Saturday, December 24, 2011

5 minutes to gate

You'd think on the Xmas Eve it'd be like Home Alone where the airport is completely packed.

Turns out it's not true. Within 5 minutes, I was checked in, cleared security, and eating my Wendy's....

Maybe I should fly out on Xmas Eve more...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thxgiving Weekend: Dad's 60th

With the mad dashes around the airport completed, time for the weekend full of fun...

First Night:

With Hermie picking me up from the airport, we proceed to go visit my dad to give him his first surprise. Me :)... wuhahaha. Supposedly I was suppose to be web cammed in for the dinner, so instead of that, we'd show up in an 'ipad frame' to walk in with as the birthday card (I mean, what fun is just a regular birthday card right?). I have to say, the idea worked nicer than I imagined. The frame was also built very well :).

The cake was pretty tasty too!

Day 2: Private Home Dinner
Waking up at the usual time (2pm)... realized half the day was done already. So off to prepare the 9 course home made meal.

The menu:

Also was able to squeeze in an hour with some Waterloo buddies. Even if it was only for an hour, it was great!

Day 3: Dinner with all
9 bottles of wine, 2 tables of good food, good company. Fun times!

Happy Birthday! :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Made it!

With 5 minutes to spare.. I make it onto the flight. woohoo!

This the morning of Thxgiving

Flight delays... will see if I can mad dash it to my connecting...

25 minutes to cross concourse... weeeee

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Software Entrepreneurship Course Thoughts

With this whole course and finding out there are a bunch of people who have their own businesses... makes me wonder - how many years will it take to get this experience and to be successful at it. And is all this work worth whatever they had traded off to get to where they are today. How much freedom do they get to enjoy life once they are there.

Am I really comfortable where I am now, or should I try to be even more comfortable (though as of today, my latest random experiment have failed miserably... hahaha). A hamster in them wheels, vs. ... .. . ?

Anyhow, each week literally there are milionaires walking giving their spheel. It's pretty cool to see these folks take the time to give a lecture to us.

Also, what Bill G said does ring home a little bit (this is from one of the colloquiums). Sure, tens of millions will make alot of things more convenient. But once you become super rich,

"A burger is still a burger." - pretty true. I don't need billions... just millions :)

Colloquia Blitz

3 colloquias down... 1 more to watch...

These ones are pretty interesting actually...

Also need to start doing them homework... .. .

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random Thought

As I sit here at Regent, eating my luner at 6pm, I wonder - wouldn't it be nice to be able to see different people everyday and make them smile...

Like seeing kids light up seeing their favorite pastries arrive at their hands, or seeing people enjoy what they are eating, under a nice relaxing atmosphere... wouldn't that be fun...

The freedom to do whatever you want, to control your own time, and be anywhere you want to be... it will take alot of work and 'experience' and 'tuition' to make happen, but maybe it is worth it...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Buses and Bus Apps

Even if you know in almost real time when the bus is arriving, it doesn't do any good when you feel bad when someone is running way over in their 2 hour talk with no breaks... one ends up just watching the app the connecting bus pass by...

To think, without technology, I wouldn't have the expectation...

Probably what annoys me more was I missed my chance to get back 30 min earlier... and I had to sit through a 3 hour lecture without break hearing about what for the last 20 min were advertisement of the patent industry... maybe it was the lack of breaks, but the talk could have been half an hour shorter.

As I sit here now, alone at the bus stop, lesson learnt. Be concise with my own presentations and don't ramble on and on...

Oh.. on another note.. it has been 2 months, and the publish button for blogger on ie9 still doesn't work. Now with Mango, the browser is now ie9 too (w.o the option to go into compatibility mode)... so no more publishing as I go... what a bummer. I wonder when someone will decide to fix this.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ghetto Heart Monitor

Technology from what must be from the 80s...

You'd think there would be some kind of USB or wifi/internet upload. But nope, to use, you call in, put the mouthpiece near the device, then replay this high pitched voice.

Not to mention it doesn't work... Good thing I am getting a different device. Someone really needs to fix this for this industry... .. .

Saturday, October 08, 2011

My Course Textbook

When course textbooks are effectively 120 page novels... it makes it a much more entertaining read... even though I have taken a nap or two already... and it's only 3:47 pm...

The coolest part is perhaps if I knew about this book, I probably would have picked it up to read in my spare time anyway :)

Paying for Things I Don't Use

Question of the day:
Why do I have to pay for a bus pass that I will never get to use?

And the kicker is - if I try to pay by credit card, there's a convenience fee of $83 for a $79 charge... wtf...

Rip-off x2

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Bday Present For Myself - Skydiving!

For some quirky reason, half the team was going to take the day off, so I figure, why not me too :) - given I have the best reason (cough... excuse) in the world.

So yesterday at lunch, I wondered, what should I do today. Needed something different... then it clicked. What have I been wanting to do for 2.5 years? Yes - Skydiving!

Quickly checking the weather, it was good. Skydive lesson availability - good. Credit card - good. Booked - good! :)

Skydiving actually seemed pretty safe in hindsight. Though the waiver they make you sign seems pretty scary (see below).

Some interesting tidbits:
1) Looking down with your feet dangling at 13500 ft makes my balls shrink just a tiny bit... hahaha
2) Free falling. You'd think there's that roller coaster feeling... but actually, there was none of that during the free fall (and I think I was falling for quite some time)... see the video below
3) The run felt really short. The movie is a good indicator of how long the run lasted.

Anyhow, alive = me. Back from plunging 13500 ft.

(not quite sure why there's no sound.. oh well)
Let the festivities begin!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Software Entrepreneurship Day 1

u know it's not an engineering building when the lecture room is nicely lit, not in a basement, and the chairs are comfortable...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Past Few Weeks...

Been just mo liu-ing around for the past week or two... it's a pretty nice feeling and all, but at some point I need to start moving again...

Or do I need to? I am enjoying this for the most part, and I am still in my whole simple life mentality mode.

Also learned that supposedly lack of sleep makes hair fall out (though I think it's having an opposite effect on me)... yes very random comment ... but just recalled it.

Or maybe it's time to make a move... I mean, at some point I should come back to reality, or make my dreams (whatever they may be), a reality.

Hakuna Matata...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Volunteering at a school painting away...

Today woke up bright and early (at 9:00am) to go to an elementary school for Seattle Works. Today's task, paint the halls and touch up the painting job at the library.

With the threat of detention, I and child genius got there with 10 minutes to spare, and in the process set a new record for myself as the first one to arrive at a volunteer event for Seattle Works. Previously, I am probably almost the first latest person to arrive - but not today! woohoo!

The painting was interesting... though the part I was most interested with was the principal. He really seemed to care about the school and treated us volunteers pretty well. He had a rough agenda prepared, had the tools ready, and provided us even lunch. That and he stayed in on a Saturday (and likely Sunday), to make the school better. Kudos to him!

Also, eating inside a school cafeteria was pretty nostalgic. Easily been 10+ years now since I've done that... lol.

The other surprising thing was that there were teachers at the school. Given it is a Saturday, I would have never thought they'd need to come in to work. I wonder what they there for.

Friday, September 16, 2011

3 lb. Lobster Dinner

Mmmm.... After seeing this on the menu a couple months back, I have been craving it. Today, with my hard earned points, I finally tried it out.

The lobster itself wasn't as good as the first 3 lb. lobster I had a couple years back when I one-up-ed Anime Buddy, but the company I had mowing down the lobster with was pretty awesome. Heard some interesting stories and was pretty fun times.

Best Friday night since I've been back... well, at least the first part of the night that is... lol

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Can Drink Milk Again?

Even though I haven't been following my grand plan of trying to train my body to be able to drink milk again... the rich hot chocolate I had a month or so ago made me wonder just how much my body could still handle.

So after 2 1L lactose free milk over 2 months... I supplemented that a couple days ago with a small carton of milk, and all was well.

Today at lunch, craving for milk, I tried two small cartons of chocolate milk (yes, not one.. but two). And then... nothing!

Perhaps I can drink milk again.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Pig-a-thon outing...

Met up with a friend for dinner. Funny how everytime we go out for food, we end up ordering half the menu... lol.

It was more than a year (maybe more) since we've talked, but it was good to catch up. Had some pretty intriguing conversations that makes me think quite a bit I have to say.

Some random notes for myself...
Living the life of the non crystal shop merchant, I really should make an effort to do that... .. .

"It's only annoying if the person doesn't want to hear from you, otherwise, it's all good." Hahaha - pretty funny I think, cuz it's true.

"You won't know till you try, but you can't start if you don't know. But at the end of the day, you just know... and really if you don't try, you will never know."

Anyhow, random jotting notes completed. Mson out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Playing soccer uninjured...what a great feeling

sunny day, light running, playing to the sunset... life can be very simple and beautiful...

Even though I was pretty sucky, I was easily the best of the worst there... hahaha

Friday, September 09, 2011

It's Been Awhile...

So after a few meetings, then some drinks at the bar, soldier Mson arrives at the hotel.

I've forgotten how nice a 3 star (or 3.5 star) hotel. Nice bed, proper lighting, full toiletries, free internet, air conditioning, nice and quiet... pretty sweet place!

Even has complimentary morning buffet and morning calls!

Good stuff Hotel Avante!

Just Realized...

As I look at the great weather out there today - I realized (well, actually a few days before, but I sorta forgot until today again)... now that my ankle and knee is somewhat healed, there's nothing stopping me from holding back while playing soccer :)


Time to throw in them clothes and shoes into the car, and use what's left of the 'summer' for outdoor goodness!

Self induced soldier trip

Got home at 2am-ish... didn't sleep until almost 3... Waking up 2 hrs later to catch a trip...

To add salt to the wound, if I left an hour earlier I would be up instead of down again :(...

My day will consist of the typical SVC day trip - meetings galore and work in parallel, then perhaps a night outing. Luckily this time I am staying an extra night.

Since my trip back I haven't really had the se discipline and control... gotta get that back for multiple things.

lor lei chin Mson out...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Food Summary

Tried to take a picture of every dish I've eaten in Peru + Brazil... here goes:

Day 0 (8/24): In Transit
On the airplane...
First snack in Peru (Lima airport). Beef heart skewers and this weird looking corn:
Day 1 (8/25): Ollanta
Lunch - Smoked Trout with Pasta with a Drink containing ginger, and papaya.

Dinner - Guinea Pig + Pisco Sour

Day 2 (8/26): Salt Mines and Moray
Lunch - Fresh Strawberry Juice + some bland chicken with potatoes

Snack on Peru Train

Dinner - Lamb Ribs in Aguas Calientes
(No Picture - Pretty standard stuff here)
Day 3 (8/27): Machu Picchu
Lunch - Buffet with poor service and soup, beef, chicken and fish

Dinner back at Ollanta - Some beef dish (forgot the name of it) with a Peruvian Beer:

Day 4 (8/28): Iguassa Falls
Lunch en route to the Falls - Happy Meal! (with the toy)

Dinner - Beef on stone plate with onions and rice on the side and a SKOL beer

Day 5 (8/29): Iguassa Falls
(no pictures taken)
Day 6 (8/30): Iguassa Falls
Lunch - Food court at supermarket

Dinner - Random Food from Grocery Food Store

Day 7 (8/31): Rio
Lunch - A random restaurant led by the tour guide in Santa Theresa. Beans, manioc flour, rice combo

Dinner - Chicken Fried Rice (yes - I had to see what it is like here... very salty...)

Day 8 (9/1): Rio
Lunch - Random restaurant on a side street. Food costs were by the kg...

Snack - Churro stuffed with chocolate.. Mmmm...

Dinner - Brazil Churrascaria ... but not buffet style since we cut a deal to not do all you can eat :P

Day 9 (9/2): Rio
Lunch - Random restaurant on a side street. This one not weighing by the kg

Part of Dinner - 30 cm hotdog with quail egg.. for 4 reais!

Day 10 (9/3): Rio
Snack - Acui in Favela
(Picture not taken... but it's this black goo like thing that is pretty healthy for you supposedly)
Lunch/Dinner - Cooking in Rio. Lots of boozing, banana with fried manioc, shrimp thing, and rice

The guinea pig was interesting (tasted like chicken), but other than that, most of food I had I would say was pretty standard... was expecting some cool food... but I guess it wasn't to be.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back in US of A

Turns out the longest part of the wait/process in LAX, where I had to fill out a new I-94 (first rime that's happened since I've gotten my H1-B), and also extra long custom lines and walking around. Pretty glad I am back in english land, it would be interesting if I had to convey what I had to do and go in spanish/portugese.

Getting a new I-94 also means they stripped my multiple re-entry awesomeness. So I am now officially stuck in the US until the new one comes in (that or I exit and take an extra long vacation lol.

Finally - WiFi!

Arriving in 6am-ish Panama City time, finally I find free WiFi!

Though I have to stand in front of a store and look all ghetto to get the signal, I was able to checkin my last flight.

...will be home in another 12 hours.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 10: Part IV - Rio de Janeiro Day 4 - Last Day in Rio

Waking up early today I resume somewhat of more structured approach to touristing - first a favela tour from Marcelo Armstrong, then a cooking class in the afternoon just down 2 blocks from where we are staying.

The favela tour was well worth it. Going with the Marcelo Armstong umbrella, the tour guide gave a very good history of the favela and also saw quite a bit of the areas that I wouldn't have gone on my own. We ended up going to two favelas, Raciona (which was the biggest one in Rio, and this other smaller one). I have to say the Raciona one seemed pretty sketch, but being with a tour guide and minding our own business, it ended up alot safer than them horror stories. The other one we actually walked inside the favela. This one was alot safer relatively, and also had alot of improvements being made to it. Among them was the sewage system and street names. It was a pretty interesting that street names wasn't everywhere and it took effort to get it established. I could go on and on, but the 2 hours were definitely very well spent. Oh, also tried the acui? (some black goo thing) that turned out to be some meal replacement type thing that was really really filling (though refreshing).

After the tour, having some time to kill, took a shower (since it'd be a whole day since I will see it again), had a couple beers by the beach, then headed off to the cooking class. For once the sky cleared up and blue skies were seen - too bad it was the last day :(.

Cooking in Rio. Simone is pretty awesome. Very good experience, felt like just friends chilling and drinking and eating. The food was pretty delicious as well. Heard some funny stories, tried a bunch of different drinks and food, and the other 4 people in the group was British (aka I was listening to British accented english non stop :)) ... needless to say, life was sweet!

Really enjoyed this last day - not too rushed, pretty relaxing and frequent of boozing, my kind of trip :).

Now at airport, got here pretty smoothly, but because I am here too early and no WiFi, I can't checkin so I am stuck outside. Supposedly have to wait till 10pm-ish for COPA to open up... tsk tsk tsk, then begin my elapsed time of 22 hours (various time zone gains/adjustments included) of airport/flights. Hopefully no hyperactive kids or crying babies around (that and I can get on the flight lol)

Anyhow, on the very last leg of the trip, only uncertainty are the 2 flights before I get back into LAX, then back to familiar lands once again and also back to reality.

Next major trip I will probably look at those help build houses or teach for a week or two trips. Seeing sights is nice, but I think it would be that much more rewarding if I made a slight difference while I am there, and traveled at the same time.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 9: Part III - Rio de Janeiro Day 3 - Lapa Night

Nice atmosphere there and was pretty easy to get to given we are now experts at the subway in Rio.

The tour guide mentioned how the streets were closed for pedestrian only, but we didn't find such a place in Lapa on Friday night. We did see a place that looked sort of like a small night market, with food stalls and what not set up. The best one I've to say is the 4 reais 30cm hot dog. Needless to say it was one looong hot dog. Perhaps the even cooler part was that it came with a load of toppings: tomatoes, onions, sauce, corn, quail egg (Yes quail egg). Easily one if the best deals thus far in Rio.

Nothing much else or eventful here - perhaps we were there too early (8 pm-ish) or just not in the right place in Lapa, so we headed back to Copabanca pretty soon after arriving.

All in all, I feel like Rio is very comparable to Toronto. Will wait till tomolo for the final verdict, but it definitely didn't seem too shady a place. Sellers are not haggler like in Egypt, crowded places (downtown and subway) didn't seem all that bad. I am sure there are pockets of shadiness (ie. the favelas), but just as there is Jane and Finch, every city has these areas. Perhaps in preparation for the world cup the place is getting cleaned up alot more in the last couple years?

Oh.. they even had the changing color at night thing like the CN tower for the Metropolitan Cathedral - I think I mapped alot of places in Rio to Toronto actually lol.

Getting back, we go back to hear loud music coming from a rooftop party from 2 blocks across. Here we were, looking for some nightlife, and it was right across from us - yet this was the one place we didn't want to hear it at lol.

Thinking back, it's hard to determine which stay was the vest on this trip - all the places I stayed at has its good and detrimental bad. I think actually surprising as it sounds, I enjoyed the hostels in Ollanta the most. With free WiFi, quietness almost all the time I was there, hot shower (once they turn it on), ease of access to places - while it did not have air conditioning, the weather at night cooled down enough to not require it. Which makes is alot better than loud parties or chatty neighbors who had hyena laughs (At least in my priority list).

Anyhow, sleeping now to loud clubbing music and a thumping bass. Bon nuit?

PS. Zero free WiFi access since I got into Rio. You'd think if Iguaçu and Ollanta had it, Rio would... nope.

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 9: Part III - Rio de Janeiro Day 3 - Lazy Morning

Drastically slower our pace... by 1:30, we have been in the hotel still. Did attempt to hit the beaches, but it was pretty windy. The wind and waves were refreshing though - I actually stayed outside for a couple hours just staring out while the rest took a morning nap. Not much activity or things going on - guess with it being winter and all and workday, that was expected.

Guess there is not much in Rio to see or do :(. Going to check out Lapa tonight, then 2 quick excursions tomolo and the trip will have reached its end.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 8: Rio de Janeiro Day 2

Woke up late today, and basically had a pretty chill day walking around Rio downtown. Taking the subway there (of which I was a bit hesitant at first given the stories of Rio), but it turned out to be pretty safe and it was just like subway in Toronto. As a matter of fact, Rio is much like downtown Toronto for the most part - didn't really see any crazy hustling or haggling this afternoon. One subtle difference is that there were these street market type things that I guess looked sorta like Kensington market, but quite a few. Overall though, still pretty much seemed like it is just a big city afterall - at least during the day.

Also hit up the MoMA here, saw some nice photographs but having said that, the museum wasn't all that big. Did see a pretty insightful quote though about the collector vs. an artist, where both require patience, being sensible and rational, and something else that I quite can't remember lol. Anyhow, I thought the quote applies to quite many things. Sat there for quite a bit pondering this.

I guess that's the nice thing about this trip. It's given me a little time to think about anything and everything - and it has helped me make some progress in thoughts that I have been pigeon-holing in. Though who knows what might happen when I return to my reality, but at least right now I feel a bit less bothered by various issues that have been lingering for awhile now, since there are tasks for me that I think I can do to not stay stuck, even if it's only a little bit. So for better or worse, Mson will march forward.

Simple thoughts, simple life, simple happiness... simple.

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 7: Part II - Rio de Janeiro - Football, ole ole ole!

With the entire party dead exhausted (since they did wake up early the day before to see the falls from Argentina while I slept until 3, they were easily passed our till 6pm. Waking up, we strolled down to find a Chinese restaurant... so I couldn't resist trying their chicken fried rice. It actually smelled pretty good, and I would say almost at Regent quality - though as with all Brazilian dishes, it tasted more salty than I would prefer. The price was also pretty steep, at 18 reais for basically the amount of rice for combo #1 at MS.

So after finishing eating the takeout fried rice to the sounds of portugese pokemon, we strolled down to the lobby to wait for the pickup. It was a tad late, and was actually a slightly longer ride than I liked.

The football match experience was pretty good. Though the stadium wasn't packed, our side was pretty loud and non stop cheers all through the game. The huge flags are also pretty awesome - first them ever seeing them in real life completely trumps seeing them on tv.

The game itself - well, Botafango won 3-0, completely dominating from the start until end. Haven't seen such a lop sided match in years (except when I am playing indoor on my team lol). I personally was expecting more flair from the players (saw very little in my opinion), but I guess it's understandable given it was a wet pitch and non of the players (except maybe 2?) are on the national squad. The experience was good nevertheless, really wished I could watch Flamengo or St. Paulo play though, ahhh that would have been awesome.

Also, food here was actually reasonably priced. A hotdog was only 5 reais, this carnes in bread dough thing was only 11. I so wished I didn't get the chicken fried rice and instead got stadium food(which would be cheaper and more interesting).

The stadium actually had free WiFi - but it wasn't strong enough from where I was fir me to make good use of it. So the hunt continues...

Returning to the hotel after midnight 1am to be exact, tired Mson out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 7: Part I - Rio de Janeiro - City Tour

Was forced to check in my backpack for this leg, but the cool thing was the luggage came out really quick - in fact, it was already on the belt by the time I got to the carousel. So all in all, so far the bag is still doing good :). My 3 purchases for the trip (bag, sleeping bag, jacket) all making its money's worth! Shortly after, was picked up by our tour guide a short bit after, and off we go!

First stop was to drop off our bags at the hotel and experiencing of Rio rush hour. This is definitely a city - cool part here was that the ambulance drove on the dotted line (and had room to)... with a train of motorcycles tailgating it. Too bad I didn't get a photo here, but it was a sight.

The tour has us hitting quite a few spots today:

Tijuca National Park
Saw a waterfall there - no where near Foz de Iguaçu but was able to try taking some silky waterfall photos. Hopefully they turned out nice.

Christ the Redeemer
This was actually inside Tijuca as it turns out. It was a pretty big statue, though for some reason I was expecting wayyy more here (like maybe some great photo poses where I can stand on its shoulder or something). The view from there is pretty nice - can see all of Rio from there - the slightly sucky part was that it was a hazy and cloudy day, so it wasn't super clear and sparkly the view.

For lunch, we were taken to this place that had a very local feel to it. The food was alright there, nothing too special - 18 reais (includes what amounts to 300ml of beer). Perhaps as our living accommodations improve, our food quality goes down? :D...

Lapa steps
Saw the creator here and took a pic with him. He was dressed like Mario I thought, heh heh. The steps are pretty cool in that basically he did this for free - and the people let him! Actually, supposedly in St. Theresa, there is alot of artists and the graffiti on the walls are actually commissioned. I've heard this before but never actually seen it, but I have to admit, the graffiti is really pretty here.

Metropolitan Cathedral
Pretty nice in that from the outside, definitely didn't look like a church at all. Inside, their were a bunch of stain glass window strips that spanned all the way up to the ceiling. Not quite sure how to describe it other than it's definitely different.

After the cathedral, rain started happening, so no Sugar Loaf. Got the tour guide to take us to a local supermarket, where I stocked up on water. Then went back to hotel to take a nap, in preparation for the soccer match tonight.

Also at the beginning of the ride, we got a little background on the various places we went through such as Leblanc (which is the place for the super rich), Ipanema (where the famous beach is at - supposedly also posh), St. Theresa (oldest neighborhood in Rio), casual mention of a few favellas (though we didn't drive into them) and of course Copacabana (where we are staying). Supposedly the first 3 neighborhoods shouldn't be too bad, and actually, according to the tour guide, having good common sense (stay away from big crowds walking towards you, put away valuables from plain sight, not walk into non pacified favellas, be careful when in crowded areas) should mitigate most of the bad stories that people say about Rio. Hopefully it's true :D

One final note. This hotel apparently we have to pay for WiFi @ 30 cents a minute! Funny in some ways how we were pretty much always able to access WiFi during this trip at the various places I stayed at (or in Aguas Calientes, a few stores down by stealing signal from a restaurant) but the most baller hotel (of the set), WiFi is not complimentary. So the hunt for WiFi I guess begins tomolo.

Also need to see what there is to do the next two days. If the weather stays rainy, then means no beaches or Sugar Loaf... even with that, still have one more day to think of what to do... hmmmm..

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 6: Foz de Iguaçu from Argentina ... NOT :(

Woke up this morning feeling like crap. Head was just pounding and wasn't really able to sleep all that much. I think it's probably a combination of: a lack of sleep, hot/cold climate switches, the dust and dirt that's accumulated on our jackets and bags, my roommates starting (or has) began getting sick, and maybe a little bit of heat exhaustion lingering from Machu Picchu. Now that I think about it, it's a miracle that my body didn't collapse earlier!

So instead of 2 hikes, 3 hour cab ride + probably an amazing view of the waterfall, decided I would instead trade that off for a couple tynenols and a long sleep so that I can be in better shape when we get to Rio (which will have us waking up at 4am to catch the flight for).

As usual with all hotel sleep in days, the maids have this urge to do their duty to clean rooms. Without a DND sign, I had to resort to say that we just needed towels so they can say they've done their part so I can sleep.

... So waking up at 3:15, I was hungry and headachy, so I popped a tynenol and headed onto town, back to the supermarket with the food court. In my almost perfect charade skills, I was able to figure out that they charge per kilo for food here, so off I went. My meal ended up being 9.91 reals! - cheapest meal by far since I have started this trip (This included a 2.00 500ml coke).

After the meal, headed more in town to walk around. It wasn't too humid or hot today due to the thunderstorm last night, so it was a good recovery and get fresh air walk. Not much worth noting in the town though - seemed pretty typical, some stores, some restaurants - a mix of both middle class department stores and dollar store like stores.

At 5pm-ish, back at the hotel. Theme of the day is to take it easy - in preparation for the final destination of the trip, Rio de Janeiro, where rumors have it I have to be ultra careful at.

Semi-sick soldier Mson sitting on a nice chair at the pool patio at hotel out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 5: Foz de Iguaçu

Waking up at a more normal time today, we headed to the falls... by bus! :). In some ways it is funny, because here we were dishing out 115 reais each for a maid of the mist ride later in the day, but we wanted to save 20 reais on taxi so instead we took the bus. Having said that, the bus experience was cool though, since it was alot safer and easy than I'd imagined.

The hike turned out to be just a simple walk towards the bottom of the falls. The best part was I was able to take pictures with a rainbow in it (thx to the tip from Travel Buddy on using the CPL to maximize the color of the rainbow.

After lunch, we went on this boat ride that would put us near the falls. My orange jacket was worth every dollar here :). Barely got wet - another clutch purchase :D. To add to it, it was also very useful at the bottom of the falls, where I stayed soooo dry.

The boat tour consisted of two pieces - a safari portion and the boat portion. The safari portion was a jib. All it was is a ride to the loading area, with a 600m walk to delay time. In the ride there, there wasn't really anything worth mentioning - all there was were trees, some oranges and what the person in front of us called 'rat' (which I think was really a rabbit)... The boat ride was nice, though it was wayyy too short. I think we were really near the falls for about 5 minutes tops. All in all, for what was said to be a 2 hour tour, it was really 1.75 hour of travel time, 15 min of actually goodness. Having said that, would I recommend it? Probably, because the view from the bottom of the waterfall is very unique, and does have that wow factor to it. Also, if you have dirty clothes, this is the place to wear it to because you do get a free wash here courtesy of Foz de Iguaçu :P

Returning back, we decoded we didn't want to eat out - the food wasn't particularly unique nor good, but it was pricey. So instead we went to grocery store to grab dinner. I bought the quarter chicken for 8 reais and a bottle of coke (just like the old Cummer days). The chicken was salty though, so I actually didn't end up finishing the whole thing.

At this hotel, it was also where I had planned to do laundry. Originally I was going to do this myself, but finding out they offered this service, I was too lazy to do it myself. 1kg for 10 reais - seemed like a good deal. Especially after dusty Machu Picchu and Peru, seemed like a pretty reasonable price. Today it came back, saying the clothes weighed 8 kg for 2 people's worth of laundry!... I was like err... really?

So we went to talk to the guy, turns out his weigh was offset by 2 kgs, so basically instead of 8kg, it was only 5kg between two people.

So far it seems like Brazil is pretty expensive. Maybe it is because this is a tourist town, but if not, it's pretty pricey.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 4: In Transit to Brazil

Woke up bright and early for the 5am cab, and off we go. Cab driver took a couple breaks, and it was pure Egypt driving. Driver also threw huge turns that I swear we could have died on 5 separate occasions. Oh, and he was playing some music that was pretty annoying. So result, 0 tips since I wasn't impressed at all.

Airport was the usual, for my lunch, grabbed a happy meal from good ol' McD. They forgot the toy so when a lady (so happens in a McD attire) came by to take my tray, I kicked into ultra broken spanish and charade mode... at first she didn't get it.. but as I walked down what I had, she realized: 27 year old dude wants his happy meal toy ... Mission accomplished! - a dragon like thing now is safely stowed in my bag :)

Passing in and out of consciousness, we arrive in Brazil. It's pretty humid and mild - and it's suppose to be their winter!

Arriving at the hotel, we see that it is basically transitioning to be a hotel. It tries hard - air conditioning (though water was leaking from it), LCD tv in suite (though maybe about a 16 inch or so), spacious room (though there are 2 bunk beds, and a king size in it), granite sink top and even the butt washer hose (though no complimentary shampoo)... A for effort, but not quite there yet. Still by far the most luxurious room I've stayed in since the start of this trip :).

After settling in, walked around the area to find this stone plate beef place. A sucker for sizzle and presentation, we tried it out. It was pretty good but it was also a bit salty I thought.

After dinner, we rendezvous with our remaining party who had spent a few days in Argentina, and onwards to the falls tomolo!

(Pictures to come... someday)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peru Post Thoughts

So few things in general.
1) Food cooks very slowly here. Dishes take on average 30 to 45 minutes to come out after ordering.

2) Lots of places turns out they don't turn on the hot water heater until they have to. Especially at night they seem to turn it off. I think that's why at KB Tambo I had one night of no hot water, Hostel Payacha once we told them there was no hot water they told us to wait 5 minutes before trying again after they were hustling around, and the last hostel told us to let them know 20 minutes ahead of time before taking a hot shower.

3) Once again you can buy cheap stuff if you bargain at marketplace. The whole walk away and name your ridicously low price then compromise in middle trick works well at marketplaces.

4) In some ways, this place reminded me alot of Egypt - most of the things I saw here also applied to Egypt, and vice versa. I guess maybe Rio and Igaussa might be somewhere in the middle?

5) Simple life, simple thoughts = Happy days. I am reminded that I should not think so far ahead into the future, but rather, do what matters (or at least what I think matters) now and perhaps I will end up happier. Plagued with indecisiveness and always running away without fighting, I waste so much time - I should really try more and if things fail, they fail. At least then there'd be a chance that things could turn out the way I dreamed.

Delayed gratification is a great concept, but I guess it wasn't meant for 10 or 20 year plots... .. . and for that matter, even 3. "Either succeed or fail greatly" - I like that more. If I ever see that chance is there again, even if at the present we think it cannot be sustained, by living everyday like it's the last, the happiest and brightest future will create itself. And for that I will march forward.

Onto Brasilia... ole ole ole!

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 3: Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu

Wasn't really able to sleep last night, but did end up waking at 4.30am. Talking last night in my ultra broken spanish and handwaving, was able to get our complimentary breakfast to go. So armed with water, camera, and breakfast, off we set to the bus stop.

The hostel was conveniently located within a minute or two walk from the bus station, which made it that much easier to get there on time. Arriving at 5.05am, there were already easily 70 people in front of us - good thing we got there early!

The hostel was conveniently located within a minute or two walk from the bus station, which made it that much easier to get there on time. Arriving at 5.05am, there were already easily 70 people in front of us - good thing we got there early!

Twenty minutes later, boarding begins, and we end up on the 3rd bus. Another 20 min later, we have arrived at the base!

Even more people when we got there, turns out some folks actually hike up the switchbacks (takes about an hour) to get there. Saw 3 of these people at least.

Machu Picchu itself was pretty awesome. Maybe it's the first ruins I've seen in years, maybe it's just that awesome. It can only really be described with pictures.

Since we got the tickets in advance, we also got our hands on hiking up Wayna Picchu. The best part was, it's guaranteed :). The hike wasn't too bad, but it did involve a little panting here and there. The view though was pretty cool as we got high enough to see the entire Machu Picchu site (actually, I find that being inside Machu Picchu wasn't all that awe inspiring, but seeing it as a whole with the mountain backdrop is the key). Up that high surrounded by mountains and clouds, it was a pretty mind clearing experience - especially when you gaze down, you see ruins of a city dating back 800 years. Once again, the simple life theme prevails here... ahhh.. if only life was that simple.

We did go on a tour as well after the hike with a tour guide, and it was well worth it. For 100 sols (+ 20 sol tips), we got the story behind certain structure and rocks, that I swear otherwise we would have never saw.

Once the tour ended, we headed back into town. Even though it was only 1:30, we had spent 7 hours there already! Arriving back, we chose a high class looking place that we thought would have decent food and service over this empty dark shady place across the street. While the decor was nice, the service was terrible...

event #1: no service for 10 minutes
So two of us went to el bano, while I just sat, and they never came to even give me a menu... wtf #1.

event #2: asking me if I am ready...
So after both of them got back, I went and then returned to the table. Menu is there now, but within a minute bald dude comes by and goes are u ready and gets all pushy.. er.. I've only been able to look at the menu with 10 pages of ad... so I nicely went 'un momento'.. then he just disappears...

Another 5 minutes passes, he has just disappeared, so I just decided to go for the buffet and I got back to the table, he just finishes taking the other orders. They so slooow...

event #3: Bill time
Taking at least 15 minutes to get the bill, they completely miss my food order and can't even tell me how much I owe them... .. . Could have easily walked out (which was what the other table next to us did I think), but I felt bad scamming them 42 Sols. After yet another 10 minutes, the change still haven't arrived, when it did, it still didn't have my food on there. So half annoyed good samaritan me drops down 45 sols and tells them that's for the buffet and left (I did also order a lemonade, but hey, at this point, it's their fault).

Also as a parting gift, I clogged their toilet... oops.

Having ended Machu Picchu earlier than we thought, we switched our train tickets to an earlier one so we got back to Ollanta by 8ish instead of 11ish. Good thing too because the hostel arrangement had switched and also we got to close out the tab with kb tambo (reception apparently closes around 9). This last hostel was the quietest one of all 3 (partly because it was an end unit), so it gets the best rating of the 3. Kb Tambo was nice though, the one bedroom was pretty spacious and good location too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 2 - Part II: Train ride and first night in Aguas Calientes

27 miles... 1.5 hours. That's how long the train ride is. What a slooow train!

The train ride was real pretty.. kb tambo did hook us up with some nice tickets .. whole ride i saw the river n it was just great. The train also had a snack included, talk about class.

Arriving at aguas calientes, we first randomly walked around, hoping to hit our hostel. Result = fail! So we ended up finding a random storeowner, then after a few more misturns, found it.

Lady was nice at the hostel, but the hostel reminded me of the one back in St. Catherines near Mt. Sinai. Lots of bugs, but, the view we had was amazing (at least in my mind). The hostel was right along the river, so though the running water sound went non stop, at the same time I found it very soothing.

One downer was that one of the members decided to break away.. I guess maybe we were too hardcore? Sleeping at the airport, soldier tripping w.o face washing time, hostels with bugs... guess it might not be for everyone ... .. . hope it will work out alright for her.

Waking up tomolo at 4:30am... the trek up Wayna Picchu shall begin then!

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 2 - Part I: Moray and Salt Mines

got woken up at 8.45 by familiar sounds, and with that, half the crew has assembled. As expected, they looked like they could use some sleep.

High altitude claims one... but looks like he recovered pretty quickly. Salt mines definitely cooler in my mind than moray... pics to come later... (and maybe a full entry as well - really need the pics from my camera for this one)

Got back on time, but the place we went to for lunch was real slow, so we had to get it to go. Their strawberry juice was real good though - freshly squeezed ... reminded me of bbtea... lol

Since we were running short on time, we took a cab to get us to the train station. 10 sol for taxi going 3 minutes, a jib but just means next time he not getting any tips (this was the same guy who took us to the moray and salt mines - ironically I gave him 10 sol fir tips for that (which was a bit on the high side). Having said that, it was worth it since we got there on time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 1: Day in Ollanta

After arriving at the hostel at 9am, as I expected the room wasn't ready. So I just freshened up and brushed my teeth in the bano (washroom in spanish), then bummed around their 'lobby' a bit.. getting my 2nd wind, I then walked around town.. going on random walks that i swear had me in someone's backyard and farms... lol.. didn't really see anything cool though (I tried to go to this ruin, but it was a fail as after walking around a stadium and climbing over a wall, nothing was there. I did though had a standoff with a cow.. and he won, since I ended up taking a detour to another backyard to avoid getting too close tp it..

For lunch...
orange ginger papaya mix - not too tasty.. pretty weird
smoked trout spaghetti.. not bad... the smokiness definitely made it unique.

At 1pm, I begin my first official excursion in Peru - a tour organized by the NGO Awamaki - rated pretty highly on tripadvisor.

This was the pachanan tour. A tour that'd take me to a local Queschan village, where I just get to get a sense of how they live. Also as part of this, I was 'taught' (Handheld) how to weave a bracelet. These kids are pretty smart - supposedly they start weaving at age 13, and their patterns are pretty complex (unlike mine). I was also amazed yet again at how simple they live.. electricity costs $1.5 a mth.. pretty simple menu for meals.. pure chillax life, simple housing... yet the kids are all smiles n happy. Makes u wonder why we are chasing so hard in what we call careers and what not.. also the organizer turned out to be from will probably come back to ollanta once she graduates..

Makes me think - what is my purpose of life? My happiness - the more I grow older, the more I think, the more I realize I'm not investing my time to obtain it ... .. .but instead chasing after things that I don't even know why I am, instead of giving my all and risking it all for the life that nothing I'm chasing for right now can help me with.

Also tried these worm potatoes.. pretty yummy tho.. peru apparently famous for potatoes.

For dinner, I had guinea pig for 50 sols.. think i made the kid run to get it from the square since I didn't want to wait 30 minutes.. and also got them to lower the price by 10sols (originally the price was 60 sols for the guinea pig)...

Also had a pisco sour for 5 sols.. dam good drink..

A bit of drama at bill time, when they decided to charge me 15 sols for a drink (As they forgot that I had negotiated happy hour pricing), but did fix that and off I went..

Back at the hostel, no hot water, but being pretty tired, decided to take an ice cold shower instead. The water was soo cold, made my heart skip an extra beat each time I went under it lol. But soldier mson washed quickly and was relatively clean.. mission accomplished!

Ended up sleeping at 9.45... so ends the first day at Ollanta

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 0: Transits in airports

Arriving in lima, it was a very busy airport. People were bustling around, and lots of stores still open at 9 at night.

My first dish.. beef heart skewer. Interesting spices, somehow reminds me of what I ate in Egypt.
After walking around for a bit, found a spot to set up camp. So I figure I would go to the washroom first, then return. Turns out I wasn't the only one, so together with 3 other fellow airport crashers proceeded to stake our spot. Unfortunately, the mic goes off every 5 minutes row calling flights, so really couldn't sleep at all. So was stuck there for the next 4 hours until 2am, when the terminal for domestic opens again.

So at 2am, we try to get pass security, 3 of us go through, but not me :'(... turns out I needed some sticker (airport tax) on my plane ticket, and the kicker is, the booth that gets me it for free doesn't open till 4am. So quickly walking down the path of no sleep, I quickly tried to understand the situation and see if there are alternatives... turns out there is... for $8 USD, I could buy this sticker!! $8 for 2 hours of solid sleep, sooo worth it.

Easily the best sleep in the last 48 hrs!

Taxi ride was nice.. my gr 10 Spanish was money here.. conversed / talked in ultra broken spanish.. n learned lil bits of stuff along the way.. about an hour in, passed out .. but reaching there safe n sound..