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.

Scroll down to read my previous posts, and check back often for more pictures and stories.

“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

"The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands."
- Richard Burton (the explorer, not he actor)

"It is good to travel with hope and with courage, but it is better to travel with knowledge."
- Ragnar Lodbrok

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"

"I am rarely lost. Sometimes I'm just taking the scenic route."
- Karen Johnson

"In the end it will be OK. If it's not OK, it's not the end."
- Anon.

North America » United States » California » Carlsbad March 11th 2015

When people ask me why I travel, I often say it’s because of my Viking blood. Turns out I may have been closer to the truth than I realized. A couple of months ago I’m on a first date with a perfectly nice man; let’s call him John Doe. We are in a coffee shop (OK, it’s Starbucks, but I like their espresso) in Carlsbad, California. He is nice looking, smart, financially secure, and age-appropriate for me. And single. We had taken a few classes together, but didn’t know each other well. Since he didn’t look like an axe murderer or a serial killer (and did I mention he was single?) I readily agreed when he asked me for coffee. This particular coffee shop is right under the flight path of the Palomar-McClellan Airport in Carlsbad. ... read more
Changi Airport, Singapore
Palomar-McClellan Airport, Carlsbad, CA

Asia » Singapore » Jurong West January 1st 2015

I’m really not much of a gambler, but I do enjoy horse racing. The first horse race I ever went to was at the St. Joseph County Fair more than thirty years ago. It was a cool, drizzly day, and the bleachers were old, splintery wooden benches with no shelter from the weather. I sat there absolutely transfixed, and watched a whole afternoon of racing, fortified only by the occasional cup of bad coffee. I’ve visited much nicer tracks since then. I’ve wanted to go to the Singapore Turf Club for quite some time, but never quite made it. Either there was no racing on the calendar, or my schedule didn’t fit with the racing program. But not this year! The stars aligned and I was able to finally get to see horse racing in Singapore. ... read more
good luck horse
covered paddock 2
huge toteboard

Asia » Singapore » Chinatown January 1st 2015

They say that history is written by the victors, not by the vanquished. History books can be rewritten or destroyed entirely. It’s a lot harder when the stories are tied up in buildings; they have their own stories set in stone. Ea Hoe Hean Club As I was looking for the original Tiger Balm factory in Singapore (see previous post “A Tale of Two Brothers’) I came across references for the Millionaires Club. Well, I wanted to learn more about that – who wouldn’t? And once you head down that particular rabbit hole, it’s hard to stop. The Ea Hoe Hean Club, popularly called the Millionaires Club, was founded in 1895, and while it may have originally started as a social club, it soon turned to political ventures. Several of its members were actively involved with ... read more
Ea Hoe Hean
Jinrikisha Station 4
Jinrikisha Station 3

Asia » Singapore December 29th 2014

I set off this morning to find the building that once housed the Tiger Balm factory in Singapore. But a little background first… It starts in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar.) A Chinese gentleman, Aw Chu Kin, was well versed in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He was encouraged to move to Burma by his uncle due to hard economic times in China. He soon set up his own physician practice and apothecary shop under the name Eng Aun Tong, or the Hall of Everlasting Peace. He married his wife, who, in due time, produced three sons. The first died young, the second, while popular and street smart was dreadful at his studies. Some sources state that he was probably illiterate, but boy, could he talk! This son was named Aw Boon Haw, which means “gentle tiger.” The ... read more
tiger gate
Tiger Balm wrestler
1925 Buick

Asia » Singapore » Orchard Road December 25th 2014

I always get lost in Singapore. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I once worked with a guy who said I must have a magnetic nose, because I always knew the direction of north. That talent fails me here, maybe due to Singapore’s location near the equator, or the different view of the stars. Regardless, I was annoyed that I had forgotten my compass, and immediately set out to buy another one. And anyone who thinks you don’t need a compass to navigate Singapore’s busy and well-mapped streets has never been in a Singaporean shopping mall. Orchard Road – the main shopping district – is about two miles of solid shopping malls. You can start in one mall, and exit two blocks later from an entirely different mall without every coming outside. In some places ... read more
faucet cleaner
another mall
bank ad

Asia » Singapore » Chinatown December 23rd 2014

Flying over Singapore, seeing the containerships and oil tankers parked in the Singapore Strait, waiting for their turn to dock, and my heart starts to lift. Singapore has that effect on me. Flying out of Ko Samui is pretty easy. It’s a small airport, about the size of a regional airport in the US, but it is beautifully appointed. Silk Air and Bangkok Airways have free wifi – and the free use of computers – for their customers, along with complimentary sandwiches, pizza, and muffins. Airports in the US could learn a thing or two. However, due to weight restrictions I was forced to check my bag. I hate checking bags, and make a point of only taking what I can fit into a carry-on. But, if you have to check a bag, Singapore is probably ... read more
Ko Samui airport
Death for drugs
zero dengue

Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Surat Thani December 18th 2014

Wat Phra Yai, commonly called “The Big Buddha,” is probably the most photographed sight in Ko Samui. It is on the top of every “Must See” list, and seems to be popular with Thais as well as with tourists. The temple is located on the small island Ko Phan, but, no worries, there is a causeway you can walk across to get to it. In fact, if you hadn’t looked at a map you might not even realize it was on an island. Entering the temple grounds is more like coming into a county fair than a religious site, but maybe that’s not all bad. There are coffee shops, and art galleries, and T-shirt stalls, and an ice cream stand, and a store selling hand-made soap, and, well, you get the picture. There is no ignoring, ... read more
Buddha gazing on all
art gallery by gate

Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Surat Thani December 16th 2014

It isn't supposed to rain in Ko Samui this time of year. I did a little research about Ko Samui before I decided to spend the end of the year here. December is supposed to be warm – make that hot – and mostly sunny. Typical afternoon rain storms, but not bad beach weather. I looked forward to lazy days in the sun, reading cheap novels and swimming in azure waters. However, Typhoon Hagupit apparently didn’t read the same sources as I did. It parked itself over the Phillipines about a week before I arrived in Ko Samui, causing untold destruction and taking the lives of at least 27 people. After the typhoon had had its way with the Philippines, it moved off to the west, slowly losing power as it did so. Guess what is ... read more
Wat Bo Phut
Bo Phut stupa
detail of temple building

North America » United States » California » San Francisco October 2nd 2014

Going to the Autumn Moon Festival in San Francisco’s Chinatown is probably about as close to Hong Kong as you can get without leaving the US. It is crowded, colorful, raucous, and there are lots of interesting things to eat. The main streets are closed to vehicle traffic, and vendors of all sorts set up booths in the street selling noodles, Chinese newspapers, and sweets. I wandered up Grant Street, the more touristy street, sampling noodles and trying not to get trampled. Pacific Street crosses Grant, and at one end of Pacific there was a stage. In between dance numbers, a Chinese healer, with interpreters in two languages, claimed to cure any number maladies and injuries. At the other end of Pacific Street, a lady sang Chinese opera. She was very enthusiastic, but I can’t say ... read more
street stalls
Autumn Moon Festival 2
Uighur dancer

North America » United States » California » San Francisco » North Beach September 21st 2014

Every city needs its own personal phallic symbol, and Coit Tower at the apex of Telegraph Hill fills that spot nicely for San Francisco. The tower was named for Lillian Coit, a wealthy, and rather eccentric, woman who had great respect for the firefighters of the city of San Francisco. She died in 1929, leaving a big chunk of money to the city “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The money was used to build Coit Tower as well as the nearby monument to San Francisco’s volunteer firefighters. Some say the tower was built in the shape of a fire hose nozzle, others say that’s nonsense. I’ll let you be the judge. The best part of Coit Tower, however has little to do with the shape of ... read more
Coit Tower
the city detail 2
reading the news

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