Friday, May 30, 2008

Few good quotes

While looking for a good quote for my new travel web page, I came across many good ones, thought I'd post here. Enjoy.

“I'll go anywhere as long as it's forward.”
David Livingstone

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
G. K. Chesterton

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
Benjamin Disraeli

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Lao Tzu

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”
Lao Tzu

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
Lao Tzu

“Great acts are made up of small deeds.”
Lao Tzu

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Lao Tzu

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Lao Tzu

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
Lao Tzu

“It is better to travel than to arrive”
“The heart that truly loves never forgets.”
“What soberness conceals, Drunkenness reveals”
“The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart”

All quotes above were found in

Monday, May 26, 2008

Missing her...

This is one of my favorite movie clip of Neko:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HH Karmapa in America 2008

Last weekend I had the great privilege to attend His Holiness the 17th Karmapa first public teaching in America. To me it was more than just privilege but very fortunate to have this opportunity to receive His Holiness teaching in person, because I was only very recently took refuge in Tibetan Buddhism, April 28 to be exact.

His Holiness arrived in New York City on May 15, the first stop of His inauguration trip to America. Here is a very good website detailing His Holiness daily activities.

The following are my account of the event. First day's teaching was in Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street, the 16th Karmapa had also given a public teaching there more than 3 decades ago. There was a morning and afternoon teaching on"Awakening the Heart of Enlightenment" I mistakenly thought that they're the same teaching in 2 sessions, but in fact it was 2 different teachings, the afternoon session was the continuation of the morning session. Bummer!

I arrived to the afternoon session around noon, there're already a long line of people standing in front of the Manhattan center. As I stood there waiting to be let in, I noticed there were about 5 NYPD cars parked across the street. Curious about the security measure the city provided for His Holiness visit, I asked the security personnel and glad to find out that the FBI and even Secret Service were involved to ensure His Holiness's safety. However the security at the door was not as tight. There was only metal detector but no X-ray scanner to scan bags, all bags were searched by hand.

I was on the 3rd floor box seat, very closed to the stage but on the side of the stage. I was under the impression that cameras were not allow inside the ballroom, mainly because it said so on the website. So I didn't bring my camera, as it turned out no one enforced the rule and flashes were fired all over the ballroom, bummer #2 for me. Never again will I obey rule posted on a website. However I was managed to take a few pictures with my cell phone when I was outside, but the interior of the ballroom was too dark for my puny camera phone. Among the audience, the majority was caucasian and a large number of Tibetan dressed in beautiful traditional costume. To me coming to the event is religious and intellectual pilgrimage, a privilege to see His Holiness and to receive His Holiness teaching in person. It doesn't matter if you're a Buddhist or not, we're all believer of kindness and compassion. Not to say that we're all kind and compassionate, but we're here to learn, to become.

The afternoon teaching began with a musical guest performing contemporary music, which I found to be a bit out of place, I'd expect to hear chanting of Karmapa Chenno or singing of Buddhist Mantras instead of a folk song. While impatiently waited for the song to end, I had a glimpse of His Holiness from behind the curtain. As soon as H.H. stepped onto the stage, the whole place went silence, everyone immediately stood up, with palms closed in front of their chest. It was surreal, His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa was right in front all of us. I had never seen anything in such extraordinary high fidelity before, His Holiness literally glowed on stage. The color of His robe, His glasses and His entire profile were in such clear and sharp focus. But the crystal clear image of His Holiness was quickly distorted by my teary eyes, I didn't know why I cried, it just happened.

His Holiness's teaching was very lively and humorous. My favorite was when His Holiness noted that the stop-and-go traffic in New York City was "a challenge" for patience, especially if you have a cup of hot coffee with you :).

Day 2's teaching was at the Waldorf Astoria, I was told that His Holiness was staying in this hotel during His visit in New York City. As expected, the line was formed long before noon for the 2 PM teaching. The hotel staff made a mistake arranging the seats in my seating area. Our seating area was in a room separated by a wall of French doors next to the main floor. Before the teaching began, the doors would be opened and we would have a partial view of the stage. But believe it or not, the staff arranged the chairs to face the opposite direction of the stage. Obviously most of us turned our chair around, to face the stage. It was a pretty chaotic scene, many not only turned their chair around, but rearranged the chair to ensure a good view of the stage. As you can imagine the result was many chairs right along the wall of doors. Just before the teaching began, someone from the hotel came to our room, announced that once the doors open, we're allowed to enter the main floor and stood on the side line. Woohoo! Sure better than sitting in a room watching the giant screen.

Needless to say, I brought my camera with me today, but only after taking 2 pictures before His Holiness even arrived, a security personnel came to me and told me that no camera was allowed, at the same time flashes were going off all over the ballroom, whatever! I put my camera away and thought to myself, unless she was going to stare at me the whole afternoon, she would not stop me from taking more pictures.

HH took the stage and received the same respectful silent standing ovation from the audience. But today I noticed a handful of people gave the highest respect to His Holiness with the 3 kneeling-bowing ritual. I didn't see anyone did that yesterday, and was caught by surprise. I thought to myself that I should have done that too. After the intermission, the security was loosen up a bit so I walked to the back of the main floor directly facing the stage, as soon as His Holiness stepped back onto the stage, I took my chance to perform the ritual to His Holiness, this time I noticed there were more people did the same too. It's never too late to learn and never too late to give your respect.

His Holiness teachings were full of philosophical wisdom, which I don't pretend to understand all of them, there were many thoughts for this new Buddhist to ponder that's for sure.

The afternoon began with the representative from Major's office proclaimed this week to be "His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Week" in New York City; ended with the event coordinator from the New York City side gave a slightly inappropriate yet touching closing note. She referred to His Holiness as "His Hottie-ness" as she was struck by His Holiness's good look.

It appeared to me from her speech that from the beginning coordinating this event was a messy job to her, but toward the end, after meeting His Holiness and watching His Holiness stood in the rain offering flowers and prayers to the victims of 9/11 at Ground Zero, she began to "fall in love", as she said with her voice began to break down and choked up with tears, His Holiness tremendous kindness, grace and compassion touched her. She expressed gratitude to His Holiness for stepping up to lead the world when the world so desperately needed a good leader, a round of applauds roared through the ballroom. That was a good line to mark the end of the evening.

I left the event feeling rejuvinated and inspired.

For you, my beloved Neko, I want to be a better person.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Day 7 and 8

Well, I'm already back in Boston now. So here is a quick summary of the rest of my vacation in Japan.

Day 7: Took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, visted the awesome Miyajma Shrine on the sea, and the somber memorial of the Atomic bomb site.

Day 8 was the last day in Japan, I traveled back to Tokyo early in the morning. Spent few hours wandering around Shibuya and Shinjuku, before taking the JR Narita Express back to Narita Airport. Concluded the 8 amazing days I spent in Japan.

Here is the link to all the pictures:


Monday, May 5, 2008

Day 6: Easy day in Kyoto

I stayed in Kyoto today fear the rain would be too inconvenient to travel around, but as it turned out, it was just some drizzle here and there, no big deal at all. I got a 1 day bus pass and armed with a Kyoto city bus map (more story to tell about this map later) visited Kinkaku ( Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji and some other shrines around the area. Walked the Path of Philospohy and end the day with a delicious bowl of Kimchi pork and rice.

I have been using Lonely Planet as my primary guide book. I particularly like the walking tours they recommended. However the direction they provided were not always correct, so you need to ask around a bit and do some wandering around. One instance was instead of a left turn, the book suggested a right turn etc. Sometimes the point of interest just not as interesting as they suggested. For example, the guide book described a small shrine built on a waterfall along a walking tour, as it turned out, the so call waterfall was just a tiny rush of spring water flowing from a short ledge. But nonetheless, I enjoyed how the guide book would intrigue my imagination of the site, as if I'm embarking on a treasure hunting trip, armed with the guide book as my treasure map. The result may not always rewarding, but the process itself was exciting enough.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Day 5: Lost in Transportation!?

Today's plan was to go to Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine while on my way to Nara. Once in the train I noticed another sightseeing place Tofukuji is just a stop before Fushimi-Inari, so I hopped off the train to check out the temple first. I figured since there is only one train bound for Nara, it should be a very straight forward detour, just hopped back to a train from the same platform, right? WRONG! Instead I hopped on to an express train (on the same platform) to Nara, which didn't stop at Inari :(. So I ended get to Nara first and vIisited Inari on my way back.

I spent a good 5 hours in Nara Park, there are many temples and shrines there, most famous one is Todaiji Temple. The park is known far its deer population, they're very comfortable being with and fed by people. Almost every way you go, you can see them strolling along. That also mean you need to watch where you step especially on the grass, you might just got "lucky" and got a special souvenir from Nara.

So on my way home I took the express again, which save me abot 10 min versus taking a local train. Once got back to Tofukuji, 2 minutes later I hopped on the local train one stop to Inari. Japan Rail system is amazingly puncture, when it say 13:59 it really mean exactly that.

Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, I think I will stay in Kyoto do some shopping or checkout some local tourist spots.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Day 4: Himeji-Jo and Osaka-Jo

Today I took the JR to Himeji. The main interest of my trip to Kansai area in Japan is to visit Himeji Castle, one of the greatest, original castle in the world. I first fell in love with this castle was when I was in college. I took a Japanese art class, instead of writing a paper at the end of the semester, we have the option to do a art project that is related to Japan. I chose to build a model of the Himeji castle. I have never really finish the project, but what I'd managed to complete earned me an A for the class, not too bad huh. The model I built managed to survive my numorous moves, I'll take a picture of what is left now and post it here when I return to Boston.

The visit to Himeji was surreal, well so was the whole visit to Japan. The best part about the visit was that unlike almost every historic building that I've visited, we're allowed to photographed inside the castle! I took about 400 pictures in and outside of Himeji Castle, check back in few weeks for the link to the complete album.

After Himeji, I went to Osaka and visited the Osaka-Jo. As you can imagine, my battery died after a whole morning of pictures taking in Himeji. I at least managed to capture few nice shot from out side. I didn't go in to the castle for 2 reasons, one was that it was quite late by the time I arrived to the castle; secondly I had just visited Himeji Castle and was quite tire of walking, Osaka-Jo just didn't compel me to do a tour again.

My feet was soooo sore now. I may take an easier day tomorrow to sightsee Kyoto, or if I am feeling well in the morning, I will take the JR again to Hiroshima.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Day 3: Kyoto

First full day in Kyoto. My guest house location is far from convenient, and Kyoto subway system is pretty limited. So have to learn to take bus. I bought a day pass for 500 Yen, so that i can comfortably exploring the city and the bus system. a single ride is 220 Yen, so Y500 is a good deal.

I went to Kiyomizu-dera and walked the old streets to Chion-in, both temples are amazing in both size and design. After a long morning, I went to Nijojo Castle. And last trip of the day was Gion, the Gesha district, but unfortunately I didn't see any of them, I must have been there too late and they're already at their work place.

So far I managed to keep my budget quite low. My guest house is Y2500 a night, I spent about Y400-Y600 for a meal. So far only 1 meal cost more than Y500, most were around Y400, and they'e very delicious. I'll be heading to Himeji tomorrow, the Himeji Jo is the hi-light of my whoe trip to Japan, can't wait!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Day2: Tokyo- Kyoto

Lots of travelings today. Kinda tire now.
But the hi-lights today were the giant scallops at the Fish Market; sushi for breakfast; meeting my long lost friends from Singapore here in Shibuya . As it turned out, Emily and Galvin were also in Tokyo. Funny how we didn't get to see each other while in Singapore, but by great chance all ended up in Tokyo. And meeting Kim Kim's lovely daughter (can't remember her name:() Lastly was the Shinkansen (bullet train) ride to Kyoto. More to follow...