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

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
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

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

Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes June 14th 2018

Let me start by saying I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel the way I do. I have a great respect for all faiths, and of the people who practice their faith. I am well aware of the privilege I have of living in a place with clean water that comes out of the tap, and of not living in an active war zone. I know that my complaints fall under the heading of inconveniences, not problems, but still, some days… There are a few things I know I’m good at: I am a good researcher, I’m good at organizing and planning, and I can whip up a pretty good green curry chicken. But I failed to plan as I should have, and I also thought I knew enough to not have to research ... read more
closed shops
donkeys allowed

Africa » Morocco » Tangier-Tétouan » Tangier June 12th 2018

The United States declared independence from England in 1776. Maybe you heard about it, it was kind of a big deal. Quick, which was the first country to recognize the new nation? If you answered France you would be almost correct; France was the second country to recognize the United States, in February of 1778. But the very first country to recognize the United States was Morocco in 1777. Of course, the Americans, being busy with the Revolutionary War with England, didn’t get around to formalizing a treaty with Morocco for another decade or so .The first US consul to Morocco arrived in 1797. Morocco occupies a unique position on the northern coast of Africa where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. Add in its proximity to Spain and Gibraltar, along with a protected, deep water ... read more
President Eisenhower and King Mohammed V

Africa » Morocco » Grand Casablanca » Casablanca June 8th 2018

“What city is your final destination?” asked the gate agent. “Casablanca,” I replied. Landing in Casablanca is pretty much a blur. This was the fourth airport I had been in within the previous twenty four hours. And except for my home airport, I only had enough time in those airports to run between gates. (As an aside, why is it I always land in the furthest away gate in the most remote concourse, and depart from the gate that is as far away as possible and still be in the same airport?) One of those flights took me from San Francisco to Montreal, where I would connect to the flight to Casablanca. Even though I wouldn’t be leaving the secured area of the airport, I still had to pass through Passport Control. No worries, I thought, ... read more
platform at Kenitra station
street to  Kasbah Rose, guest house

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