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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Oct 21, 2010

A Culinary Day Out in Vancouver

Mi Madre and I headed to Vancouver earlier this month for a very fun 24 hours tromping around the town, checking out restaurants, bars, parks, and art. Here is a short account of the trip. Please check out the links to read my considerably more detailed Yelp reviews of each of the spots we visited. I’ll also link to photos from my Vancouver photoset on flickr.

After checking into our West End hotel the Blue Horizon (the same hotel where my grandfather stayed for a few months when he first moved to Vancouver in the 1970s), we hit Robson heading east. Our first stop was Japa Dog (4* on Yelp) (photo) – a little lunch time amalgamation of a hot dog stand and Japanese street food. That provided us with some fuel for the long walk down seedy Hastings street. But before we got there, we passed the big construction project that is Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium (photo). When the retractable roof is completed next year it will be the home of Vancouver’s new MLS franchise, the Whitecaps.

Hastings Street is starting to show some signs of gentrification. I only saw two people smoking crack openly on the street. There was still some pretty cool street art to be found (photos 1 | 2 | 3). Once past all that, we came to our destination, Commercial Drive. I had read that The Drive, as it’s known, is one of the more happening parts of Van and the reports seem to be true. It isn’t quite Los Feliz or Abbott Kinney, but it did remind me of The Ave in Seattle’s University District.

We stopped for coffee on the north end of The Drive at Pane Vero (4* on Yelp) before heading down through the heart of The Drive’s shopping district. Amongst other spots, we ducked into the memorable 10,000 Villages (5* on Yelp) where we bought a very cool trivet made of folded newspaper from the Philippines. After that we headed down The Drive past a number of Italian groceries and soccer bars where we spotted a very cool Italian soccer mural (photo). We went on to explore the Portland-esque neighborhood behind The Drive and then stopped for happy hour at an enjoyable spot called Timbre Restaurant (4* on Yelp).

From there we jumped on the skytrain and got out at the east end of False Creek where the sun finally peeked out for a bit (photo). The south east corner of False Creek is where Vancouver’s Olympic Village was built last winter. They’ve turned the media center into a very nice recreation center and all the athlete’s housing is now condos for sale (though most seemed empty). The weird part is that it seemed like they have done as much as possible to wipe away the signs that this is where the Olympics took place. No rings, no flame – the only hint was a street sign that ready Athlete’s Drive. Really it was kind of strange.

Just west of the condos is a very cool park (photo) with some great sculptures and some big kid toys. We had a great time checking this place out and the nice view across the creek (photo) before walking back downtown over the Cambie Street Bridge. Looking down from the bridge there was a very cool view of a huge pile of concrete street barriers (photo).

We walked back through downtown and up to Gastown where we walked past photogenic alleyways (photo) and shops (photo). We had a before dinner drink at my new favorite bar the Alibi Room (5* on Yelp) before heading to the dinner spot we decided on, the disappointing Pourhouse (3* on Yelp).

After dinner we walked back west past a cool interactive wooden art installation (photos 1 | 2). Our destination was a bar (pictured above) near our hotel called O’Douls (3* on Yelp). Unfortunately the advertised live music was a glorified hotel lobby band. But we did have a great time ending the evening sipping whiskey (photo). Stay tuned for news on my momma’s upcoming blog Sketching Scotches (working title).

We awoke to a rainy morning and after coffee took a nice drive around Vancouver’s Stanley Park. We then headed south to trendy Kitsilano where we stopped for brunch and the funky and delicious Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe (5* on Yelp) (photo). After eating we were off to the extremely enjoyable Museum of Anthropology on the UBC campus. I’m going to post a whole photoset of all the cool masks inside the museum soon, but for now here, is a photo of Arthur Erickson’s beautiful building.

After the museum it was time to drive back south to the US of A where we met John and friends for a delicious dinner in BHam at Bayou on Bay (5* on Yelp). All in all it was a fantastic trip. Vancouver is just as fun a city as I remember from those 19 year old drunken escapades – only this time with much better food. I look forward to the next trip. Thanks Momma!

Posted by enderzero at 1:07pm on Oct. 21, 2010    
Sep 30, 2009

Fantastic Fest in Review


I just spent five great days at Austin’s Fantastic Fest and the experience was awesome. Aside form the 17 films I watched, the festival had plenty of other cool events on offer. This year founder Tim has opened up a bowling alley/party space called The Highball next to his amazing Alamo Draft House Cinema which offered the perfect place for the late night hanging and unlimited free skee-ball! The Fantastic Fest Debates were especially hilarious as after each debate (or roast) the contestants literally duked it out.

The cinema itself is something to behold. A 6 screen stadium theater with seats and sound on par with Arclight. But the real innovation is the full service restaurant built in. They have figured out the perfect system to keep the wait staff unobtrusive – you just write down your order on a little flag and they come by and pick it up. There is a long narrow table in front of each row to set your beer or burger and a little aisle below each row where the wait staff walks. I don’t know why no one has tried this in LA, but the formula is a winner.

All things considered it was a real blast. A world of thanks to Dan for making it happen. We’ll definitely do it again next year.

Now on to the film round-up (in order viewed):

FIRST SQUAD – Rating: 4 out of 10
This Russian animated feature is by the Japanese team behind Animatrix. The animation is cool but the horribly implemented documentary device of bad actors pretending to be history experts totally ruined the movie. This isn’t Waltz with Bashir, it is an action cartoon. There were a few cool story elements, but overall they weren’t enough to keep me awake.

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS – Rating: 9 out of 10
This new film from Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) is as wacky as possible and genuinely HILARIOUS. Everything works, especially Jemaine Clement as one of the best characters of the year. It slowed down a tiny bit after the very strong opening, but the ridiculous fantasy sequences go a long way to smooth out the pace. This film certainly exceeded my already high expectations.

REC 2 – Rating: 6 out of 10
I was quite impressed by this horror-thriller’s clean look. The story works and there are some good thrills, but what is most remarkable is the first person narrative device that the filmmakers fully commit to with great success. More than any movie I’ve ever seen, this film feels like a videogame – and it is fun.

This film is about college students who train little supernatural creatures to battle teams from other colleges. While it may have a pretty bizarre premise, it is actually a quite traditional story about a loser guy who falls for a girl who is out of his league. All things considered, the film works and is pretty fun.

HARD REVENGE MILLY – Rating: 5 out of 10
This is a super low budget Japanese blood and guts actioner. The skeleton of a story doesn’t provide much to chew on, but the film does succeed at finding new ways to splatter the camera with watery blood.

ZOMBIELAND – Rating: 8 out of 10
This flick is most definitely the top of the zombie movie heap. It is maybe not quite as hilarious as Shaun of the Dead, but it certainly provides a lot more zombie killing thrills. The film has some great set pieces, an amazing cameo, and Emma Stone is Bodacious.

This is a really enjoyable wacky Japanese high school flick with some good acting and pretty decent effects. However, the real star of the film is the biting criticism leveled against fringe elements of Japanese society.

K-20: THE FIEND WITH 20 FACES – Rating: 3 out of 10
This big budget Japanese superhero film borrows heavily from every other superhero film you’ve ever seen. There may be some fun stunts and wire work, but the plot is just plain horrible. Worst of all, this film is sloooow and is far far too long.

UNDER THE MOUNTAIN – Rating: 3 out of 10
Two annoying kids save New Zealand from evil underground aliens whose story doesn’t make any sense.

YATTERMAN – Rating: 9 out of 10
Yet another genre mastered by Miike! This time it is the comic superhero comedy. The story is awesome with a lot of genuine emotion. The CG is top notch (as compared to the disappointingly low budget look of The Great Yokai War). The action sequences are fantastic and reminded me of playing the Dreamcast classic Powerstone. Overall this film in f*ing fun!

CLIVE BARKER’S DREAD – Rating: 5 out of 10
There wasn’t a whole lot wrong about this very indie thriller – but there wasn’t that much right either. I’d call it pretty damn mediocre and it is not helped by the generally unsatisfying ending.

VAN DIEMEN’S LAND – Rating: 7 out of 10
This story of a grueling prison camp escape in 18th century Tasmania is a bit slow and cerebral, but overall it is a well told story with some very nice cinematography.

MANDRILL – Rating: 8 out of 10
Mandrill is the Chilean James Bond and it is amazing! Ernesto Diaz-Espinoza follows up Mirageman by again directing the incredible Marko Zaror – who has got to become an action star around the world. The film is fun and funny and really does everything right. On top of that, the filmmakers and stars are very approachable and cool guys. Way to go.

Terry Gilliam’s Heath Ledger swan song was the only “secret screening” I caught. I liked the performances and the way it all came together but was turned off by the very cheap CGI (where were the magic visual effects of Brazil?) and overall I was unconvinced by the plot.

DISTRICT B13 ULTIMATUM – Rating: 2 out of 10
This film was very disappointing after the awesome District B13. There with no semblance of a story and almost no parkour! What the hell?

LOVE EXPOSURE – Rating: 7 out of 10
While there is a very different 100 minute movie somewhere in there (remake?), the 237 minute version is certainly an ambitious and generally successful undertaking. Melding a coming of age story with many Japanese sexual elements and borrowing a lot of themes from A Clockwork Orange, this film goes all over the map but is quite satisfying in the end.

METROPIA – Rating: 7 out of 10
This is a pretty cool sci-fi tale about big brother, all very stylistically animated.

Posted by enderzero at 3:37pm on Sep. 30, 2009    
Mar 6, 2009

2 Weeks in Turkey

Blue Mosque

I just put together a mock-itinerary for a friend who is thinking of traveling to Turkey. This is how I would recommend someone spend two weeks. Most of the photos are from my 3 week trip there 2005 (full flickr set). The photos above and below are the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – where any trip to Turkey should start (clicking most of the images will get you a bigger view).

Click here to continue on to the itinerary.

Posted by enderzero at 2:26pm on Mar. 6, 2009    
Jan 11, 2009

Hong Kong Lights Animation

HK Lights 6

I worked up this little animation in of some light effects on the HK skyline.

Click here to see it in motion

Posted by enderzero at 9:38am on Jan. 11, 2009    
Jan 7, 2009

Hong Kong Pics Online

HK Color Crosswalk

My photoset from Hong Kong is now up on Flickr.

I guess I was a bit bored by a number of the photos because I found myself doing a fair amount of heavy handed editing. I’ve grouped most of those shots towards the end of the photoset. Enjoy, and as always, please let me know what you think.

Posted by enderzero at 8:56pm on Jan. 7, 2009    
Dec 29, 2008

Nepal Photos Posted

Trek - Bright Stupa

At last (hey, only 2 months) I have my full Nepal photoset up on flickr. I have done my best to add details in the descriptions. Check it out and please comment. Which are your faves?

Also, I have compiled my 12 favorite photos from the set which you can view…
After the Jump

Posted by enderzero at 2:15pm on Dec. 29, 2008    
Oct 27, 2008

Queen of the Hills

Darjeeling via Flickr

Fast internet here in Darjeeling.

So the trip to India went like this: Crazy taxi ride through incredibly horrible Kathmandu traffic (some of the worst in the world – but I don’t get to Delhi until Friday) 50 mins Free – Incredibly beautiful flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur, Nepal with views of the entire Nepali Himalaya 45 mins $156 – Shared taxi from airport to border town of Kakarvitta about 45 mins 300NRS = $4 – Nepali immigration then 15 minute walk across bridge to Indian immigration, both very relaxed – Shared taxi from Panitanki (Indian border town) to Siliguri a little over an hour 90RS = $1.80 – Shared Land Rover (sitting in the way back) from Siliguri to Darjeeling about 3 hours 120RS = $2.60. See, no prob.

I was Sitting at a nice little breakfast spot this morning, reading the Indian newspaper The Telegraph, when I came across this great Op-Ed regarding the election. Thought this would be a good view from afar at what the election means to the rest of the world. It is worth reading the whole thing, but here is the last paragraph:

So, at this Diwali and Kali Puja and Thanksgiving, let us join hands inside our souls and pray, pray hard to whatever god or human spirit that we will be delivered from the Bush-whackers without too much further damage, that we will be spared the McCain years (which will probably pale in comparison to the horror of the Palin years) and for a solid victory to brother Bar-Ob after which we can (cautiously) begin to welcome the United States back into the planet, and then, finally, let’s pray for the new American president to continue to have the courage, sense and genuine empathetic curiosity he has displayed so far, for him to grow rather than shrink in possibly the most important job in the world.

Amen and Happy Diwali!

(photo again stolen)

Posted by enderzero at 11:18pm on Oct. 27, 2008    
Oct 24, 2008

Flying through Mountains


Back in Kathmandu as of this morning. Flying in and out of Lukla is really an interesting experience. Sitting toward the front of the plane you are basically in the cockpit. It is pretty damn cool to watch the pilots in action and to look out the front of the plane.

Coming up to Lukla, a tiny runway soon appears, perched on mountainside at 9000ft. The plane descends (only a bit as it cruises around 10,000) and heads straight for the mountain. The runway is sloped up so the force of gravity helps stop the plane on the impossibly short runway. The plane motors up to a little parking lot – everyone jumps out – new passengers jump on, and the plane takes off again – all without stopping the engines. Taking off is just as hair raising because it seems like there is no way the plane can get up enough speed in time. But again the slope works in the plane’s favor and somehow the tiny bird takes flight.

I have lots of photos and videos of the whole crazy procedure. My god I have so many photos!

I am in KTM for a couple days then a few days in India. I get home to LA on Nov. 1.


Posted by enderzero at 3:36am on Oct. 24, 2008    
Oct 19, 2008

Back in the Namche


Back to the world of information – for today at least. It has been a blast so far – with more to come. thx for the emails. w00t!

Tashi Delek!

Posted by enderzero at 3:31am on Oct. 19, 2008    
Oct 8, 2008

Namche Bazar – Internet at 11,400


Signing on from the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazar at an elevation of somewhere around 11,400 feet. Flew into the crazy airstrip at Lukla yesterday and met our very friendly Sherpa Rinje. Hiked through a beautiful river valley to the town of Toktok yesterday and then way up the side of a mountain to Namche today.

Probably won’t see internet for 2 weeks or so until we get back to Namche. It would be great to have some emails waiting on the way out – so drop me a line in the next few days if you think of it with any news from home.


(Photo again stolen from flickr)

Posted by enderzero at 4:15am on Oct. 8, 2008    
Oct 6, 2008

Thamel, Honk honk

Made it to bustling Kathmandu late last night. It actually wasn’t bustling at all – completely asleep when I landed. But there is a bit more bustle on the streets this morning with every motorbike honking its way through the narrow Thamel streets that make up this city.

Murr-dogg and I met Pasong Sherpa, our extremely friendly trip organizer who made sure all of our gear was in order and arranged for our trekking permits. We set off early tomorrow morning for Lukla and the first day of trekking! Not sure what kind of internet there will be but I have been told there will be access in the sherpa village of Namche Bazar. I’ll try to sign on from there before really going off the grid. Unfortunately, posting photos I have taken so far has proven too difficult.

In quick political news, Yahoo Politico has a good article summing up Rove’s and other Republican strategists’ admissions that if the election was to take place today, it would be all Obama. Mike Murphy (architect of McCain’s 2000 campaign) says:

It’s McCain’s barn that’s on fire. … Thirty days out, I think McCain can win. But the fact is, [if the] election were held today, he’d lose. And I think he’s on a losing path.

That is great, but I’ll reiterate my general sentiment – I should damn hope so!

Off to explore KTM! Namaste!

Posted by enderzero at 12:19am on Oct. 6, 2008    
Oct 4, 2008

Kowloon V. HK Island

Been in HK for the better part of 3 days now and unfortunatley it has been a bit rainy. Still, there is plenty to do if you don’t mind getting a bit wet. But that means a lot of the touristy kind of things are out – like parks and outter island tours. I have, however, noticed that the most touristy things are a bit disappointing anyway – the peak tram is not worth waiting in line 45 minutes for.

The first 2 nights I stayed in Mirador Mansion in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. As I mentioned, I was not all that into the energy there. I mean Mirador (like its famous neighbor the Chungking Mansion) is a total dump – an enormous fortress of tiny rooms and dripping air conditioners – but it was TST in general I wasn’t into more than Mirador in particular. In fact I probably found the best spot in Mirador – the Garden Hostel which is unique because of its large common area. But TST feels seedy – like everyone is trying to rip you off. It is like staying in Roppongi, or Wenceslas Square, or maybe Hollywood Blvd.

So yesterday I moved to a new part of town on Hong Kong Island – Causeway Bay specifically, which seems to be the only other part of town that has cheap lodging. Wayyy better. The energy here is local, young, and vibrant. It is to the earlier comparisons more akin to Shibuya, Zizkov, or maybe the better part of Hollywood Blvd. Of course I am now paying around $40US a night for a room smaller than a closet and without windows – when in Mirador I was paying $9.50 for a shared room (but I do have a bit of privacy). And the options for eating, drinking, and exploring are certainly better.

So if you find yourself heading to Hong Kong, may I strongly suggest you book a room on HK Island instead of in Kowloon.

On to Nepal tomorrow!

Posted by enderzero at 2:10am on Oct. 4, 2008    
Oct 1, 2008

Tsim Sha Tsui

Tsim Sha Tsui

Made it bustling Hong Kong last night, just in time for the China Day fireworks spectacular.

Here is a picture I didn’t take. But I did edit using the pretty cool free online version of photoshop. This is exactly what where I am staying looks like. Not sure how much I love the energy of Tsim Sha Tsui and I may find a different spot after tonight – although I think budget options in the city are somewhat limited.

It is rather hot and muggy here but doesn’t smell all that unpleasant. A surprising amount of greenery in the city and some of those cool bamboo scaffolds covering buildings under repair.

That’s about all I got to report from my first few hours in the SAR. Oh, how about this. The Keyboard, tho covered in chinese, is identical to US keyboards. Usually at least a few keys are reversed on foreign keyboards. Even the shift+number keys are the same!@#$%^&*()

Posted by enderzero at 5:54pm on Oct. 1, 2008    
Sep 25, 2008

Versailles at last!

Trianon Steps

I have really been meaning to finish up these photos for a long time and I am happy to say the Versailles set is done at last!

Here is the photo above in larger format.

See the whole photoset (26 images) on flickr. w00t

Posted by enderzero at 6:00pm on Sep. 25, 2008    
Apr 16, 2008

Paris flickr set

Eiffel Support

Just posted a new flickr set with 40+ shots from my recent trip to Paris. Check em out.

There will be at least as many coming sometime in the next week from Versailles – but, you know, it takes a while.


Posted by enderzero at 12:41am on Apr. 16, 2008    
Apr 3, 2008

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Eiffel Cannons
Cannons of the Ivalides with Eiffel backdrop

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

View from Montmartre
Steps of Montmartre

Paris is très magnifique. Here’s a quick preview of more photos to come.
Click an image to see it gigantor.

Posted by enderzero at 4:07pm on Apr. 3, 2008    
Mar 27, 2008

Parce que je t’aime


I am heading to Paris next week for 4 days. I’ve been once for a very short trip (did Louvre, Notre Dame) but am very excited for the chance to really explore the city.

Anyone been and have any insider tips? Great neighborhoods to check out, restaurants, sites, anything off the beaten path?

Any tips are appreciated – just drop em in the comments.

I promise I’ll bring a croissant to anyone who leaves a comment. Comment = Croissant – hey good deal right?

Posted by enderzero at 10:43pm on Mar. 27, 2008