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Thursday, August 25, 2016

CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2016: Day #17--Bangkok to Sydney

My dinner last night was, considering cost and creativity, perhaps my best on this trip thus far.  I noted that my free pre-dinner drinks and appetizers filled me up, so what about having Rossini's deliver my dinner here where the alcohol is free.  My first course included two large sections of foie gras :



Perfection.  Note the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and beer.  The next course was a Penne Bolognese:


Excellent.  Then veal with foie gras and truffles:


Heaven.  I got an overdose of foie gras, and the spinach was just right.  Then gorgonzola cheese (Picconte DOP Mountain), which was spectacular, with a barolo cheese and Port, followed by a cappuccino:


Yes, my best meal on this trip.  The total cost approached $75.

The chef of the night, Krit  "Toby" Prathuangsukh came by to say hi:


I woke up at 4:30AM to get to the airport in Bangkok,  First Class check-in for Thai Air is first class, as they meet you at the entrance and take your suitcase.  The lady greeting me knew my name.  Amazing.  Then they led me into a lounge into a cushy chair.  I passed on my passport, and two minutes later, my ticket and baggage tag came.

An escort walked me through customs/immigration, a cart drove me to the Royal Silk First Class Lounge, and I was led into a room of my own about as big as a hotel room with large TV and computer.  I might add, they also have a spa here.  A staffer came by with an iPad to take my order.  I remembered in the past eating too much here, that I just had a fish congee and sherry on rocks:


The first class section on the plane was only half filled:


I started with a Bloody Mary:


Here is the complete menu for the drinks and two servings:


Note that the Dom Perignon is ten years old.  So here are a few of my dishes:


Very few first class flights these days serve caviar, and this one did:


The truffles lasagna was spectacular:


One hour after landing in Sydney, I was in the Four Points Sheraton, which in three months will become a Hyatt.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2016: Day #16--What's Interesting in the Orient?



If you regularly read this blog site, you know that malaria parasites kill more humans than humans.  We murder at the rate of 475,00/year, with snakes next at 50,000/year.  Sharks?  Fewer than 10/year.

Female mosquitos kill 750,000 of us/year by transmitting a parasite when she sucks into you, where just one can lodge itself into your liver and quickly multiply 10,000 times.  Two weeks later...  Malaria was eliminated in the USA in 1951, but there are 1500 cases/year from travelers returning home.

While pharmaceutical firms are getting closer, there is as yet no vaccine to prevent malaria.  Basically, you need to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos.

So I read this commentary by Gwynne Dyer:


He has suffered from this disease, looked into the matter and came up with a simple solution that surely deserves some consideration.  He underscores that any prevention strategy is a whole lot better than curing the ailment.  Basically, he found out that where there are chickens there is a lower incidence of malaria.  No, it's not because chickens eat mosquitos.  So as we can't go around holding a chicken, what is the real answer?  It turns out that just the feathers sort of reduced the incidence of mosquito bites.  

Distilling the essence of chicken odor (isobutyl butyrate, naphthalene, hexadecane, etc...) and using this concoction as a preventative also helps.  While essence de poulet won't be on the market anytime soon, it is now being investigated by academics.

Switching to subject #2, did you know that the Philippines was Asia's fastest growing economy this year, with a 7% annual expansion from April-June?  In May, then-Davao City mayor, 71-year old Rodrigo Duterte, decisively won the Philippines presidential election.  He was Davao city mayor for 22 years and used civilian militia and innovative techniques  to curb violence and drugs.  He was elected on a promise to win the country's war on crime by killing thousands of drug dealers.  President Barack Obama called in congratulations and reaffirmed the close relationship between the two countries.

In a rather straightforward manner, he one-upped me, for I published a solution for crime in the Huffington Post.  At least they published Part 1, but refused to accept Part II, THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE DEAD!    So I posted THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE DEAD in this blog, and followed it up last year.  Duarte bypasses the judicial process!  Red countries have the death penalty.

In his first press conference, Duterte indicated that there was no excuse for journalists who engaged in corrupt activities and took bribes.  Keep in mind that 176 journalists have been murdered in the country since the era of Ferdinand Marcos.  Then early in June he announced to his country, kill a drug dealer and I'll give you a medal.

Today, we found out that 1,900 drug pushers and their ilk have been killed by the police and vigilantes, nearly 60% by the latter group.  Shoot to kill is Duterte's policy.  Incredibly enough 640,233 suspects and addicts voluntarily surrendered to the police! The United Nations complained, so Duterte responded with:

I don't give a sh*t about them’

...and threatened to leave the UN.  Stay tuned on the Philippines War on Crime.

Oh, he also informed John Kerry that the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg is a "gay son of a bitch."    They got into an ongoing feud when Duterte made a joke about a rape having occurred in his city and Goldberg, certainly rightfully, responded in reprimand.

On a lighter, but heavier, side, the Philippines today reported on the largest pearl in the world, a 75 pound, 2 feet wide colossus:


Turns out that a fisherman found it 10 years ago and just let authorities know about the existence of this rarity.  It probably came from a giant clam, which can weigh up to 900 pounds:


Japanese Olympian Asuka Teramoto weighs 82 pounds:


Moving to the east and north, it's that time of year when South Korea and the United States conduct their annual large-scale military exercises, involving 50,000 SK and 25,000 USA soldiers.  True to form, North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike if anything provocative occurs.  How serious is this?  They already launched a  warning missile from a submarine today.  Can you believe they have 70 subs?

Frankly, I think it is more dangerous than many think, for the only way something terrible will happen is if Kim Jung Un's leadership is on the verge of collapsing, he just could make a desperate attempt to stay in power by doing something so inconceivable.  There has been a series of diplomatic defections lately, and something, indeed, is happening.   Where is Dennis Rodman when we need him?   Oh well, I'm in Bangkok, 2312 miles away from Seoul.

Further west in Hunan Province, the Zhangjiajie glass bottom bridge opened this week.  It is 1411 feet long and just under 20 feet wide.  There is a 984 foot vertical drop.  The Grand Canyon Skywalk is 718 feet above the canyon floor.  Their upcoming bungee jump will break the current record currently held by the Macao Tower.


I leave for Sydney tomorrow, but I'm still in Bangkok, where the most interesting news of the day is the removal of a 2.5 pound tumor near the heart of a privately owned 13 foot long, 110 pound Anaconda:


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There are now eight ocean storms:



In the Atlantic, Gaston is just about now attaining hurricane strength, but will strengthen into a Category 2.  However, all models show a veering off to the north and east away from the USA:



The interesting combo is in the West Pacific, where Typhoon Lionrock, once headed for Okinawa, has increased in strength, reversed courses and seems now headed back for Japan:



I've never seen that before.  The intriguing complication, though, is that yet another potential typhoon has appeared in the general neighborhood, and, as Lionrock and Mindulle just missed each other a few days ago, and the fickleness of Lionrock, one wonders if there can now be a real encounter coming up:


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CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE: Day #15-On Indulgence and Zombies

I spent yesterday on pure indulgence, but did not carry my camera on purpose just to be totally free to do what I wanted.  Part of this is that, since Japan, I've been using a walking cane, which comes in particularly handy in Bangkok because the sidewalks have significant defects.  Also, crossing the street here is an adventure, and a person with a cane is treated with fear and respect.  Thailand has the second deadliest traffic in the world, 3.5 times worse than the USA.  #1 is Libya.  Amazingly enough, it has been almost a week since I bought the cane for $2 at Daiso, and I still have not lost it.  

The usual fabulous breakfast:


Then I strolled down Sukhumvit to Jackie's to order a few more safari shirts, but with two enhancements, and got a haircut, manicure and pedicure, for around $22.  Next a one hour oil massage for $17, followed by a dip in my personal jacuzzi:


It was already late in the afternoon, so I went to see Train to Busan, a Korean movie on the sixth floor of the adjacent Terminal 21 shopping mall.  Also across the street from the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit is the Westin Bangkok, my stay tomorrow.


About the movie, Rotten Tomatoes gave it outstanding 93% reviewers and 91% audience ratings. But, yikes, it's a zombie film, and I avoid anything to do with this genre, especially vampirical ones.  Earlier in the month this movie reached 10 million viewers in South Korea, making it the most popular of the year.  There was an animated prequel, Seoul Station, that came out in June. 

While a bit far-fetched, where the "hero" and almost everyone else become zombies, it was gripping and well-made.  The end had a link to an earlier part of the film, and featured the song Aloha Oe (you will need to see the film to hear that version, but here is one from Hawaii), sung by his daughter, saving her life.  HINT:  zombies don't sing.    They go aarrgghhh.  There is something about Korean films that transcends anything Japan has to offer these days.

On the matter of zombies, I might add that there is no such thing.  Sure, perhaps a human kept alive in Haiti on some kind of drug associated with voodoo, but that person will not bite and infect you to become another zombie.

Bela Lugosi (above) was in the 1932 White Zombie (this is the whole 1:07 hour film, with sound), and Michael Jackson danced with them on Thriller (this is the nearly 14 minute version).  More recently, some of you might have seen Brad Pitt's World War Z, below, and, of course, the Z stands for zombie.


Let me end this lavishness with my dinner at the Plaza Athenee Royal Meridien.  As this is kind of a French hotel, and I haven't yet had a French meal, I went down to Reflexions.  To my surprise, it was closed.

Next door was Utage, a Japanese restaurant, and I could be seated.  I had a truly fabulous meal.

I ordered Teriyaki salmon, foie gras sushi, tofu, zora soba and garlic rice, with hot sake and cold beer.  I was so super-satiated that I actually left some food, sake and beer on the table, maybe my first time ever for the latter two.  Cost as a factor, this was my most enjoyable Japanese meal on the trip, for the price was just over $50.


Making the experience so wonderful were Thapanee (assistant manager), Chutinthorn (sushi chef) and Somroeng:


I should add that prior to dinner I had a champagne at the rather large Club Lounge, and took the following shot of the next door Hotel Okura Prestige and Central Embassy Shopping Complex (an ultra-luxury mall where at Water Library you can enjoy Wagyu Beef and Roasted Duck with Foie Gras):

That skinny tower in the background is Baiyoke II, the second tallest building in Bangkok.  I had earlier walked into that luxury shopping mall and took an inside shot:


My breakfast this morning at the Plaza Athenee Royal Meridien, showing first about 10% of the offerings (note six kinds of ice cream):


The buffet featured a variety of Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes.  Note the passion fruit and coconut, where the juice was chilled.  I could also eat the soft coconut meat.  Frankly, the duck noodle soup would have more than sufficed for breakfast.

Next, the Westin Grand Sukhumvit, then across the street to the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, where I kept my large suitcase.  On Day #17 I leave for Sydney.

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There are eight ocean storms, and in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gaston is heading for the USA, and will become a hurricane:



But not to fear, for all computer models show Gaston eventually moving away from the mainland U.S.


There is also Tropical Depression Fiona that has been lurking ahead of Gaston, but models show her eventually dissipating without causing any serious harm.

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