Karen Johnson

Kuan Yin

Karen Johnson

I'm an independent single woman who loves to travel. Favorite place to visit in a new country? The grocery store.

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"The road opens up before you, and that's where you find freedom."
- Johnny Clegg

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn't matter.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland







Asia » Japan » Tokyo June 23rd 2019

If you’ve been following along – thanks! – you know that I very much like horse racing. So much so that when I travel I will check to see if there is a race track close to where I’m going, and if there is I will make plans to visit. I regularly attend races in southern California, so it is always fun for me to see the differences between racing here and in other countries. Of course, the basic premise is the same – sleek horses with small jockeys competing to see who can cross the finish line first. But the tracks themselves can vary widely, as can the customs around the meets. I was in Tokyo during the spring race season. Horse racing in Japan is a big deal. There are ten nationally sanctioned race ... read more
train station to race track
garden
entrance

Asia » Japan » Osaka » Osaka June 10th 2019

Perhaps the most well-known sign, at least in Japan if not in all of Asia, is that of the Running Man. It’s actually an advertisement for Glico, a company that makes nutritionally fortified sweets. Its founder realized that glycogen, found in oyster broth, was an energy booster, and added it to sweets with the stated objective of enhancing health through food. He first added it to caramel in 1922, and the logo of the Running Man with his arms raised in victory was born. The Running Man sign was first put up in 1935. It is 33 meters – over 100 feet – high, and except for when it was destroyed during WWII, it has graced the banks of the Dotonbori River ever since. The sign has been updated and improved over the years, and is ... read more
this restauarnt served crab
dragon
Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum

Asia » Japan » Osaka » Osaka June 2nd 2019

LAX in Los Angeles is not one of my favorite airports, and its layout is horrible. As usual, my connecting flight from San Diego landed at the very last gate in the very last terminal, and my flight to Tokyo was leaving from the gate as far away as you could get and still be in the same airport. According to my ever so smart watch, it was about a mile and a quarter, with nary a moving walkway in sight. Now, it was possible to take a slightly shorter journey by actually leaving the airport and catching a shuttle bus to the International Terminal, but then you would have to go through TSA security again. And even with TSA Pre-Check and Trusted Traveler authorizations, that entailed more standing in line than I really ... read more
Hotel The Flag
street
Gabourichicken

North America » United States » California » Arcadia April 3rd 2019

This really is a travel story, so be patient with me…. If you have been following along, you know that I very much enjoy horse racing. I watched my first horse back in the ‘80s at the St. Joe County Fair in St. Joseph, Michigan. It was a chilly, gray day at the end of September, with occasional rain showers. The seats were on old wooden, splintery bleachers, but they were free, and gave me a chance to sit down for a few minutes, and that was all it took. I sat there, in the rain, drinking bad coffee, for a couple of hours, and watched, fascinated. And the more I watched, the more I wanted to know. Now, when I travel, I always check to see if there is any racing scheduled at my destination. ... read more
Heriberto Figueroa
SoS led to paddock
leg up

Asia » Singapore » Raffles Marina February 9th 2019

After the movie “Crazy, Rich Asians” came out, people have been asking me if there really is a building that looks like a ship resting on three pillars in Singapore. The answer is yes. That iconic building is Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, and it is pretty spectacular. In addition to the jaw-dropping architecture, it boasts a high-end mall with a river running through it, complete with gondolas. It contains one of the most profitable casinos in the world, and the roof top deck with the infinity edge pool is stunning and unique. Rooms run between $600 and $6,000 a night; I, of course, have never stayed there, but for a small fee you can go up to the deck. The pool is reserved for guests. But there is more to Marina Bay area than ... read more
reflection
gondolas in the mall
levels of the mall

Asia » Malaysia » Penang » George Town January 21st 2019

My intention on this steamy Sunday was to go to the Penang Street Market. I’d been to it once before, about five years ago; it was small but interesting. However, before I had walked even a block I stumbled across another street market. The city of George Town has established car-free zones in George Town’s World Heritage Core, and every Sunday from 7 am to 1 pm, cars are banned from over 2 kilometers of city streets. People set up booths in the streets selling crafts, food, drinks, and the local animal shelter had dogs available for adoption. I watched the street magician for a while, drank something blue that the young lady who sold it to me called “ocean” and gazed longingly at the puppies. I watched a masseuse giving knife massages, which were exactly ... read more
dog massage
Wearnes Garage
de Haviland Rapide Dragon

Asia » Malaysia » Melaka » Melaka City December 25th 2018

The Straits of Malacca held the key to wealth in the 17th through 20th century. This was a shortcut between China and Europe, and the city of Malacca – or Melaka – was located on the Straits and bisected by the Malacca River. Spices, silks, and all manner of trade goods flowed through here, and whoever controlled the straits controlled a whole lot of wealth. I was staying in a hotel near the river. I like walking along rivers, and since there was some interesting history along this river, a walk seemed in order. Past the local craft market and the Maritime Museum, I saw a building labeled Museum of Malaysian Customs. Now, at various times Malacca has been under the control of the Chinese, the Sultan Muhammed Shah, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the ... read more
Malaysian Customs Museum
confiscated vest
forbidden belts

Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes July 9th 2018

Since I was staying in a guest house in the medina, I spent most of my time in Fes inside the medina walls, usually lost, but I did venture outside a couple of times. For me, the easiest way to get out of - and back into – the medina was through the Bab Boujloud, sometimes referred to as the Blue Gate for its tilework. “Bab” means gate, and there are a number of them in the walls of the medina. My shortcut for remembering the name of this one was to remember it as Bab “Boogaloo,” which isn’t anywhere close to correct, but helped me remember the distinction between it and Bab Jdid. Musée du Batha Just a short distance outside the gate is Dar Batha, a museum housed in a nineteenth century palace. Of ... read more
Bab Bouljoud
Bartha gardens
Batha gardens2

Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes July 3rd 2018

Fez was not one of my favorite cities. I spent most of my time there sweaty, hungry, lost, and frustrated. It says a lot about my personality that I much prefer cities like Tokyo and Singapore – clean, orderly, and no-nonsense. I full recognize that many of my issues with Fez came down to a lack of my usual research and poor planning on my part. As I mentioned in my previous post I was in Fez during Ramadan; as a non-Muslim, I was not expected to fast or follow any of the other Ramadan requirements, but it was difficult to find a restaurant that was open. However, probably one of the most frustrating parts of my trip had nothing to do with Ramadan; it was the number of places I wasn’t allowed to visit because ... read more
cleaning2
dying
dying2

Africa » Morocco » Tangier-Tétouan » Tangier June 19th 2018

There were two things I most wanted to explore in Tangier – writers and spies. And since a lot of them hung out together, their stories were intertwined. And the more I looked into things, the more tangled the stories got. I started with a tour guide. Badr was the night manager at the guest house I stayed in, and did guide work during the day. He was a good guy, and I knew he wouldn’t trot me around to shops when I really wanted some history. I told him I was interested in history and writers, and I particularly wanted to see Dean’s Bar and Caid’s Bar, both of which had been known for the writers, shady figures, and people rumored to be spies and agents of foreign governments during the 1930s and ‘40s. The ... read more
Grand Socco2
Cafe Central
El Minzah




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