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Posted on 2009.06.26 at 09:32

i haven't posted in LJ in about a year, and the last entry was probably about a year before that.

but MICHAEL JACKSON HAS DIED???? i can think of no greater pop icon of my childhood and formative years than michael jackson.

.When I was in pre-school at the Southwest Cooperative Nursery School, one of my most vivid memories was all of the boys practicing their moonwalks. Pre-school! That was age 3!

.At the tender age of 4, when I had no concept of pop music, or really any music that was not being played off a Suzuki tape or 91.5 WXXI or church, I was fully aware of Michael Jackson, and created had my own favorite song, "Michael Jackson Gloves." My parents kept an iron fist on the amount of pop culture (none) that seeped into our sheltered little minds and yet..."Michael Jackson Gloves."

.My mom's best friend from uni was a missionary in Egypt. She and her family (including my first bona fide love interest, her son Michael Smith) came to visit us in 1988. The eldest daughter of the family was named Diana, and the whole week they stayed with us, my sister and I insisted on calling her 'Dirty Diana.' Again, minimal awareness of pop culture, yet Michael Jackson is there again. Dirty Diana did like me very much.

.Alayna Banks had her 11th birthday party on November 14, 1991. I remember this seemingly random date so clearly because it was the day that the video for 'Black or White' was to be debutted on MTV, every hour on the hour for 24 hours. This was a treat for me primarily because my family did not have MTV (or even basic cable, for that matter, nor were we really allowed to even watch the 5 channels we did have), but also because I was obsessed with Michael Jackson. We stayed up all night just to watch this amazing video over and over again.

.Fast forward nearly 20 years to every party in Hong Kong, where the highlight of the night is usually when Bernie breaks out into his Billie Jean routine.

When I found out about his death this morning I was stunned. I actually cried. Over the last years of his life I felt a great pity for him, to be so.... weird.... and constantly in the public eye. I hope he has peace now. RIP, Michael Jackson, you are indeed a legend!

American I.... oh well

Posted on 2008.04.03 at 09:04
So I think I've officially hit that point in American Idol where I 1. am too busy and 2. don't care anymore. I didn't watch the last two weeks, and well... meh.

Final picks:
David Cook
Jason Castro

I don't care about any of the other ones, even though I feel secretly obligated to like Ramiele because she's Asian. Pft.

Coming home, as written from the plane

Posted on 2007.09.12 at 17:05
Current Music: Chaconne from Partita in D minor-The Eroica Trio-Baroque
Thursday, August 30, 2007; Somewhere in the air over Wuhan, China

So much has happened over the past two weeks, I can scarcely begin to relate. And sadly I am now in that weightless, reality-less, time-less, memory-less limbo of air travel, where nothing matters but the book you are reading, the movie on the screen in front of you, whether or not the toilet is free, chicken or beef. The world could be ending, the world is PROBABLY ending thousands of meters below, but the 100 some odd passengers of this 747 are innocuously oblivious to anything but themselves. Being enclosed in an airplane forcibly removes you from everything else. All responsibility, pleasure, thoughts of the holiday already receding from memory, and the work on the desk tomorrow encase the aircraft like the clouds, but cannot come in, as they simply do not matter. Toby Mcguire matters; Shrek matters; English breakfast or Dim Sum matter. I love flying and yet I hate it. I love the forced cut with reality, and I hate the sense of doom that always settles over me as I begin to deal with what has happened and what is to come. I do not want to go back to Hong Kong; I do not want to work; I do not want to answer client emails; I do not want to go to Park-n-Shop to purchase my mundane toothpaste, tampons, vegetables and eggs. I do not want to see friends and gush about how lovely Croatia was, because they will never understand the magic without having been there, and do I want to share that intense beauty with anyone anyway?
This was magic, absolute magic. Going from the painful stark beauty of the Swiss Alps to the gloomy London humdrum was like culture shock. And leaving that oppressive grayness for the centuries-old marble of Croatia was like being reborn into a world of ancient wonder and enchantment. My heart aches at the thought of replacing these sounds and images in my mind with the clatter of voices and silverware and cars and "wow that trip must've been awesome!" and every pitch and tone and rhythm that accompany the numbing crush of daily life. I have touched a glacier with my body- how can my hands now operate a remote control? I have hiked deserted mountain trails in the shadow of the Matterhorn, how can I now slip into high heels and walk the concrete jungle? I have heard the sound of the Earth sighing and singing as the Adriatic plied the gentle tones of the Zadar organ, how can I now disgrace beauty with my own meager musical talent? I have stood within the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and leaned against its ancient rocks, how can I now perch behind a desk in a windowless room and compose form letters to clients? I have wandered and slept in a castle, how can I now dance in a club with a half full glass of gin and tonic in my hand? The beauty I have seen, the serenity I have experienced, the wonders I have heard, the delights I have tasted are so overwhelming in my mind they might break me, and so delicate they themselves might break. I do not want to share my stories; words might cheapen what I have done.

Two weeks later
But I am back now, and life has rebooted. I go to work, I teach songs, I microwave some dinner, I have drinks in Yumla. Life has rebooted. But it is all different now. I really yearn for the fresh air of the Alps, the clear water of the Adriatic, the freedom and pure joy of traveling unhindered. I have given brief overviews of what I did in California, what the snow was like in Switzerland, how I did not love London, and how amazing Croatia was, but nothing I can say or write or show can convey the amazing things I did and saw. I feel uncreative, unoriginal, unable to communicate. I cannot wait to do it again. I cannot wait to hand a travel agent my credit card again and feel that tiny catch in my breath as the astronomical airfare price registers on the digital screen before spitting out that powdery paper for my signature. I cannot wait to shove clothing, shoes, towels, toiletries, passport into my rucksack and hop on the Airport Express. I cannot wait to set foot in another new country and breathe its air, taste its food, swim in its sea, touch its trees... I love to travel. I love to travel for REAL. If this were a perfect world I think I would be a writer for Lonely Planet, and the most onerous element of my life would be a deadline.

Sigh. Who knows what and when my next trip will be... I was somewhat disappointed to discover that I do NOT have to leave Hong Kong for the renewal of my work visa- they just gave me a new sticker and updated my ID card. Not that I would be able to go anywhere more exciting than say Thailand for a long weekend, but still... I am taking suggestions for Jennifer's Next Journey, if you have any ideas! Currently on my list:

I'll be going to Bangkok for a wedding over New Years, but that will only be for a few days, and I've already been there. As I just typed Turkey I got a little Zing of excitement, so.... Istanbul here I come!

August, as seen from my new MacBook's PhotoBooth:

Croatia (watch out, this is massive, MASSIVE!!)

Posted on 2007.09.12 at 16:33
Current Music: Back to Black-Amy Winehouse-Back to Black
Ah Croatia!!!

Even typing the word makes my heart soar... this place was just.pure.magic. Nothing anyone ever told me could ever have prepared me for this glorious place! Actually, I had never really heard much about Croatia, other than the fact that it had been part of the Yugoslavian war 10 or so years back. I had a vague notion that I might be able to see some aftereffects of war, and I had sort of heard that the beaches were nice and tourism cheap. I am so glad I went in with those preconceived notions, as the reality of Croatia surpassed them by about a thousand percent!! Never before have I seen such gorgeous sea, smelled such clear air (except maybe in Switz), tasted such fresh food, touched such clean water. The people there could not have been kinder or more helpful, and everything we did was simply, breathtakingly, outrageously... perfect.

For reference:

In chronological order of events:

Tuesday, 21 August
We were actually supposed to fly into Zadar, but by great fortune, that did not work out and we went instead to Pula, in Istria, the northern part of Croatia. We had no idea what to expect, no plan for transportation, and no accommodation. This was *ahem* particularly stressful for me, as I am a Planner and an Organizer. I like things Arranged In Advance, and we had literally nothing but credit cards, a few thousand kuna, and a Lonely Planet guide. (For the record, there is no better way to travel than this! I will go into further detail later.) So we rented ourselves a little Punto (oooh driving manual for the first time in over a year! so fun!), drove to what looked like promising accommodation a little east of the city center, and sort of crossed our fingers. There were no rooms available at the hostel, so we hopped on their computer and randomly booked ourselves into Hotel Riviera, two blocks away from the 1st century Roman amphitheatre in the middle of Pula. Wait, what? 1st century Roman amphitheatre? How did we not know about this? We went to drop our bags at the hotel and were delighted to find that this was no ordinary accommodation, it was a 19th century grand hotel, that just happened to be super cheap! The building was not pristine, maybe even a little ramshackle- carpets threadbare in places, worn curtains, unused cordoned off wings, but oh my goodness was it ever grand! It had a cafe with a giant sea-facing terrace, and what was undoubtably a grand ballroom, but now hosted breakfasts. The ceilings must have reached 5-6 meters EASILY, and the rooms all sported dark wood, crown moulding, stone window sills, and wacky waist-level doorknobs. The staircase was MASSIVE- five storeys of winding heavy wooden bannister and wide, shallow steps. Dramatically draped with dark carpeting, it was exactly the kind of stairs one would walk down in a very fine ball gown.

We walked from the hotel to the Arena- oh my goodness. There was a gentle mist coming down, but it was a fresh feeling drizzle, not a depressing rain like London. The amphitheatre shone fresh with the fading light reflecting off the ancient stones, giving it the most mythological feel. We were allowed to walk anywhere, touch anything, climb any wall in the arena, yet it was remarkably well preserved- in fact, the Pula Arena is supposedly the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in existence! Either way, it was beautiful to walk around this ancient piece of architecture and know that people strolled around in there 2000 years ago wearing togas, that gladiators fought lions and tigers and each other with tridents and nets and swords, that in that arena rulers determined the fate of men with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

The Arena:

After the Arena closed we wandered into the piazza to find quick dinner, but what we actually found was perfect wine, delicious seafood, fellow Hong Kongers, and the ancient Temple of Augustus! First, the wine. For 70kuna (100hkd, 12usd) we got a liter of the purest, most delicious white wine I've had. 100 honky and no hangover whatsoever! The dinner was out of sight- octopus, squid and fish fresh from the sea with bread soaked in silky olive oil. I've never had such fresh and pure food as I did in Croatia! Either way, as we were eating and drinking this beautiful food and wine our ears pricked up as we heard the distinctive sounds of Cantonese! We went over and struck up a conversation with Dorothy and Sicko (hehe), who were just finishing up their Croatian experience as we were starting ours. In the piazza outside our terrace restaurant was the Temple. The Temple of Augustus was built between 2BC-14AD!!! I stood on the steps of something that was around before Christ! Unbelievable.

The Temple of Augustus:

Wednesday, 22 August
It was honestly just a stroke of extraordinary luck that we ended up in Istria in the first place. If we had not, we would not have been able to see the mummies. Wait, what? Yes, mummies! In the quiet 4,000 person town of Vodnjan, which hails back to a whopping 932AD, the unpreserved and miraculously undecomposed bodies of 6 saints lie in the Cathedral St. Blaz, along with a small museum of other religious artifacts. The museum was totally bizarre- almost entirely comprised of various salvaged body parts (bones, teeth, hair, the undecomposed tongue of St. Mary of Egypt) of a hundred some-odd other saints, housed in small glass vessels. The mummies were in a separate room- lying in what resembled museum display cases, but were more like Snow White's glass bed. Five out of the six bodies were completely intact, but since they were hundreds of years old, the skin had darkened. They looked like sleeping movie zombies. (why is it that all zombie movies assume that bodies do not decompose after death? i mean come on now, MOST normal bodies do not stay intact after we die! tss.) This whole display was, surprisingly, un-macabre. In fact, I found the church and relics to be quietly reverent, fascinating, and peaceful. Ok I lied- the tongue in a jar? FREAKY. The room full of bones in jars? BIZARRE. But the mummies? Not gross, not creepy, not scary at all.
We actually got kicked out of the Cathedral because a funeral was meant to take place, so we spent some time wandering around the sleepy town. The cobblestone streets were wide enough to fit either 1.5 European cars or .75 of an American car. The buildings were all made of stone and appeared to have survived the centuries untouched, and townspeople were leaning out the windows, carrying on conversations with their passing neighbors. The atmosphere of the whole town was quiet, but friendly; old, but very warm. With twists and turns and hidden courtyards around every corner, one could easily lost in Vodnjan, but it would be an altogether pleasant experience!


After we'd had our fill of mummies and cathedrals, we headed north to Rovinj for the evening. At first blush it did not seem to be anything too spectacular, but then we saw Old Town. Crikey. It had just stopped raining, and the marble streets glistened like crystals in the dwindling light. We strolled around the town, eyes wide in amazement; it was not unlike Vodnjan with its tiny narrow streets and stone facades, but it was much bigger, buildings higher. The passing rain lended a mystical quality to the place; it felt as if magic hung in the air. People spoke in more hushed tones, as though not to disturb whatever sleeping wizard held the city under his enchanting spell; light spilling from gas lamps bounced off raindrops that clung to walls, pipes, chairs, windows, people, matching the shimmering excitement in the air. This town... this town was magic. I can still hardly believe that people actually live there, that they have jobs and televisions and drive cars and talk on mobile phones. It seemed to me that we should feel grossly out of place in modern dress and mannerisms, and if a donkey pulled a hay-laden cart down the rugged stone ground I would not have been at all surprised. I did not want to leave this place.


Thursday, 23 August:
We set out of Istria in a flurry of rain and wind. It had the potential to be quite a gloomy trip, but when we arrived in Opatija we were greated with sunshine and a glorious full rainbow! We did not quite know what was so special about Opatija, we just had a vague notion that there were some nice historic buildings there, and that many famous people used to holiday there. We were in for quite a surprise, as the town was actually the old stomping grounds of the 19th centruy Austro-Hungarian elite, including royalty, celebrities, musicians and that ilk. The buildings were all brightly colored, balconied, adorned with carved mouldings, and sported statues leaping out of the bannisters. (I'm not doing a very good job of describing this, and I'm not an architect, so I don't actually know what I'm talking about.) The houses were all so grand and opulant, but nothing seemed overdone or too extravagent.

Opatija Mansion:

One of the more remarkable features of Opatija was the concrete beach. Most of Croatia's coast is quite rocky, so there is very little sand to lay out on. Opatija's concrete beaches are perfect for fashionistas who like to wear high heels with bathing suits- not that I KNOW anyone like that or anything.......... Since the "beaches" were just slabs of concrete steps leading down into the sea (much cooler looking than they sound), when the waves hit the walls the water would fly up into the air with a resounding clap, much to the delight of all the children gathered at the edge.
Concrete Beaches:

Across the wide inlet was Rijeka, an industrial city. What a bizarre moment it was to be sprawled in a lounge chair on a concrete beach with a rainbow of 19th century mansions behind me, and a crazy futuristic smoke-stack filled gray Brasil-esque city across the water in front of me!


Friday, 24 August:
After concrete beaching we drove south to Zadar. We pulled into town at dusk with no plan of where to stay, and were uneasy to be greeted by what appeared to be a pseudo-slummy ghetto. I must admit my blood pressure was a bit high with the realization that I might be spending the night in the Punto. As we were driving through the rough-ish looking town a man approached our car with a sign advertising "Sobe," or room to rent. We had read in the Lonely Planet guide that this was kind of how things were done, but it still seemed a bit too sketchy for us. We rolled up into what looked like some sort of booking agency, which turned out to be booking for campsites, but the woman was so helpful and put us in touch with her best friend's mother, who had an apartment to rent. It turned out to be huge- could have easily slept up to 5 people comfortably- with a full kitchen and a balcony! With the balcony door was open we could smell the sea air whipping around, we could hear the cry of birds, we could feel the Adriatic freshness seeping into our pores. The apartment was in Borik, just outside the Old City of Zadar. This is apparently a community almost entirely comprised of vacation sobes; a tourist settlement.
We set out on an unsuccessful quest to find some random restaurant, ended up walking for what seemed like hours, and fortuitously ended up at a place called Stormatija, tucked into a hidden alley, surrounded by the towering stone walls of ancient buildings, floored in uneaven cobblestones. It was perfect. Zadar's Old City is a peninsula connected to the mainland by a low footbridge that is not unlike the Millenium Bridge in London. Walking into Old Town we quickly realized that what we had seen before was not at all indicative of what Zadar was actually about; white marble streets, grand stone gates, city walls thick enough to drive a car on, full of life and magic. Every restaurant and bar has a terrace; it seems the main goal in food and drink consumption is not to fill your belly, (although the food and drink in Croatia are the best I’ve had anywhere in the world) but rather to be around other people, be invigorated by the fresh air, and become part of the old stones of the city. I wish Hong Kong had more of that…

Saturday, 25 August:
Saturday we hopped on a ferry to the nearby island of Dugi Otok. Once there we hopped on a stinky, rickety bus for the port of Bozana, on the opposite side of the island. The village of Bozana is kind of like an extremely old version of Shek O, but much much nicer. The houses were crowded onto a steep hill of cobblestone; they all seemed to be tumbling down into the water. Everything was made from stone, all windows were open, and there were cats lounging in the sun everywhere. Yards were filled with wild olive trees and flowers. When we reached the harbour we were greeted by the coldest, cleanest, most crystal clear water I have ever encountered! It was salty, but I felt like I was bathing in pure liquid sunlight. This is the kind of water that people come to for healing, and indeed I could feel myself getting healthier with each moment I spent in it! Mazen aptly pointed out that these were the waters that spawned the ancient civilizations; Phoenicia, Greece, Rome etc. are all situated on the Aegean/Adriatic/Mediterranean seas. The thing is, we were not swimming at a beach or in the open sea; we were actually just in a harbour. Can you imagine swimming in Victoria Harbour??? You’d come out with an extra arm! This was the cleanest water I’ve ever encountered in my life; we could clearly see our own shadows on the sea floor 6 or 7 meters below us! It was with great reluctance that we left.


On the ferry from Brbinj back to Zadar we sailed through a breathtaking sunset that set the whole sea and land on fire. Magic. When we arrived back to Zadar, salty and refreshed, we took in a bit of the magical city, seeing the sights from atop the bell tower, poking around in the markets. As we searched for a place to have dinner I kept hearing an odd noise, which vaguely resembled the bass sounds of a far-off club. Just outside the city walls, perched atop the Adriatic waves is the Zadar Sea Organ, the best part of my whole month of traveling. The Zadar Sea Organ is the only one in existence. Vented marble steps leading down to the sea cover hundreds of pipes, which lead down to the water. Whereas traditional pipe organs involve pressing keys to push air through the pipes to create sound, the Sea Organ uses the natural force of the water to push the air. The pitch and volume are dependent on the strength of the waves and force of the wind. The resulting sound is an eerie, airy, ethereal tuneless melody, wafting through the night. I have a very difficult time describing this experience; it was not of this world. What was most moving about it was not necessarily the beauty of the sound (and it was indeed beautiful), but the fact that each sequence was totally unique; this was truly the music of the Earth. This was the sound of the wind and the sea, the sound of nature’s music. Unbelievable. I really do not have the words to describe how much it moved me, all I can say is that you need to go there and hear it for yourself. It will change you.
We tore ourselves away from the Sea Organ after what seemed like a lifetime, and found ourselves in the most charming little restaurant; the entrance was set into the thick stone wall of the old city, and the terrace was behind in the open air, again surrounded by soaring walls and rock. I will reiterate that we were originally supposed to fly into Zadar, but I think it was truly providential that this amazing city was saved for the end of the trip!

Moonrise over Zadar Sea Organ:

Sunday, 26 August:
Sunday we drove inland to Krka National Park. We had read that there were some nice waterfalls and lakes there, and we had, for the most part, been sticking only to the coast til that point. We drove in and set out for Skradinski Buk, the lowest of a series of 7 “travertine barriers,” (I think this means waterfall… sets… or something?). Skridinski Buk covers a length of 800 meters, and the most stunning bit was the bottom, where the Krka and Cikola Rivers combine in a huge mouth of waterfalls spilling into a swimmable mini-lake. Again, this water was crystal clear, but this was fresh water. It was so clean and clear you could drink from it and feel healthy and refreshed- which I did! It was full of giant rocks, which were sometimes necessary to stand on in order to not get swept by the current, but the area was completely safe and very friendly. This was absolutely a beautiful swimming and sunning day; not a cloud in the sky, beautiful water, perfect temperature.

Skradinski Buk:

After this we made our way north through the park to see Roski Slap, another series of waterfalls in the upper portion. By the way, it would take days to see the whole park; I wish we had had more time, because it was so gorgeous! Anyhow, we drove through a few little villages perched on the side of the mountain. And when I say little, I mean like… 15 houses max. One of the villages is said to be the smallest in Europe, with roughly 10 permanent residents. There were handfuls of townspeople sitting outside houses, chatting, playing cards, doing all the things townspeople from a movie might do, and they all turned around to watch as we drove by. Overcome by the beauty and quaintness of the situation, we couldn’t help but grin and wave at everyone we passed. They all smiled and waved back. We arrived at Roski Slap to find a massive smooth lake with distant high waterfalls. We were a little disappointed, as Skradinski Buk had been so breathtaking and spectacular, but soon realized how peaceful and beautiful Roski Slap indeed was.
After this we drove further down the coast to Split. We arrived late- around 9:30, and again, had no accommodation arranged. And again, the city, at first blush, appeared to be G-H-E-T-T-O. We found the Hotel Bellevue, which was a cool old (albeit worn) building on what we later discovered to be the outside of the old city walls, and were dismayed to find that they cost 800 kuna (about 950 honkey) per night. Now this is a totally reasonable sum for a hotel, but we were used to paying about half that amount, and did not feel like splurging. Luckily, the manager had a friend who had a sobe to let, so we took that. Villa Franny. Super super sketchy!!!! This was well outside town, but not terribly so, and in a somewhat rough looking neighborhood. The sobe was a whole apartment, and quite large, but bizarrely decorated- ala creepy old religious woman down the street with candles, lace doilies, dusty iconography, etc. The locked and bolted extra room only contributed to the creepy air, and we were none too pleased to vacate this place the next day!

Roski Slap:

Monday, 27 August:
We had been told by many friends to go to Hvar Otok, Pag Otok, and a multitude of other islands for the best Dalmatian Island experience. However, being stubborn and independent as I am, I wanted to be different and create unique memories. So we hopped aboard a ferry with all of our stuff for Brac Otok. We arrived in Supetar and were immediately approached by a man advertising a sobe, which we followed him to. By the time we got there (carrying the bags) we were so hot and sweaty we did not even care what the place looked like; we agreed upon it on the spot. Fortunately, it was completely adorable; about 800 years old, stone, small, and comfortable. Then we set out on our newly rented scooter for the town of Bola and its famous beach Zlatni Rat! I had never been on a scooter before; this was SO FUN!! We couldn’t go very fast, but what a thrill it was to scoot over these little windy island roads with mountain on one side and cliffs plunging down to the sea on the other, wind in our faces, sun beating on our bare shoulders and arms.
Zlatni Rat is the most famous beach in Croatia. Like most beaches in the country, it is made of rocks, not sand, but this one extends like a finger out into the sea, its tip only a few meters across. Because of its composition and width, the tip of the beach actually changes the direction it points with the tides! So in the morning it might be pointing East, but in the evening it will curve West. Crazy! Either way, the rocks were perfectly smooth and so comfortable to lie on; we didn’t even need to hire beach chairs, because the rocks themselves were so nice. Again, beautiful clear azure water, so clear we could see little fish swimming around our legs. Observation: every woman wore either a bikini or went topless, and most men wore speedos. We were probably the most covered up people on the beach, despite me sporting my smallest bathing suit imaginable. Skinny, fat, young, old, wrinkly, modelerific, tan, white, whatever. Smallest.bathingsuits.ever. either way, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset scooter ride back to Supetar, where we wandered around the town for the rest of the night. At one point we came upon a small crowd peering into a boat harboured just at the sea wall. As it turns out, they were cooking their catch of the day right on the boat! We got a plate of fresh fresh fresh from the sea calamari, and I’d have to say it was the best squid I’ve had.

Zlatni Rat:

View of Adriatic from Bol, 20 meters up:

Tuesday, 28 August:
The sadness began to set in this day. This is the melancholy that can only accompany the feelings of the most intense joy, because with them comes the horrible knowledge that things are coming to a close, and it’s time to go back to reality soon. After another beautiful day in gorgeous Zlatni Rat, we hopped aboard the ferry again and headed back to Split. Upon stepping off the boat we were greeted by one of the most colorful characters we met in Croatia, Queen Malena. She was advertising a sobe in the palace- how could we not look!? As it turns out, this was to be the best of all of our accommodations for the trip. Our room was located in one of the buildings inside Diocletian’s palace in the old city. By the way, we were wrong again. Split was in NO WAY at all a ghetto! In fact, it turned out to be the best of the many cities we visited. After settling into our PALACE ROOM we headed out for our *sniff sniff* last night in Croatia. We could hear piano music playing as we walked out of our PALACE ROOM, so we followed it to a beautiful piazza, surrounded by towering pillars, ruins, and ancient stone buildings. There was a sunken courtyard called the Peristyle with people sitting on its steps, listening to a man playing Schubert on a tiny old piano. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. As it turns out, the café where he was playing owns the courtyard space; its patrons sit on the provided cushions and sip teensy cups of espresso and beautiful wine while listening to live classical music, surrounded by the remains of Diocletian’s 1st century abode. We stayed here for a bit, and then explored the ancient city.

Peristyle courtyard:

Again, the streets were made of white marble, but these were much cleaner than the other cities. The buildings within the palace were very close together, with supporting arches leaning over the streets from wall to wall. Pockets of noise revealed small restaurant terraces and beer gardens, ice cream shops and buskers. We stopped by the towering statue of Gregory of Nin, and rubbed the toe for good luck (the whole statue is black except the big toe, which is goldish from all the people rubbing it). We strolled through the former sleeping and personal chambers of Emperor Diocletian. We climbed on the outside remains of the Golden Gate (there are four city gates; Gold, Silver, Bronze, and and Copper, I believe). We ate in a restaurant housed in what could only be described as the ruins of the house of a very very wealthy nobleman. Half the restaurant was indoors, half outdoors, not because they had put in a terrace, but because the stone roof had decades ago crumbled away. There was a meters-deep cistern, adorned with a grate full of flowers and candles. The ancient stone floor had been walked smooth after centuries of inhabitants and patrons wore it into submission. It was just a pizza place, but it could have been Narnia. It seemed bizarre and almost sacreligious to be eating something so profane as pizza in such splendour, but it was the end of our trip and quite frankly, we were poor.

Gregorius of Nin:

Wednesday, 29 August:
What a sad day indeed. It was with great solemnity that we bid farewell to Croatia and landed yet again in dismal gray London. And then after a few hours layover at a random pub on the greenish-brown Thames, a Heathrow scare, and a 2.5 hour delay, I boarded my flight back to Hong Kong. I thought I was going to be very sad getting off the plane; I had shed a few quiet tears looking over my Croatia pictures on the flight, but as I walked down the skyway and saw the hazy South China Sea sunset, I was filled with excitement and joy—I AM HOME!!!

Wednesday, 12 September:
So to sum it all up... this was a life changing experience, Croatia. I would say that it was a Once In A Lifetime experience as well, but I know this is not true. I know that I was bitten with the travel bug years ago, and this will certainly not be the last of my trips. This solidified in my mind what kind of traveler I truly am. You can keep your hotels and resorts and spa getaways, keep your private beaches and pedicures, keep the massages and fancy restaurants with expensive cocktails, I want to be uncertain. I want to show up somewhere and figure out where to stay on the spot. I want to see real people, I want to eat at local tuck shops. Keep your room service and televisions! Strap a rucksack on my back and I'll be happy as pigs in mud!
I was trying to think of the best place, the best experience (other than the Sea Organ), the best meal, a picture to best exemplify the wonder and beauty of this trip, but i could not. This country was just pure magic, pure beauty, pure history, pure enjoyment. I cannot wait to go back!

You can find my full Croatia photoset here.


Posted on 2007.09.04 at 16:13
I do not have much to say about London. Basically, it was rainy, dreary, and gray the whole time I was there. Jeroen and I explored the city a bit (he only just moved there a few weeks ago himself), and saw some of the necessary sights-- St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Parliament, Big Ben, Millenium Bridge, Piccadilly Square... all were standard and unremarkable, in my opinion. This opinion was undoubtably dampened by the rain and clouds, but nonetheless, London.... meh.

I think I know the reason for my complacency. EVERYBODY goes to London. Everyone says you HAVE to go to London, and so much emphasis is placed on the city as a cultural mainstay blah blah blah, but has this made it lose its novelty? The city is old, but not mysterious. It has character, but the character is quiet and subtle, and probably requires more than four days to find. Perhaps I am biased by the number of British people I know, jaded by the scores of stuffy Brits who hang out outside Stormies in LKF, turned off by the myriad bland and blase Brit bankers I encounter. It is not exciting or keenly interesting for me to go to a foreign country and hear English, albeit in many different accents. It is not exciting or keenly interesting for me to go to a city where people do not seem to care about their historic surroundings- everything and everyone seemed so bleak and depressing! There was no buzz of excitment, no hum of intensity. I think I find more excitement in more obscure places like Croatia or Hong Kong (yes, Hong Kong is somewhat obscure. When I first moved people were asking me if there was electricity here or if I would be persecuted because I was a Christian), perhaps because I feel like I have a tiny bit of ownership of them. I did not feel as though I "owned" anything of London- I felt more like I was walking through... I don't know. Something tired and worn out.

This is not to say that I hated London- on the contrary! I had a great time with Jeroen, wandering about and talking, seeing the sights together. I think London might be a 'together' place, where it's better to discover it with someone else, as opposed to forging it on your own, like Switzerland was. One thing I will say for London is that it has the most amazing diversity! I thought Hong Kong was a melting pot, but London! London had people from every country imaginable, and tons of them! This I did actually find exciting and interesting. I'm used to seeing heaps of Asians, but in London I saw heaps of everyone. This was nice, but also strange as they were all speaking English.

Some Londony observations:
-girls dress trampy for no reason. all the time.
-it's dirty
-huge! so huge!
-Tate museum is completely awesome
-about 65 different kinds of British accents

And because I am not inspired to write any more about this place, some pictures:

Ribs of the Millenium Bridge:

What it looked like the whole time:

The Tube:

Some cool buildings/bridges (I somehow cannot get this picture straight no matter what I do. I think the buildings themselves are crooked):


Posted on 2007.09.04 at 13:55
Sunday, 12 Aug-Monday, 13 Aug, San Francisco-London
The child sitting next to me on this 10 hour plane ride has the SHRILLEST.VOICE.EVER. She's Danish, not that that matters at all, but goodness. I really dislike the combination of me + children + airplanes.

Tuesday, 14 Aug, London

Well. I think it is safe to say that Hong Kong really brings out the best in me- the smart, ambitious, reliable, responsible, intelligent Jennifer. And the rest of the world brings out the moron floozey in me! First of all, to back up to California, I got lost walking to the train station 1/4 mile from Emily's house. Second of all, I am in London. London as in... not on a train from Geneva to Zermatt, as I am supposed to be at this very moment. Why, you might ask, am I in London and not on a train from Geneva to Zermatt, as I am supposed to be at this very moment? Oh that's right, because I missed my flight to Geneva!! Why, you might ask, did I miss my flight to Geneva? Was my incoming flight delayed? Did I get lost on the way to Stansted airport? Was my luggage lost? No, in fact, I was sitting in Stansted airport hours before my flight departed. I'm just a moron and was looking at the wrong time on my plane ticket! HAHAHAH I was looking at my Geneva-London time! I'm retarded. HAHAHAH I can't stop laughing about this... Anyway, my flight was due to leave Stansted at 18:45. Flight began checkin around... 16:45. I was at the airport around..... 14:00. Duuur. I was basically just taking a nap/reading/watching people/having lunch when all of a sudden I realized that 18:45 meant 6:45 and I had no idea what time it was, but boy was it getting dark out! As it turns out, it was 6:20 at the time, and my flight had already gone on to the runway. Jennifer is a smart girl. Luckily Jeroen was good enough to let me crash at his place on short notice. So now I find myself sitting in his office at the International Architectural Association trying to be awake, when my body is telling me I very much need to sleep. I am booked on the 18:45 flight to Geneva this evening, and the hotels I booked in Geneva and Zermatt were kind enough not to penalize me for changing my booking at the last minute.

23:31, Tuesday, 14 Aug, Geneva

Most.comfortable.bed.ever. If anyone needs to stay at a super cheap hostel in Geneva, Switzerland, might I recommend the City Hostel Geneva, 2 rue Ferrier? This bed is like a little slice of heaven. Then again I have spent the majority of the last 48 hours either in a small and marginally reclining airplane seat or a hard plastic airport seat or perched atop my rucksack(btw thank you, emilymr, this was an absolute GODSEND!!! I will never travel with a suitcase again!), so perhaps right now a small patch of grass would seem a suitable bed. Either way, I am extremely happy, and feeling slightly guilty, as I am supposed to be out with Mark Stansbury celebrating his last night in Switzerland, but I'm just too darn tired and disgusting from the airplane/ports. The only things that could possibly make this place any better would be 1. if I had a Swiss outlet converter, 2. slightly easier to pirate open wireless networks in the area, 3. larger towels.

Tomorrow I hop on the train to lovely Zermatt, where I will spend the next four three days frolicking in the mountains, reading my book, and being solitarily blissful. Highlights of today include: speaking French to my taxi driver, speaking Chinese to the guy who works at the front desk here. Actually, I didn't speak Chinese to him at all, but he's from China and we chatted about Hong Kong for a bit. But that did not quite flow with the highlight sentence. Another highlight is to lay here on the comfy comfy bed with the windows open, and hear people passing by speaking French! It's a shame I'm not spending more time here... And I also just realized that Zermatt is in the Deutsh-y part of Switzerland, and the only thing I can spreken in Deutsch is "ich mochte sern een wienerschnitzel mit pommes und salat, bitte." Hopefully people will speak English or French, which I am sure they will.

2:02, Wednesday, 15 Aug, Geneva

I went out with Mark after all-- so great and random to meet up with old friends in random parts of the world! Niels, Michael and Kully in San Francisco, Mark here, Jeroen/Jo/Kat in London, Mazen in Croatia... I just feel like the whole Earth has been opened up to me, that there is just.... so much out there. Good times tonight, and I'm really looking forward to the train ride to Zermatt tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 August, Zermatt

Dang. I had heard Switzerland was beautiful, but dang. I haven't even got the words to describe the unbelievable beauty of Switzerland... the very word beautiful is so common it's almost insulting to use it in reference to this place. First of all, the train from Geneva to Zermatt was one of the most magical and enchanting experiences of my life. It was like riding the Hogwarts train, only without Harry Potter, and no magic candy. (pause to crack every joint in my body) There were times that the route was so steep we must have been going no more than 10mph, but this was perfect, as the train was surrounded by soaring mountains, icy glacier streams, cyprus and pine trees, and too many flowers to take in. It seemed like green was simply exploding out of the Alps, and I was almost overwhelmed by what I saw. I was almost sad when I arrived in Zermatt, because this meant my amazing train ride was over

Zermatt is a tiny little mountain village- mostly touristy, but completely adorable. There are no outside cars allowed, so the transportation consists of little golf carts and golf cart buses and golf cart mini-vans. And bicycles. And feet. I am staying Hotel Garni Cima, a teeny little chalet-thing that is absolutely perfect. My room is small, but comfy, and I have a little balcony from which I have a great view of the awesome awesome Matterhorn. I arrived around 4pm, and as soon as I had gotten myself settled in I set out for a hike. I walked east of Zermatt, following the river, which I believe is called Mattervispa. I saw delightful old cottages that looked as if they had been erected by and for dwarves about 600 years ago. The trail(s) I followed were actually pretty challenging- better than I had expected from a 3 hour hike. Once finished and sufficiently sweat-drenched, I had a quick dinner of goat sausage and rosti at some little tourist trap expensive place (btw I'm sitting on the balcony in the sun right now, and my black keyboard is practically scorching my fingers! It's great.) with strange Swiss beer. I was passed out asleep by 8:30.

Today I woke at the crack of dawn, ready for some snowboard action!! I made my way to Furi, where I took the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise express gondola up the mountain. The views!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing. I have to admit as we climbed higher and higher I began to get a little nervous- this is most definitely the highest up I have ever been- and the sheer magnificence of the mountains around me were daunting. These rocks are severe and huge and terrifying and old and violent. And so beautiful. I have never seen anything so mighty and magnificent- for a split second I wanted to hurl myself out of the gondola into the rock face and become part of it- strong, looming, terrific. The gondola ride ended at Gletscher Palast, at 3883 meters. Being that high, above the clouds, above the birds, above the Alps is like being in Heaven. In fact, if I were to design Heaven, it would look exactly as I saw Switzerland and Italy today. Hundreds of other sharp craggy mountain peaks- Breithorn, Liskamm, Monte Rosa, Dufourspitze, and of course- the Matterhorn. Oh the Matterhorn... words fail me again. It looks like the shoulder of God careening out of the earth, sharp and commanding, with such terrifying violence and movement. Its summit towers high above all the others, and even they in their magnificent splendour are nothing compared to it. I got the sense that all of these mountains were not still, but like enormous giants rising and pushing out of the earth. Absolutely.Amazing.

Upon leaving the gondola station at the peak I was hit with such a force of wind that at times I could not even walk. Using my snowboard as a windshield proved to be both helpful and harmful. I wasn't so cold, but the wind slammed into its flat surface and pushed me along like a sailboat. Some Italian guy actually reached out and grabbed my hand and pulled me behind him so that I could actually walk forwards. I strapped myself in and began my descent into sheer whiteness. The wind was incredible, and the air was thick with fog/snow. It has been nearly 2 years since I did any serious boarding, so to say I was nervous and cautious would be a gross understatement! I prayed desperately that I would not fall, that I wouldn't lose the piste, that I would be able to see the ground in front of me soon. The trail opened up into a huge steep bowl, where the violent wind thankfully disappeared. I took my first run cautiously- it was nearly impossible to see variations in the slope, and I could barely tell the difference between trail and ice and crevice and rock. Wowza what a thrill!! When I rode the t-bar back up the hill the sleet and hail began. I had no hat, no goggles (I had been under the impression that this was going to be easy warm-weather skiing. I was wrong.), just my big pashimina wrapped around my head and a pair of $18 aviators I got at the Temple Street Market. The arm I used to shield myself from the pounding ice was soaked almost instantly. The ice ceased by the time I reached the top, so I thought nothing of it and this time TORE down the mountain like there was a monster chasing me. It felt.so.good. The second t-bar ride was not as pleasing as the first, as this time the hail and sleet recommenced, and got stronger and stronger the higher up I went. I had also somehow broken the aviators, so I didn't even have them to shield my eyes. By the time I reached the top my jacket was soaked, pashimina useless, and water dripping from my eyelashes. For some reason I thought this all was absolutely fantastic, and proceded to tear down the bowl again, but this time I crossed over to what I thought was a different t-bar line.

Again, I was mistaken. The trail disappeared into a fury of flying snow and ice, and I kept my eyes squinting on the skiing figure in front of me, and wondered why it was taking so long to get to the lift line.

It took so long because I had actually mistakenly entered Italy!

How's that for a wrong turn! As it turned out, I somehow got myself onto a Cervinia trail and ended up on Plateau Rosa Testa Grigia. Incidentally, all the snow and hail and ice and wind were not, in fact, typical conditions for 3883 meter summer skiing, they were, in fact, a giant thunderstorm that closed up all the lifts and slopes, stranding me... in Italy. HAHAHA this is even better than missing the plane to Geneva because I was having a coffee and a brain-fart!! So anyway, I asked some ski instructors what to do, as I needed to get back to... Switzerland. They informed me of the mountain closing (how is it that I was the only one stranded? No idea. Perhaps it had something to do with the people I saw re-entering the gondola at the peak an hour or so back... I just thought they weren't up for the challenge!), and invited me to come party with them in Cervinia. I reluctantly declined, but what a story that would be, eh!? Anyhow, it turns out the only way to get back to the gondola at this point was by pistenbully, so I had my first ride in a giant slope cat! Awesome. I rode the gondola back down with several weathered mountain-men, curious as to why this soaking wet snowboarder in a pistachio pashimina was accompanying them long after the slopes had closed. Again, amazing views- made me proud of my Moberg/Yama/San (all mean mountain) last names.

Upon arrival back in Zermatt I was dismayed to find that the incliment weather was not restricted to 3883 meters, but that it was raining down in town as well, with no ski-bus in sight. So I shouldered my board and walked myself the mile or so back to my hotel, where I arrived looking like I had just taken a fully clothed shower.

All of this was great, absolutely great. The mountains, the unbelievable glacier, the tempestuous storm, the Italian woopsie, the rainy walk home... absolutely wonderful. I would not change a second of it for anything. Now the sun is playing hide and seek with a giant cloud cover, alternately roasting and freezing me out here on my balcony. This may have been the most amazing day of my life to date, and it's only 2:20pm.

Oh another thing-- solo traveling! It's so great! I love love love it. Especially here, where I don't speak the language. I have had many conversations in which I speak a mottled conglomeration of English/French/German accented Dutch, and pretty much everyone (except the Italian guy who saved me from blowing off the mountain) has been able to understand me, and I them. I even had an extended conversation in my very special German accented Dutch with an elderly German-only woman who wanted to know if there was any visibility on the mountain. It was wunderbar : ) In a nutshell, I love Switzerland. Someday when I am shamefully rich I will buy a ski chalet somewhere here and spend gobs of time hiking and skiing and speaking a different language...



The Alps:

The Matterhorn:

After I wrote all of the preceding, the weather cleared and I went for another big hike. Over the course of those 4 hours I think I had a small epiphany- much like Ayn Rand's Dominique reveled in her selfish appreciation for Roark's amazing talent, I found myself getting lost in the sheer beauty of the Swiss Alps as I hiked the sub-Matterhorn trails. I found myself becoming almost resentful of the people that had trod the ground before me, envious of the first to touch the path. I found myself becoming angry at a water pipe that crossed the path, indignant with not only the workers that had initially laid it there, but also with the hands themselves that had formed the pipe from the metal, for this meant that they, too, had a part of the land I was seeing. At the moment, though, that my reflections on beauty were turning into reflections on selfishness, a deer actually stepped onto the trail in front of me, and for a fleeting moment held my gaze in hers, before dashing off through the brush. I think my foot actually stopped in mid air, and I couldn't even move my hands to discretely take my camera out of my bag. It was beautiful, and my indignation (sort of) washed away.

The following day I got up bright and early again, and went back up the mountain, with fingers crossed for better weather. I was not hopeful as the gondola rose through 3,000 meters of milk-soupy cloud, but just before the top we broke through into blinding sunlight and crystal clear azure sky. You've never seen a sky like this before... It is the kind of sky that only happens when the cleanest, brightest snow reflects the brightest, most brilliant sun. This was a day of blissful riding; iPod blaring, grinning ear to ear, sailing down at breakneck speeds. I saw the ski instructors from the previous day, and they invited me back to Italy- I sadly declined, as I had to leave for London later that day. This was possibly the best day of snowboarding I've had in my existence as a snowboarder- perfect sunny and warm weather (about 10c!), beautiful conditions (neither icy nor mushy, hard enough to fly, powdery enough to float), and great tunes pumping through my ears.

It was with great reluctance that I boarded my train back to Geneva, and subsequently my flight back to London, but oh what an experience those few days in Zermatt were! Every moment was pure joy. I think I'm in love with that country : )

Posted on 2003.06.20 at 13:24