Friday, April 26, 2013

In the Mood for Lunch in Mississippi

Another unexpected connection during my visit to the US occurred when I stopped by Jackson, Mississippi, for lunch.

inside a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi

As soon as I entered the restaurant I was reminded of a restaurant far away in a much larger city. See here for an earlier post about that restaurant, Cafe de Goldfinch in Hong Kong. Although the restaurant in Jackson didn't serve Canto-Western style food and hasn't been featured in a movie by director Wong Kar Wai, it similarly could stir up feelings of nostalgia. If you're ever in Jackson, I recommend stopping by the Elite Restaurant on Capitol Street primarily for its atmosphere. The bread rolls are really good too.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unexpected Connections

During my explorations in China and elsewhere in Asia, I found that an experience in a new location could remind me of another I had elsewhere. Sometimes it seemed obvious what caused my mind to connect them. Sometimes it was not so obvious.

Recently, as I looked out from a restaurant deck onto Mobile Bay in Spanish Fort, Alabama, US, I was unexpectedly reminded of the views of Erhai Lake around Xizhou, Yunnan province, China.

two trees in Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay

three dead trees in Erhai Lake
Erhai Lake

I'm not sure why it was specially Erhai Lake that came to my mind, but it seemed to be partly about my emotions as I looked across the water.

I can't say I ever expected to make a connection between Alabama and Yunnan. For me, it was a sign of why I enjoy exploring the world. It's not just about seeing something new, but changing your perpectives on the "old". More on that topic soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back in a Strange Land

Since my brief visit to Taipei, I have done a bit of traveling. And far away from the Keelung River, I recently saw another river.

Mississippi River in New Orleans

Nearby was some live music.

band playing outdoors in New Orleans

And plenty of color could be found:

colorful painting on a building in New Orleans

I'm not in Kansas, but I am now much closer to it. I enjoyed my visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, and a walk alongside the Mississippi River.

Since arriving in the U.S. last week, I have already been in five states and more are on the way. I'm here for a variety of purposes, but it was my desire to surprise some family members that until now caused me to hold off on publicly announcing my arrival.

No, this is not going to be one of those "why I'm leaving China" posts. I have a return ticket. But in addition to the typical themes found here, during the next couple of weeks I plan to share some of my thoughts about being back in the land of the free and home of the rather large portions of food. Not only has the U.S. changed since I last set foot here almost 3 years ago, but I have changed as well. I'm curious to see what I notice, especially since my new perspective on America makes it feel all the more like Nacirema.

More soon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Dragon and a Tailor in Taipei

A spiritual and urban view from Taipei's Chingfu Kung (Jingfu Gong / 景福宮) temple:

view of street from Chingfu Kung (景福宮) in Taipei

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Keelung River

I have yet to receive a correct identification of the city seen in photos I posted here and here. Given the prominent sign of the Tainan noodle restaurant in the first photograph, I was not surprised that the best guess by far was Tainan--a city in southern Taiwan. However, the correct city is found farther north in Taiwan.

Both photos from Taipei included Songshan Road and were taken from areas north and south of the Songshan Train Station. Several sights are in the area, including the Raohe Street Night Market and the Keelung (Jilong) River:

Keelung (Jilong) River and Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan

Even if the above river scene is not familiar, I suspect some readers will recognize the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper on the left side of the photo.

As you may have already assumed, my recent series of explorations in Southeast Asia have concluded. Perhaps I will share some more thoughts about that later. For reasons I'll explain in several more days, during the next few weeks my posting might be lighter than usual. Or it might not be. Whatever the case, more is on the way--including some new perspectives on a place I have only occasionally discussed here in the past.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another View of Another Street Somewhere in Asia

I've received some good guesses, but nobody has yet correctly identified the city (or the street) featured in the previous post. You may have noticed that the street appears to end at a building with blurry details in the photo. The building is a useful clue, so I'll share a photo taken from one of its upper floors while looking back towards the pedestrian bridge where I took the earlier photo.

Now the building isn't so blurry. Can you identify the location? One more clue: I expect most readers have at least heard of this city (the street would be a different issue though).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another Street Somewhere in Asia

A number of recent posts related to my experiences in Ho Chi Minh City and more are on the way. However, I am no longer there. So here is a scene from where I landed after flying out of Vietnam:

multi-laned street with cars

And now it's time for an old game. Can you identify the city (bonus points if you can identify the street)? There are a number of clues in the photo.

I will likely be traveling quite a bit during coming weeks. I'm especially curious to see what it's like for me to experience the culture at my next destination. I expect it will be quite a change of pace from both Ho Chi Minh City and the city seen above. More soon...

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Bridge in Huizhou, China

One of the bridges I crossed in Huizhou, Guangdong province:

bridge over a river in Huizhou with buildings and mountains in the background

An earlier post with some information about Huizhou and a set of photos can be found here. Two other posts, here and here, include a few other photos. They were an attempt to see if anyone could identify the city where I spent Thanksgiving a year and a half ago.

That's all. After the weekend, I plan to delve back into some posts with more... words.

An Alley in Guiyang, China

A scene from two years ago in Guiyang, Guizhou province:

an alley full of people walking

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Street Scene from Lanzhou, China

Here is a scene I saw last year in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province in Northwest China.

For some scenes from Lanzhou's Zhengning Street Food Night Market, see here.

That's all for today, but I hope to be getting back up to speed soon. More later.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sitting on the Street in Ho Chi Minh City

The next few days will be especially busy for me so I expect any posts will be light. Still, I have enough time for another scene from Vietnam.

food hawker sitting on a tiny stool on the street as a car passes by

The low stool, the advertisements for Oreo and HTC, the mix of patterns on the hawker's clothes, and the various vehicles all caused more than a few neurons in my brain to change their firing patterns. Feel free to ponder the photo and see what your own neurons do.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zigong, Google Maps, Baidu Map, Bing Maps, and Taiwan

I shared the previous posts about a friendly lunch and a friendly family not only because Zigong, Sichuan province, was on my mind but also because I don't yet have a post ready to follow up my earlier comments about Google Reader. I'm not sure when I will finish it, but in the meantime there are two earlier posts which now seem convenient to "refresh" since they mention both Zigong and Google: "Google Maps and Baidu Map in China" and "Maps in (and of) China: Baidu, Bing, and Google". They are both comparisons of map services in China and were written almost two years ago. They were inspired by some findings in my research on youth in China and some claims in Western media that Baidu Map's hand-drawn 3-D view was a sign of how it had surpassed Google Maps. After providing some evidence highlighting the limitations of Baidu's 3-D view, I compared the two services in other regards. In the second post, I added Bing Maps China into the mix as well. I also included some views of Zigong to show who correctly depicted the existence (or non-existence) of a river and a street.

I would not have the exact same stories to tell if I again wrote about these three services. But some points would remain the same, including the extreme lack of detail on Baidu Map for regions outside of China. And related to that, there is one thing I will add. In the 2nd post I pointed out that in both Bing Maps China and Google Maps China:
... there is a dashed line around the South China Sea and around Taiwan to presumably make it clear they are parts of China. To say the least, these are both areas where any such claims China may make are under significant dispute. The dashed lines do not appear in Google Maps US and Bing Maps US.
Not surprisingly, those dashed lines also appear in Baidu Map. Now, here's the interesting part. Baidu Map has no details for city-level views of Taiwan--a heavily populated region. Zoom in to the city level and Taipei is not there at all. In fact, it's indistinguishable from Washington D.C. Bing Maps China at least offers a few very broad details at the city level*, although they would be rather limited in their usefulness. Only Google Maps China has rich city-level maps for Taiwan. An explanation for Baidu's lack of detail in Taiwan can't simply rest on a distinction between mainland China and the other areas administered / claimed by China, because Baidu Map has detailed city-level maps for both Hong Kong and Macau.

At least for now, I won't have the chance to research this further, so I'll just say again... "interesting".

*Yes, the results can be better for non-China-based versions of Bing Maps. That's another story, and I touched on related issues in the 2nd maps post.