World War II Memorial, Washington DC

World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the background

The World War II Memorial in Washington DC is between the Lincoln Memorial (the photo above shows looking toward it) and the Washington Monument (below) on The Mall.

World War II Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background

The memorial was opened on 29 May 2004. Many Smithsonian museums, the White House and the Capital are within easy walking distance of the memorial.

Continue reading World War II Memorial, Washington DC

Thoughts on Security Risks while Traveling (especially violence)

This is a reposting a response I made several years ago on Reddit on “defending yourself abroad.”

How to travel safely

Not getting drunk at bars likely proactively addresses a significant portion of issues.

Second, if you are coming from the USA or many other fairly high personal crime countries there are many places you are much safer while traveling. If you are coming from Japan, Singapore, Scandinavia you probably are much more likely to be the victim of crime than at home.

people on the street in Kuala Lumpr, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpr, Malaysia

If you are not drunk the most likely crime is theft, while not good, it is much better than being attacked in my opinion.

The biggest concern in a new environment is that you don’t pick up on the clues of danger that you would in your home environment. This means to be safe you are wise to try and develop the ability to be more skeptical and more attuned to what is going on around you. You may also be the target as you may be more visible, may be seen as rich, may be seen as a jerk (often being drunk helps boost this impression).

There is danger everywhere. But we often exaggerate the danger of new place (new to us). Being careful makes sense, but the dangers away from home are often statistically less though are unfamiliarity may lead us to be less aware and able to avoid situations we find in unfamiliar surroundings. Also, being on your own (instead of in a city with lots of friends that help keep you in line, give you protection in numbers in some situations…) can increase the risk to you, especially again in unfamiliar surroundings.

I doubt learning fighting skills makes much sense. Outside of drunken brawls most places are not that violet and if they are many times it is guns and such things (though most often that level of violence is aimed at other criminals or family and friends).

There is other violence (between people) of course and it is sad and something to avoid. I would be amazed if car and bus deaths (of travelers) and injury don’t exceed by a long way any person on person violence against travelers.

Related: Location Independent Living Can Be In Your Comfort Zone and a Good ExperienceMy Early Experience as a Digital Nomad: Part TwoCurious Cat Travel Maps

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Tat Kuang Si park is a wonderful spot for a hike.

amazing light blue colored pool of water

The water has an amazing blue color that seems almost fake in photos but is really the color of these photos. The blue is due to dissolved copper.

pedestrian bridge with blue water pool and waterfalls in the background

The Kuang Si waterfalls are about 30 km outside of Luang Prabang. You can rent a open back pickup for about $30 (really I forget I think it was about that amount though) for the trip or you can join a tour group (easy to arrange at many guest houses and travel agents all over Luang Prabang).

Continue reading Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Camper Van Travel

One of the ideas I am exploring for travel around the USA is a camper van. One of the great things about traveling around SE Asia is the ease of finding perfectly fine accommodation at very reasonable prices. That isn’t nearly so easy in the USA.

And also travel around the USA by car offers many advantages over air travel (given how horrible the customer service is for air travel in the USA). Also most places you visit having a car to travel around is necessary. Especially if you want to visit state and national parks, as I would. Really there are a few places, such as New York City where traveling locally is easier without a car, but that is very rare.

This is a very interesting version of a custom built camper van (using a VW as a base):

The customizations are done by Danbury Motor Caravans. Sadly (for someone in the USA) they are in the UK (they also provide vans for Europe). Also the vans are not cheap, but they really are quite amazing vehicles. I hope we see more of these options. Comment with options for those in the USA.

Another interesting option from Danbury is the smallest, and also cheapest (from £19,345) based on a Ford Transit.

I would like something that I can drive easily (not some oversized behemoth), that is comfortable to sleep and work on the computer in (for when the weather is bad). The idea would be to sleep at campgrounds and RV parks and the like (but also with the option of staying at motels and lodges). For those times when you are parking and sleeping without the conveniences at a campground a bathroom option would be nice (but it seems that will be hard to fit – some kind of camper toilet would likely have to do).

I am not sure I will find anything that works but the right option could make for a really useful way to travel. I also probably wouldn’t get one of the Danbury vehicles (due to high prices) but the more of these on the road would mean used vehicles down the road which is something I might consider. Or if I come into a bunch of money then I might be able to pick up a wonderful vehicle myself.

Related: Vanlife subredditMulti-city Airline ReservationsMagical Day at Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park

Library of Congress, Washington DC

Exterior view of the Library of Congress
Exterior view of the Library of Congress

The Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington DC is one of the most ornate buildings in the city. It was opened in 1897.

The incredibly ornate entry hall to the Library of Congress
The incredibly ornate entry hall to the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress also includes 2 more buildings (built much later). All 3 buildings are near the Supreme Court and the Capital.

The main reading room of the Library of Congress.
The main reading room of the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington.

Continue reading Library of Congress, Washington DC

Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo has a great reputation, and for good reason. It isn’t cheap to get in, but for that money you do get a very nicely designed zoo. The zoo also supports various conservation efforts and research projects.

I took these photos on my visit to the zoo a few years ago.

Singapore Zoo, woman viewing lions
The viewing options were often excellent, like this great view of the lions.
Singapore Zoo, Elephant show
There were several shows in addition to feeding times and talks by wildlife experts. If I remember right these were free (or some were free?).

Continue reading Singapore Zoo

National Museum of Korea in Seoul

The National Museum of Korea is a wonderful tourist destination in Seoul. I recommend it very highly.

Buddha statue with fancy headdress

The modern museum (built in 2005) is very spacious and filled with wonderful works of art. It provides a sense of the long history of Korea. It is very well laid out and includes enough information on the works to give you a sense of the context.

6th-7th century funery painted clay pots
Painted clay pots, Astana, Turfan 6th-7th century. These vessels decorated with pearl rounded patterns were made to be buried with the dead in tombs. The design originated in Sasanian, Persia and spread across Asia.

The museum displays relics and artifacts in six permanent exhibition galleries: Prehistory and Ancient History, Medieval and Early Modern History, Calligraphy and Painting, Asian Art, Sculpture and Crafts as well as one gallery highlighting donations.

Continue reading National Museum of Korea in Seoul

Location Independent Living Can Be In Your Comfort Zone and a Good Experience

A location independent lifestyle (digital nomad etc.) isn’t just for those that want to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zone. There are many different types of people that a location independent lifestyle works for. I don’t really fit with “stepping outside your comfort zone” etc.. But quitting a “normal job” and traveling and working online works for me.

I think way more it is about this type of thing being in your comfort zone. When I hear people talking about how they stepped out of their comfort zone it seems to me they just aren’t comfortable plodding through an office for 40 years. Doing that is outside their comfort zone. The reason they did something else was because it was in their comfort zone.

I think there are benefits to shaking things up and trying things you are not comfortable with. I think way more often when people talk about that being successful for them what they really did was shake off the shackles of an uncomfortable situation and found one that is more in their comfort zone.

view of Johor Bahru and Singapore from my balcony
View of Johor Bahru, Malaysia (link to my blog on living in Malaysia with Singapore in the far background. This is the view I would see as I worked from my home office.

I think it sounds cool to say you are being adventurous and brave by doing things those boring friends are not willing to do as they stick with their boring jobs. But I don’t think that is really the most accurate way to view it.

If you want the best chance of a change making you happy figure out what you really are comfortable with and create that.

If you want to grow, challenge yourself and try different things.

There is a small group that is most comfortable constantly challenging things. For them their comfort zone is to constantly be taking challenges most people would find uncomfortable. If those people really want to step outside their comfort zone they should seek the opposite of wha they are comfortable with which they don’t want to do. They also tend to like to see themselves as mavericks and brave, etc. so the story of challenging themselves sounds good to them so they use it.

For most people, fairly small attempts to live outside your comfort zone, followed by a chance to reconcile what you learned during your challenge into your lifestyle will be the most effective way to grow. We (the types of people reading this) tend to think of growth as really important. I agree but I think we may also emphasize that a bit too much and just plain happiness too little.

But who knows, I certainly don’t. These are just my thoughts this day on this topic. I do think Aristotle was right about the importance of an examined life. But at the same time I don’t see a huge correlation with that thinking and how satisfied people are with their lives.

Still I believe accurate self evaluation is useful in figuring out what to do next. I think the whole step outside your comfort zone thing is largely a myth – especially the way people explain what they mean by that.

Related: Curious Cat as a Celebrity in Yogyakarta, IndonesiaTransfer Money Between Currencies Using New Providers Not Banks And SaveMy Early Experience as a Digital Nomad: Part One, TechnologyFinding Places to Stay to Stay with Decent wifi

Great Food in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I found several great places to eat in Chiang Mai. I enjoy good food. And thankfully I can find very good food all over the world (anywhere I have been). That makes me happy. I have fewer instances of finding really great food that I miss if I move on.

It isn’t that I don’t miss the great food I had but when I find lots of great new choices I am fine. I generally eat fairly cheaply, in stalls some, but also in simple restaurants. But rarely in expensive places (though in cheap locales I will splurge much more than if I am in an expensive city).

Banana Flower Salad
Banana Flower Salad at the Achan Vegetarian Restaurant. Absolutely wonderful. All photos by John Hunter.

I found lots of very good food in Chiang Mai. I found 3 places I really enjoyed a great deal (I went to each weekly, or more often). Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant is one of the places I would suggest everyone try. I see it as a highlight of being in Chiang Mai. I rarely find restaurants I feel this way about. To reach this level they not only have to provide great food, atmosphere and service but also capture some of the essence of locale.

The also had Anchan juice which when I asked what it was the waitress pointed to the blue berries on the mural. I didn’t enjoy the juice so much actually, so only tried it once, but it was worth trying.

Chicken Banana Curry
Chicken Banana Curry at Cooking Love, again wonderful. They also give you very large servings.

Two other places I highly recommend in Chiang Mai are: Cooking Love and Food4Thought.

Continue reading Great Food in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Neak Poan Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Neak Pean (or Neak Poan) (in Khmer: ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ) was built by Jayavarman VII in the 12th century as a Buddhist temple.

Walkway to Neak Poan temple (over the reservoir)

The site is within a large reservoir (which measured 3500 meters by 900 meters). The walkway takes you to the man made island that contains the Neak Pean temple.

photo of water temple (large pool of water with stairs into the water and a central stone structure)

The temple is within the Angkor archaeological park area. I rode my bike between the many large and small temples while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a couple months. You can easily see 10 of these small temples and few large ones by bike in one day.

You do get some exercise (which for me was a plus) and it isn’t very hard as the entire area is very flat. Of course the area is also usually hot. You can rent bikes in town for a few US$ a day. You can also rent a tuk tuk or electric bikes.

Related: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, CambodiaTa Prohm Temple (Banyan trees)Borobudur, an amazing Budhist temple built in the 9th century in IndonesiaWat Lok Moli, Chiang Mai, Thailand