Page 4 of Kuan Yin Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Ueno June 9th 2017

Those of you who have been following along know of my misadventures in trying to find the Shitamachi Museum. Now, most people who want to visit a museum in a new city usually go to one of the big name museums. I do, too; whenever I visit Chicago, I always go to The Art Institute of Chicago to visit a few of my favorite paintings. But sometimes the small museums are more interesting and memorable. Shitamachi translates literally as “downtown,” but it doesn’t refer to the center of the city. Rather “downtown” refers to the lowlands south east of the Imperial Palace. This was the area where craftsmen and merchants lived. It was also an area where tiny wooden homes and shops were crammed together, making fire a real danger that could wipe out a whole ... read more
living quarters behind shop
craftman's shop

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Odaiba June 8th 2017

I’ve been waiting for someone to develop the transporter beam from Star Trek for decades now. Before you scoff, think about cell phones, especially the older flip phones, and how much they look like Star Trek communicators, and there are now thermometers that can take your temperature without touching you, just like a tricorder could. But I digress. Sadly, the Tokyo Teleport Station is far more mundane. It is a just a station on the Rinkai subway line, on the island of Odaiba. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, which was made from six smaller man-made islands. The original six islands were built in 1853 to protect Tokyo – then called Edo – from an attack by sea, which primarily meant keeping Commodore Mathew Perry and his “black ships” at bay. It didn’t work; ... read more
Ferris wheel
the wheel's inner workings
AI customer service rep

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Akasaka June 6th 2017

It all starts with a story about two men in a boat… It begins on the morning of March 18, 628 AD when the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Takenari caught a small golden statue of the Buddhist bodhisattva Kannon in their nets while fishing in the Sumida River. They tried to drop it back in the river, but it kept coming up so they decided to keep it. When they returned to the village, they showed it to one of the chieftains, Haji no Nakatomo who, being a devout Buddhist, understood what it was, and built a temple to house it. In 645, a famous Buddhist priest named Shokai came to the area. He built – well, he had laborers build – a grand temple to the bodhisattva Kannon. He also decided to hide the statue ... read more
school kids
Kamarimon Gate2
aerial view

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Ueno June 6th 2017

My intention this morning was to go to the Tokyo Teleport Station, just because it sounded intriguing. Could I teleport to Paris? The jungles of Borneo? How about Mars? One of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels is in the area, and I’m a sucker for Ferris wheels, so it sounded like a win all the way around. Add in the Maritime Museum and the Fuji TV Building, and I was in. Fortunately, I checked opening times, because, sadly, some of these attractions were closed on Monday, and today was Monday. So – on to Plan B. Ueno Park is a lovely green spot in this huge city. Home to several museums, memorials to poets and samurais, and a couple of beautiful temples, this was today’s adventure. Add the fact that a market street crammed with shops ... read more
frog fountain
tomb of Shogitai warriors2
Kannondo Temple2

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Shinjuku June 2nd 2017

I flew to Tokyo on an ANA (All Nippon Airways) flight from San Francisco. I like flying ANA; the Japanese level of service is a nice change from the usual flying experience, and that’s important on a flight this long. When the plane was ready to pull away from the gate, the gate agents and available ground crew gathered outside to wave good-bye. I’m always delighted by this small act. Going through immigration and customs at Narita Airport is one of the most efficient and quick processes I’ve run into. Getting off the plane you walk down a corridor where you are scanned to see if you have a fever, and as you walk through another door you walk across a pad that disinfects the soles of your shoes. No standing in another line, it all ... read more
entry stamp
100,000 yen

Asia » Burma February 17th 2017

So much of what I found as I was researching my trip to Myanmar was out of date or incorrect. Things in Myanmar are changing very quickly; this information was correct as of December 2016. - By the way, the US still calls this country “Burma” on its websites. I expect this will change in the near future. In an interview while I was there, the US Ambassador was asked when the US was going to start calling the country Myanmar. The ambassador replied that he expected that would happen soon, but, you know, there are lot of forms. Visa You can now get a visa for Myanmar online. The cost for a tourist visa is US$50, payable with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or JCB. The application is simple, and you will get your visa letter ... read more
Ayerwaddy River
Bagan airport
young nuns

Asia » Burma February 7th 2017

I got back from Myanmar and promptly came down with pneumonia. I do not recommend getting pneumonia. It is tiring, and I am bored with it. But now that I am recovering, it is time to finish up my Burmese blogs. Emerging Country I don’t like the term “third world country,” it seems so condescending. So I’m taking a phrase from the financial pages: “emerging market,” or “emerging country.” Emerging seems to fit Myanmar very well; this is a country just emerging from the cocoon of an oppressive regime, and the people are curious about the world and eager to learn more about it. Books and More Books There are bookstores and second-hand bookshops everywhere. In some parts of the city it is common to see a bookseller spread a tarp on the sidewalk and arrange ... read more
bookseller smiling
Aung San in Park

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Bagan January 11th 2017

One thing that I very much wanted to do while in Bagan was to take a balloon flight over the archeological zone and see the temples from the air. With over 2,200 pagodas and stupas, there was no way I was going to see them all on foot. And besides, hot air balloons are really cool. There are three balloon companies in Bagan, but the government limits the number of balloon licenses to twenty. During the high (read dry) season, tickets sell out fast, so best to make your reservations well in advance. Make that months in advance. I went with a company called “Balloons Over Bagan.” All their pilots are trained overseas, with many coming from the United Kingdom. The man who piloted my balloon flies in Bagan during the winter, then moves on to ... read more
gold stupa
Shwezegon Pagoda

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Bagan January 2nd 2017

All flights within Myanmar are operated by Burmese airlines. At last count there are eight Burmese airlines, which is rather a lot for a country only 581 mile wide, and 1275 from north to south. They all have similar prices, so it’s just a question of picking the airline that flies to where you want to go, and choosing the departure time that fits in your schedule. Yangon Airport is new and clean, with some distinctly Western touches, like the Gloria Jean’s Coffee counter, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. What isn’t just like every other airport is watching Buddhist monks get patted down by airport security. When you fly with a Burmese airline, you check in at the ticket counter and in addition to your boarding pass you get a sticker to put on your ... read more
why is this man smiling?
downtown Nyaung U
Ayeyarwady Rive

Asia » Burma » Yangon Region » Yangon December 30th 2016

Shwedagon Pagoda, with its surfeit of gold, and plethora of Buddhas can be dizzying. Best to start small. The history Legend has it that two traders from Burma took 500 bullock carts full of goods to India. There they met Gautama Buddha as he was meditating under a bodhi tree. Even though Guatama had not yet been revealed as The Enlightened One, the brothers recognized him and gave him a gift of honey cake. Gautama was so thankful he pulled eight hairs from his head and gave them to the two brothers. They headed home, but on the way they were robbed, and four of the sacred hairs were taken from them. On their return, King Okkalapa honored them with a grand celebration. It had been decided that these relics would be housed in a shrine ... read more
young novice Shinbyu ceremony
an abundance of gold

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