Page 3 of Kuan Yin Travel Blog Posts

North America » United States » California » Del Mar July 23rd 2012

I happen to live fairly close to the Del Mar Race Track, one of the best thoroughbred racing venues in the US. It’s a great place to spend a sunny summer afternoon watching fine horses and interesting people. Del Mar was founded in 1937 by some rather well-known celebrities: Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Pat O’Brien, Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy fame) plus one lone horseman, Charles S. Howard. Mr. Howard was one of the most successful Buick dealers of all time, and he just happened to own a horse named Seabiscuit. In fact, the very first live broadcast of a horserace was a match race in 1938 at Del Mar between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti. Seabiscuit won. From the time it opened until the start of the Second World War, Del Mar was where the Hollywood ... read more
Pat O'Brien and Bing Crosby
In the paddock

Asia » Singapore May 24th 2012

I like traveling, and I like eating. (Um, really? I hardly ever talk about food…) One of my favorite things when I visit a new country is going to grocery stores and markets, and trying new foods. I figure if other people are eating it and not keeling over, it’s probably edible. And if it’s really nasty, I can always spit it out. I’ve only done that once in recent memory, but there are a few things of which I did not take a second bite. My recent trip to Thailand and Singapore brought me a few new culinary experiences. Here are some of them: Funny Fruit: in Thailand I had the chance to eat some tasty and super fresh fruit that is not common in the US. One morning at breakfast I was brought a ... read more
Buddha's Hand
No Durian!

Asia » Singapore » Chinatown May 16th 2012

For most people – me included – the thought of spending a morning dealing with a government bureaucracy is akin to spending time in the seventh circle of hell. It is not something that leaps immediately to mind as a fun thing to do when you travel to another country. However, the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) in Singapore is a definite exception. Sure, if you are a resident here, this is the place where you come to pay parking tickets, apply for building permits, and find the rules for renovation in conservation districts. But this place also houses a perfect scale model of the country, with every building, park and waterway marked. The second floor is home to the Singapore City Gallery. This is full of fun, interactive exhibits that are exceptionally well done. For example, ... read more
Gardens By the Bay

Asia » Singapore May 12th 2012

What can I say? Words almost fail me in trying to describe Marina Bay Sands. Let’s start with the building itself. It’s huge, dominating the Marina Bay skyline. Looking like an ocean liner resting atop three columns, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. (Fans of the BBC television series “Dr. Who” will be reminded of the episode “Voyage of the Damned.” Sorry, I digress.) The hotel, whose 2,561 rooms are located in the three towers, is the biggest hotel in Singapore. The top deck can hold 3,900 people, and boasts an infinity pool that is almost 500 feet long. And then there is the shopping. There is over 800,000 square feet of retail exuberance here. And this is no ordinary mall experience; this is Prada and Gucci and Versace. This is 35 ... read more
Diamonds and silver and gold, oh my!
Taking pictures
Hotel Fullerton

Asia » Singapore » Raffles Marina May 10th 2012

I make no secret of my enjoyment of Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Check out my previous account of Raffles "British Colonialism at Its Best," from May of 2009. If I could afford it, I’d stay there. Heck, if I could afford it I’d live there. But, alas, it’s financially out of my reach. I can, however, shop in Raffles Arcade, visit their museum, and have a drink at the Long Bar. So, I’m walking along Beach Road, headed for Raffles, intending to do a little window shopping, maybe pick up a souvenir. A young woman comes up to me and points to her wrist, as if asking for the time. I shrug, point to my watch-less wrist, and shake my head. “Etes-vous Francaise?” (Are you French?) she asks. “Non, je suis Americaine.” She continues to speak ... read more
Raffles Arcade
Garden Court
Clean paths

Asia » Singapore » Bugis Village May 8th 2012

About a third of Singaporeans identify themselves as Buddhist. Vesak Day is a big deal on the Buddhist calendar, commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. (Kind of like Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter all rolled into one.) It happened to fall on May 5th this year, my second day in Singapore. A caveat is in order here. I am not a Buddhist, and any mistakes I make in writing about Buddhist practices or thought come from my faulty research, not from any disregard for another’s beliefs. I try to be as clear as I can within my limits of understanding. Buddhism in Singapore is mainly of the Mahayana school, rather than the Theraveda school practiced in Thailand. The Thai version is heavily influenced by Burmese monks, Singaporean Buddhism is strongly influenced by Chinese immigrants. There ... read more
Outside the temple
Buddha Hand pastries
Lotus blossoms

Asia » Singapore » Chinatown May 6th 2012

I’ve always been intrigued by chops, or personal seals. These are the square or rectangular red stamps often used by an Asian artist to sign his work. Personal and corporate chops can play a big role in some parts of Asia; I just think they are kind of cool. In my one rather futile attempt to learn Cantonese (I learned how to say “rice,” “beer,” “thank you,” and “credit card,”) I found that the character for “long“ comes from a pictogram of long hair held back in a clasp. Hmm…I have long hair, and it’s one of the nicer descriptors people use for me. In Hong Kong I saw lots of vendors willing to carve a chop for tourists. Most advertised how fast they could do it, and most showed samples with names in English. That ... read more
My chop

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai May 5th 2012

During my visit to the Cultural Center and Museum in Chiang Mai I learned that there are twelve very important temples in Thailand, and each is associated with a particular birth year of the Chinese zodiac. I was born in the year of the Dragon; Wat Phra Singh, an important temple in the city of Chiang Mai, is the temple associated with the Dragon, and 2012 is the year of the Dragon. Auspicious signs all around so I figure a visit can’t hurt. This place is truly impressive. I was in Viharn Luang, the main hall, in awe of the beautiful art, when half a dozen men (and one woman) in uniform came in and shooed everyone out. The monks were allowed to stay, but everyone else, Thai, foreigner, temple worker had to leave. Something was ... read more
Main hall
Viharn Luang Buddha
Former monk

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai May 1st 2012

One of the things that I wanted to see on this visit to Thailand was the silk factories. In northern Thailand the silk makers tend to be clustered around the village of San Kamphaeng, on Route 1006, past the traditional umbrella makers of Bo Sang village. Every taxi, tuk-tuk and songthaew driver in Chiang Mai will offer to take you to Bo Sang and San Kamphaeng. If you are a farang (foreigner) walking down the street, every idle tuk-tuk driver will bombard you with offers to take you to the craft villages. It’s an easy fare for them, and generally they will take you to the places where they get a kick-back if you buy something. Make no mistake, these workrooms are set up for tourists, and the exit is through the gift shop. Still, it’s ... read more
Happy worms
Silk filaments

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai April 30th 2012

The first time I saw a fish spa was in Singapore. Clients would put their feet in a tank of warm water filled with garra rufa, or doctor fish as they're known to most of the world, and let the fish nibble off the dead skin and calluses. I was intrigued by it, but couldn’t quite bring myself to try it. Since then, I’ve seen fish spas throughout Asia, and I decided that it was time I plucked up my courage and let the little fishies have their way with me. There are a number of fish spas in Chiang Mai; the place I chose is called “Fish Actually” and is located in the lobby of the Parasol Inn. It’s pretty simple: you take off your shoes, sit on a padded bench above a large aquarium ... read more
Gara ruffa

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