Maya: Illusion. Obscuring the spiritual reality of absolute being with an illusory appearance of the sense-world.
Blog: A place to talk about life rather than to live life.
Blogger: A person who talks about life rather than lives it.
(So why am I blogging instead of living life, you ask?....I did a lot of living, now I want to talk about it, so get off my case!)
"Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."
"I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
Patrick and I made a last minute decision to go to Macau because it was only a boat ride away from Hong Kong. The interest wasn’t in the casinos, especially if you’ve been to Las Vegas as Patrick and I have. It was the old part of the city that made Macau interesting.
The old part of town. (Didn’t I just say that?)
Walking up to the church of Saint-Paul.
Well, what’s left of it from 413 years ago.
We visited the ruins of St. Paul. The church was built in 1602, but only the south facade remains. The rest was destroyed by a fire in 1835. Afterwards, we went to the museum and by late afternoon we decided to look for a restaurant for lunch.
Not a smile on anyone’s face. Maybe everyone’s hungry.
Now, let me be honest here, the Macanese are not known for being very friendly and believe me I won’t be the one to refute that. Uh hum, just between us, I have to say they were pretty cold. But, if I have to find something positive to say about them, well, they do like to feed you for free.
Patrick was hungry too.
As Patrick and I went looking for a restaurant, there was almost no need to. Vendors stood outside their establishments with trays of food for people to sample. We smiled and said, thank you, but our thanks were greeted with stone faces and silence. (Hmm, I wonder, was it us?) Not really, other tourists fared no better. While Patrick was tasting the beef, I was trying out the cookies and pastries. Anyway, by the time we got to the restaurant we weren’t very hungry, we had stuffed ourselves with free samples. We did buy cookies to take with us out of guilt and because they tasted yummy. Actually, it was easier to find pastry shops than restaurants. My kind of town!
Looking down at the old city.
The old and the new merge.
Time to go in and throw away some money.
Maya Muses: If you like to gamble, Macau is definitely a place to visit, it’s the largest gambling center in the world. If you’re looking for more, I suggest visiting other places in mainland China.
After the 38°C (102°F) weather in Thailand, we arrived in Hong Kong to a balmy, cool 29°C (86°F). It was great. Julien’s apartment is located right in the heart of Central Hong Kong.
We met his roommate, Holden, first of all who was super nice. Julien was working at the time. Come to find out they even have a rooftop terrace. What we wouldn’t give to have a terrace like theirs here in Paris.
Holden and Julien sprucing up the terrace for an evening BBQ.
After leaving our bags we walked over to the restaurant he manages to say hello. It was a 5 minute walk through a maze of streets and back alleys. Julien greeted us with a frozen margarita. The best margaritas in HK by the way.
Patrick and Julien hanging out before the crowd arrives.
Mmm! So good.
We decided to stay and have dinner at Boomshack. It’s a great little diner/restaurant that serves burgers, tacos…well think fast food fare, but with a personal spin. I loved everything, even the beet fries and I hate beets. Who would’ve thought to deep fry them like potatoes?
Soho Hong Kong.
The whole area was hopping with locals and tourists who mingled in restaurants and bars that line both sides of the streets one after another. People partied and made noise until 3-4 in the morning.
Patrick was a big hit with the T-shirt I bought him in Bangkok.
The ambiance was similar to what the Latin Quarter used to be like back in the early 70s before the cafés were closed down and designer shops took over like a virus and killed the atmosphere. (But that’s another story.)
We made friends with a couple from Switzerland. They were great fun and we hit it off right away as though we had been friends forever.
She’s in red and he’s the one with the beard. They were as nice as they are a nice looking couple.
All four of us left the restaurant we were in. (Thanks Austin for the wonderful dinner. Sorry I forgot the name or else I would mention it.) We made our way down to Boomshack for a final drink – margaritas, of course.
The four of us clowning around with others in the background.
The couple gave us their card and I’m sorry to say I don’t remember either of their names. All I remember is the girl worked for Hewlett Packard. Well, long story short, we lost their card and their email address along with it. Too bad, because we would’ve loved to have stayed in touch. Here’s hoping someone recognizes them in the photos and they can tell them to contact us. It’s a long shot, but hey, you never know.
The energy in the city is amazing. From the harbor to the skywalks, from the skyscrapers to the temples, and from the mountains to the beaches, it’s a city of contrasts, of old and new, where East meets West, and rich and not so rich coincide.
Bangkok was a city of rich and poor, but the poor in Hong Kong were less visible.
Beggars and homeless people roamed the streets of Bangkok, but in Hong Kong we only saw one homeless person on the street. I’m sure there are poor people there, but we didn’t see them and we went all over on both sides of Kowloon Bay. Instead designer clothes, shoes and accessories were evident everywhere. You could smell the money.
Patrick and I love the way the woman in Hong Kong dress. Some reminded us of porcelain dolls. The style is totally their own.
For ten days we commented on how they looked and of course I didn’t think to take pictures of them until our last day there and then it was too late.
Too bad, because some were a sight to behold.
Yes, even the guys.
Actually, some of the guys take the HK street style to a whole other level.
A foggy day in Hong Kong harbor.
The view of the city from the harbor is breathtaking. But then the view of the harbor from Victoria Peak…well it’s even more breathtaking.
Night time on Victoria Peak.
But who would have imagined a short distance away, there are beautiful beaches to enjoy. Patrick and I were seduced by it all.
Julien and a few of his friends invited us to a day at the beach where we had no less than four chefs cooking our food.
Patrick and Julien walking along the beach.
The temples around Hong Kong were amazing.
And so was the Tian Tan Buddha hidden up in the mountains.
Going up by cable car to see the Giant Buddha.
And climbing the 268 steps. (It seemed like a lot more when I was climbing.)
Entrance to the Po Lin Monastery.
Why don’t we have tea shops like these?
Or the local convenience store like this.
Not the local 7-Eleven store that’s for sure.
The food was less exotic than the food in Thailand, but it was just as good. We ate at nice restaurants…
…and I loved, loved, loved, (Did I say loved?) the steamed dumplings.
Mmm! My favorite.
But, we also tried the local stands where no one spoke English or French or Spanish and we had to point to what we wanted and hope for the best.
Actually, this street restaurant turned out to be one of the best. The food was delicious.
A lone fisherman. I love this photo.
Maya Muses: Hong Kong is an incredible city. We hated leaving.
The Cheung Po Tsai, the famous Aqua Luna boat.
When we got back to Paris we had the impression we were returning to a sleepy little village. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever compared Paris that way. It took Patrick and I weeks to readapt to our life in the City of Lights. Now we’re happy to be home, but if anyone would ask us, “Do you want to go to Hong Kong?” We wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
Last evening, Patrick and I danced in the streets of Paris until 1 a.m. We headed over to the Palais Royal to hear a concert, but it wasn’t really our cup of tea. The weather, however, was perfect and the evening turned out to be a great success. Fête De La Musique had a slow start in Paris in 1981, now it’s celebrated in more than 700 cities in over 120 countries around the world.
Not just one or two people in the streets any longer.
The first couple of years kids barely learning how to play an instrument took to the streets of Paris to perform as well as the regular street buskers. People brought out their boomboxes and played them as well. Now, over thirty years later, there are actual concerts and professional musicians taking to the streets, but you can still enjoy the simplicity of kids playing their hearts out.
All ages, all music, that’s the Fête de la Musique. These were some of the older kids.
We received a text from one of my exes that there was a great jazz ensemble at the Place de Furstenberg, so we hopped on our scooter and made our way over to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. There were a number of different groups playing around Buci. You could hear Dixie Land Jazz to Pink Floyd to Piaf to Bebop.
Even the little dog couldn’t help but dance. (He’s the third one over from the two girls in pink pants.)
We walked to the Place Saint-Michel and watched people taking turns dancing to the beat of African drums. We were ready to head to the Marais, but decided for some reason to walk over to the Rue Saint-Jacques. We’re so glad we did.
Dancing to an African beat.
Someone with an amazing voice was singing a Brazilian jazz tune. What a troupe they were and what a repertoire. There were nine singers in all, each one as good as the next. They were backed up by a small quartet that played everything from Jazz to Blues to Pop. This is where we decided to stay and dance. They even had two dancers who did everything from go-go to belly dancing. It was insane and non-stop. When you get a group who can sing Besame Mucho, Comme d’Habitude, then Fame and Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything, you know you’re not looking at any ordinary band.
From the nine singers, she had the most energy. She reminded us of Zaz.
Maya Muses: The ambiance in the Latin Quarter was electric and the mood convivial. People of all ages were singing and dancing together. Patrick and I finally decided to call it a night while the group we were listening to continued to perform. Walking back to our scooter we stopped to enjoy a few more groups, then headed home. Another Fête de la Musique celebrated to bring in the start of summer.
We passed this group in the early evening. Going back to our scooter at 1 a.m., they were still playing. The kids though had surely gone to bed.
When Patrick and I left Paris, let’s just say it was still cool outside. The high that day was around 10°C (50°F). We left early in the morning, so it was still quite chilly. When we stepped out of the airport in Bangkok at three in the afternoon, it was like stepping into a hot oven. The temperature was hovering around 38°C (102°F) and I was ready to run back into the airport until it cooled down. That wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so we made the best of it and headed out into the heat to look for a taxi.
A shopping paradise.
What we found was a city full of energy. If you’ve never been to Far East Asia, it has an energy that you just don’t find anywhere else in the world. The people were friendly enough, but not very patient. If you asked a question and you couldn’t understand their accent, they got annoyed with you pretty damn fast like you were wasting their time. They kind of reminded me of New Yorkers.
Don’t ask me what this was, I don’t know.
These tasted yummy.
Mmm, so did the desserts.
We stayed in the Siam area which had enormous shopping centers. It was a fashionista’s paradise filled with designer names everywhere you looked. Stores like Louis Vuitton and Lancel on the Champs-Elysées seemed small in comparison to the ones in Siam. A place not to be missed is the food court down in the basement at the Paragon. Patrick and I spent an entire day looking at the different foods on display. Each time we thought we had come to the end, it kept going on and on and on. We sampled a number of different things, everything delicious, but I couldn’t tell you the names of any of them.
The Buddhists temples went on and on as well. They were huge and each one more beautiful than the next. Before we left Paris, I had told Patrick I didn’t want to go on any boats or ferries, not after our boating accident where we both almost drowned. Once in Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the means of transportation to get to several temples. I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to see them so I did a fast course in overcoming my fear of water. Well, to be honest, I’m still afraid, but while I was on the water, I kept my mind busy taking photos and praying.
Farangs casing the joints.
Patrick checking out the girls.
The thing that struck me about Bangkok most were the male tourists (the farangs) who go to Thailand from around the world for the sole purpose of prostitution. Everywhere we went we would see fat old men with beautiful young Thai girls on their arms. There’s enormous wealth and poverty in Thailand that co-exist and you can’t blame the girls. There are brothels and you see signs like “Free Blow Job with a Drink”. Yes, a drink! I told Patrick, “Don’t get any ideas!” Okay, I didn’t have to. But now that I think about it, he sure did take long when he would go out for a cup of coffee each morning while I was at the hotel getting dressed…hmm.
Our tuk-tuk driver.
Riding the sky train.
Maya Muses: There was so much to see and do, different foods to try, riding in tuk-tuks or taking the sky trains through the busy streets, watching the Thai girls dance their traditional dance, learning about the life and enigmatic end to Jim Thompson’s life, visiting Nana and Soi Cowboy, and the list goes on.
Thai girls weaving silk at Jim Thompson House.
Pretty Thai girls in a ceremony.
It was our first trip to Thailand, but we definitely want to return and spend more time in this amazing city. And, of course, visit the islands next time as well. Thank you, Bangkok, for such a fantastic adventure!
Patrick and I went to the Pont des Arts yesterday just to see them lift off all the ugly locks that have been destroying this beautiful bridge and making it an eyesore for the past number of years. There were quite a few Parisians there just for the occasion. (Tourists were there as well putting on their last locks.) Many of us were reminiscing about how beautiful the bridge use to be before this stupid tradition took off like a cancer and is still going on throughout Paris.
Finally! It’s about time.
I’ve written several posts about the destruction and vandalism these locks were making, but do you think any tourist listened? Of course not! Instead, they talked about the “beautiful romantic tradition” of putting locks on the Pont des Arts. They don’t know what they’re talking about. The Pont des Arts was first built over 200 years old and this so-called tradition started in 2008. Some say it started when some Serbian filmmaker put the first lock on the bridge during filming. Apparently it’s a tradition in Serbia and it should have stayed there!
I wonder how many of those “lovers” are still together?
Many aren’t, I’m sure. (No, I’m not being unromantic, I’m being pragmatic.)
As one French gentleman lamented yesterday, “The Pont des Arts will never be the same again.” When the bridge was rebuilt in the early 80s it was painstakingly rebuilt as the original with a few changes. The millions of people who placed those locks and wouldn’t listen to the pleas to stop destroying the bridge has made it necessary to change the bridge from its original construction.
Locks are showing up everywhere.
Maya Muses: Special glass will replace the ironwork and supposedly the glass will withstand the graffiti that undoubtedly will attract many. Taking off the 45 tons of locks has put a stop to the cancer that was growing on the Pont des Arts. Now, what about the other bridges in Paris? Chemotherapy is needed there as well.
But, it’s a start and I’m happy those locks are gone from the Pont des Arts!
First Stop: Dubai: (I know, I know, it’s the Middle East, not Far East Asia.)
Airbus A380, a city in the sky.
Patrick and I started our trip on Emirates Airlines. When we saw the plane, the Airbus A380, we asked ourselves, how in the heck is this enormous plane ever going to get off the ground? It’s the world’s largest passenger aircraft and only certain airports have the facilities to accommodate it. There are two levels, the upper level is first class and business class with a lounge area, a private bar, and private sleeping compartments. You can even take a shower at 40,000 ft. The lower level has six sections with ten seats across (3 on each side and 4 in the middle) going back nearly one hundred rows.
Shower spa in the air.
The traveling city (that’s what it seemed like) was impressive, but what impressed Patrick and I the most was the service provided by the airline. It was like going back in time when flying use to be fun and service was great. (Remember those days?)
Even economy is spacious with huge overhead bins.
No more peanuts.
Most western airlines today have completely done away with any comfort for their passengers. Now a days you’re lucky to get 5 pretzels in a little bag that are handed out like nuggets of gold. Don’t think about asking for a second bag, they’ll bark at you and tell you one per customer. (All right, that’s not true, but you feel like that’s what’ll happen, so most people don’t ask.) At the rate airlines are going it won’t be long before the seats will be taken out and everyone will stand like a herd of cattle.
Emirates crew from around the world.
But, let’s get back to the Emirates Airline. There were stewards and hostesses that spoke a total of 28 languages. And I don’t mean text learned by heart like on some airlines where you don’t understand half of what they’re saying. On the Emirates, each of their personnel was fluent in several languages. Menus were passed out so you could select the meals you wanted. Hot towels were given to you before each meal so you could freshen up. Free wine and spirits were available. You had each meal with real cutlery, no plastic crap here. If you were hungry in between meal times, you could nibble on something at the bar in Business and First Class. In Economy you could ask for a cup of noodle soup or ice cream.
Time flew by!
Headphones were given free of charge and each passenger had a large individual screen. There were more than 500 films in a variety of languages and countries to choose from. Hollywood isn’t the only one producing films, you know. We spent seven hours flying from Paris to Dubai, but it seemed more like three or four the ride was so comfortable.
Welcome sign as you get off the plane.
Dubai at dusk.
Dubai was not what we expected. Then again, we really didn’t know what to expect. I think I had kept in mind all the Arab/Middle Eastern countries I had been to. Places like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, or Israel. The United Arab Emirates was ultra modern and as soon as you landed you knew this was a place of wealth. Luxuries and designer names were everywhere. The women wore the traditional long black abaya with a hijab, but you could tell just from looking at their clothes they were made from the best quality material money could buy. And why not, many women do buy their abayas from Chanel, Dior, and a number of other top designers. Gee, who knew?
Women shopping in Dubai.
It was nothing like the djellabas, chadors and burkas of good quality, and poor, that I had seen in other Arab countries. For some reason the images that have stayed with me in those places were more of poverty than wealth. Sand storms, where it was always hot and dusty, also come to mind. Here, everything was air conditioned and even the men in their long white dishdasha and keffiyeh looked pristine despite the hot temperatures outside.
A hologram greets you in the airport.
Maya Muses: The people were friendly and spoke both French and English so we had no trouble communicating. Patrick and I didn’t stay long enough, but we told ourselves we would definitely like to go back again. Inshallah – God willing.
I finished reading Carlos Santana’s autobiography/memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light. If you’re a Santana fan (And who isn’t?) this book is a must. The tone is all Carlos Santana and he tells his story the way he plays his guitar. His fingers slide from one note to the next, sometimes he lingers on a chord or a note for a few extra beats, then he moves up the frets and back down again jumping octaves. His story telling is no different.
From his childhood in Autlán, Mexico, to Woodstock in 1969, back to Tijuana as a kid, and on to San Francisco, Carlos moves from one part of his life to the next much like he would if the two of you were having a drink together, where one incident would remind him of something else, and then something else, and on and on. And you don’t care if you can’t keep the dates straight, this is Carlos Santana talking to you and you’re just happy to follow along.
There are moments of hilarity, moments of sadness, and moments of greatness. Carlos Santana talks openly about it all: about his childhood in Mexico with his parents, his two brothers and four sisters, playing music with his dad’s band at the age of 11, the sexual abuse he suffered from an American tourist preying on young kids, the divorce his wife wanted after 34 years of marriage and he didn’t see it coming, how the stars aligned so he ended up playing at Woodstock, and ultimately winning nine Grammys, including Album of the Year, for Supernatural.
His book reads like a Who’s Who in music. From rock stars to jazz legends to blues musicians, Carlos takes you on his musical odyssey. The hours spent locked away in a dark closet, just him and his guitar, so he could become one with his instrument, so he could find himself, his style, and his place as a musician. After reading his book, you can’t listen to his music the same way ever again. This is one of the great rockers of his generation and he left a mark for generations to come.
His music has stood the test of time. His style is unique and others have tried to copy him, but can’t. The group Santana went through many changes, musicians came and they went and they came back again, but the foundation remained the same. Listen to Samba Pa Ti, Moonflower, Europa, Black Magic Woman, etc., and the music is still as fresh today as the day it was first played. This book has 516 pages of his life and music, 32 pages of photos, but more so, it has a spiritual journey of one man who happens to be a great musician.
Maya Muses: The only downside about this book is there’s an over abundance of names of musicians here. Some you’ll be familiar with, some you won’t. I knew about 95% of them (but I grew up in a musical family listening to all sorts of music) and still I thought it was a bit of an overload. Don’t let that stop you, there’s something here for anyone who’s a fan of Carlos Santana.
We’ve been warned for years that global warming is going to do our planet in, but ask anyone lately and they’ll tell you, “Global warming my ass!” Places like New York City and Boston are used to seeing snow and lots of it, but when Niagara Falls freezes over and so does the Allegheny River (no little creek we’re talking about here) this is what we call COLD!
Niagara Falls – Remember when we came on our honeymoon, darling. Wasn’t the water falling?
Allegheny River – Let’s have an ice skating party and invite all of Pittsburgh.
And when I see a few of the places I’ve visited in the wintertime when the weather was warm and sunny, you know, places like Jerusalem, the Grand Canyon or Istanbul…and they’re now covered in snow. All I can say is we’re heading toward the Big Freeze.
Jerusalem – I know the Wailing Wall is around somewhere.
Grand Canyon – What can I say except beautiful.
Instanbul – Galata Bridge and the Yeni Mosque looking new.
Maya Muses: Bundle up, folks, it doesn’t look like things are going to get better any time soon. Pull out your sleds, build an igloo or a snowman, scoop up some clean snow and make ice cream* or snow cones. Or if you have an entrepreneurial spirit you can sell bottles of it. People are crazy enough to buy bottles of snow as you can read here and it’s not cheap – $19.99. That includes S&H, but sometimes when it arrives you got yourself a half a bottle of water. If you ever needed proof there’s a sucker born every minute, look no further.
Here’s to Spring, only 3 weeks away!
*Recipe for Snow Ice Cream
1 cup milk (any kind, but the creamier the better)
1/3 cup granulated sugar.
1 tsp. vanilla extract.
1 pinch salt.
8 cups clean snow (more or less depending on the density of the snow)
Whisk the ingredients together (except for the snow) in a large mixing bowl until combined. Place bowl in freezer until you gather the snow. Stir the snow into the milk mixture, and keep adding until it reaches a creamy consistency. It should be fluffy and easy to scoop, but not runny.
For Chocolate Ice Cream:
Replace 1 cup of milk with chocolate milk or add
1/8 of a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. of instant coffee (optional)
Maya Muses: The little girl in this video (you’ll know which one) made my day. It goes to show when you let yourself go as a free spirit – you shine. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh and brighten your day. Enjoy!
My niece, Katarina, taking a selfie of us a few months ago.
Back when I was young there were no selfies, no holding a camera in the palm of your hand with the option of sharing your photos instantaneously with the world. I’m talking about the days when you had to take a roll of film to a store to get developed and you had no idea if the shots you took were good or not. You could only hope the photos were in focus or they showed your good side because it was hit or miss. You paid good money for them and you didn’t have the option of taking ten pictures until you got it right and you were satisfied. As often as not, it was a miss and those photos stayed inside the packet they came in rather than an album for all to see.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve with half a million other people.
Patrick and I were talking to friends the other day and we were telling them about a New Year’s Eve we spent on the Champs-Elysées with 500,000 other people waiting to ring in the new year. This was 2002 and we still used a roll of film in our camera. We had taken photos all evening and as we walked toward the Eiffel Tower it was sparkling in all its glory, so we stopped a lady and asked her to take a picture of the two of us. It was the final photo in the roll. We posed and smiled and it wasn’t until she clicked the camera that I realized her angle didn’t seem right.
I asked her, “You did take a photo of us with the Eiffel Tower, right?”
“Oh, you didn’t tell me to take the Eiffel Tower.” she said.
Ahh, duh! So what did she take? We found out after the film was developed.
I know the Eiffel Tower is back there somewhere!
There was a photo of Patrick and me standing beside a tree. It could have been anywhere in the world where trees grow. Uh hum. Fast forward 13 years later and we now get a kick out of this photo. Thank goodness the Eiffel Tower is in our back yard, so to speak, or else it wouldn’t be funny. I can’t imagine someone saving for a once in a lifetime trip to Paris and having a picture of a tree as a souvenir on New Year’s Eve.
Anyway, all this because I realized the other day that the photos I have on my blog and my Facebook page have never been changed since I first started on social media in 2008. The photos are seven years old and should be changed. They’re a somewhat younger version of myself. With age, I cringe whenever someone wants to take a photo of me. Well, to be honest, I’ve always cringed when someone wanted to take my picture. There are people who love being in front of a camera, I’m not one of them. I tell myself, I’ll get around to updating my photos, but it’s just so hard to find the time.
Forget about age and this espresso stuff, we need a drink.
Maya Muses: Two quotes I love about photos and looking at old pictures of oneself:
“When I look at my old pictures, all I can see is what I used to be but am no longer. I think: What I can see is what I am not.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project
“…They are still the pictures of myself I like best, for they convey that confidence of youth I no longer possess, especially in front of a camera.”