maybe swim in the pool of the hotel a bit. But after spending two days with our guide and realising that chances of us seeing everything are pretty low… we decided to go all out, and spend the morning doing more sight-seeing, and after some kind of a lunch and afternoon nap, head to the airport.

First, we went to see the Manuha Buddha Image.


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Day 14: Bagan, Day 2

On day 2, we continued exploring more temples. Considering how many there are, we couldn’t hope to get any significant percentage of them done, but we were certainly going to try.

First up was Pyathadar Temple. The interesting thing about this particular temple is that it’s one of the last temples built by the Bagan dynasty, which puts it squarely as the most complex and advanced achievement of that period. It exhibits tremendous Indian influence, which was common in the Myanmar of these times. It also happens to have pretty nice views from the top.


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Day 13: Bagan, Day 1

Since I decided to go to Burma, Bagan was absolutely the most important stop on my plan. Having seen the surreal pictures of thousands of pagodas in the mist, I absolutely had to see this for myself. Getting a bit ahead of myself here, I was not disappointed; it was a complete overdose of temples and pagodas, but it was an incredible learning experience, considering they were all different. I had an excellent guide to take us around, as well – I’d be happy to recommend him if you ever go.

In my descriptions, I will heavily rely on other sourced content, as I cannot pretend to be any sort of an expert on Burmese Buddhism (and there are over 2,200 pagodas and temples in Bagan, about a thousand of which I feel we have visited over the three days). Some of the pictures on these sourced sites are far better than mine, too, but oh well.

Our first visit was to the Dhammayazika Pagoda. Its structure has pentagonal terraces instead of the more typical square base of normal Bagan pagodas. On each side of the pagoda, there is a small temple housing an image of Buddha. The usual practice in most temples was to have four images facing the cardinal points, representing the four Buddhas of the present world cycle who have already attained Enlightenment. In this pagoda, though, the fifth temple is placed with a “future” image of the Buddha. It was under renovation like several others we have seen, which was unfortunate as far as our touristic experience goes, but great for the pagodas, as a number of them have been ignored for far too long. _MG_3674

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Another Japan trip

It occurred to me that if I buffer my posts until I’m done posting the Burma stuff, I’ll be so swamped with subsequent travel that I’ll never get the posts done. So I’m going to intersperse the Burma trip with more “current” news.

So I had to make an unscheduled work trip to Japan. It was set basically on Wednesday, and I’ve just landed. So here are a few notes from the trip so far (though to be fair, I’m not likely to have as many “touristy” notes since I’m here for work – but food blogging shall happen!). I’d make some kind of a quip about “feeling like I’ve not been here for a while”, but that would probably be ill-received.

My flight routing was through Vancouver on to Tokyo. Sadly, the Air Canada 787/Dreamliner does not fly yet, so I couldn’t fly to the much more convenient Haneda airport. I also couldn’t fly the direct Toronto-Narita route because there were 3 seats left in business, and my upgrade chances were so low I was willing to route differently. To be fair, it’s also a bit more pleasant to break the journey into slightly shorter flights (YVR-NRT is a shade under 10 hours, unlike YYZ-NRT, which is almost 12). Continue reading


Interlude: flight from Yangon to Bagan

After a wildly busy day in Yangon, I was fully expecting a no less busy day in Bagan, considering that beyond sightseeing, it actually contained, you know, flying there. For some obscure reason, all domestic flights from Yangon leave between 6:00am and 6:45am. (and there are like, 6 of them). And all domestic flights come back around 5-6pm. One would think that, you know, considering tourists are likely to have flown in late the previous day, and considering the (lack of?) volume of domestic flights, it wouldn’t make a difference whether they left at 6:30 or, say, a more humane 9am. But no. Everyone, out, early. Fortunately, everyone is used to, so the hotel prepared breakfast boxes for us, which was really cool. We had breakfast included, sure, but typically kitchens open at 6:30-10:00 or so, and if you don’t fit in those hours, well, too bad. So it was a nice gesture of them to actually prepare takeaways for us:


Nothing extravagant, but sandwiches, muffins and juice. Works for me.

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Day 12: A day in Yangon, Burma

When looking for hotels in Yangon, I went through a number of threads and reviews, since I haven’t been anywhere close to the city, and there were no major chains present. I ended up settling on Traders Yangon, which is as close to a chain as possible (it’s a Shangri-La property – an excellent chain of hotels); there were a few other very good options, such as the Governor’s Residence, but unfortunately, the glory days of $100 5-star hotels in Yangon are far, far gone, and the Governor’s Residence was pricing out in the $400 range for the days I needed it for, which was completely unreasonable. I managed to find a sort-of a mistake deal on the Traders (with breakfast, too!), so I went with them instead – plus, having participated in the Shangri-La 3rd anniversary game, I had some points to blow on dinners.

Seeing as Traders is the “budget” version of Shangri-La, I was prepared for a somewhat scrungy 3-star hotel. I wasn’t quite prepared for what we came to, though.

Here goes the photographic diarrhoea that I had previously promised. On the off chance it makes you feel any better, I have a total of just under 4,000 pictures from this trip; so what you are seeing here is a very carefully curated subset.

Building from the outside:


Metal detectors at the entrance:


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