Category Archives: Travel destination

Curious Cat Travel Maps

As a tourist I don’t usually do a great deal of research in advance. I do like to find out what are some of the most popular tourist destinations. And to look for those things I like a great deal, such as hiking.

I useful find myself with a list of things I want to do and a place to stay. Sometimes I had an idea of where things we located and what might be good to do on the same day. But often, I did not. I would sometimes get a list of good restaurants but I would almost never actually get to them.

I do like walking around in a new city and getting a feel for things. Using a good old fashion map worked for this. But I would often waste a fair amount of time when I got lost. GPS mapping seemed like a perfect solution for my travel needs.

While I have been using the internet a long time, I have never had a smart phone. But I got an iPad mini and decided to test out my idea of using GPS and mapping as I walked around. Looking at the options, I decided I would rather create my own map so I could have the details I cared about.

I tried in out (I bought an iPad mainly for this mapping function but also to use as a book reader) in China (Hong Kong, Guilin, Yangshuo, Yunnan and Shanghai) and it went very well. Here is my map for Shanghai:


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I am now making Curious Cat Tourist Maps available online. I used Open Maps (and umap) which I am very pleased with (Here is a link to the Curious Cat Hong Kong Tourist map as another example). I can include those items that interest me (tourist destination, lodging, eating and transit) and include background info (like what subway stop for a particular designation etc.).

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Niamey Grand Market

I think this photo is from the Niamey Grand Market in Niger, Africa.

People at the Niamey Grand Market

We lived in Nigeria (my Dad was a Chemical Engineering professor) and took a trip during winter vacation through Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. I am nearly certain the photo is in Niger and very likely Niamey but it is possible it is elsewhere.

My mom and brother are in the photo, which is likely taken by my father (or maybe by me). In this part of the trip we were quite far off the beaten path. The only foreigners we noticed were a National Geographic film crew at the market.

My brother and I enjoyed the trip at times but also got tired of things and the attention we would get. We would often be surrounded and pointed and even poked at sometimes. Nothing that really was a big deal but as kids it sometimes got to be annoying.

We even would stop the car in the middle of the Sahel to eat lunch and were surrounded within 20 minutes when there didn’t seem to be hardly anyone around. I imagine this just happened occasionally but was memorable after we wanted to escape being the the center of attention and couldn’t even get away in seemingly nearly deserted areas.

Of course, now I treasure what an experience it was even more than I did at the time. At another time at this market (I think, or at another market) my Mom was negotiating from some mats made of straw and leather. It was difficult as we didn’t speak any common language but beyond that they didn’t use “arabic numerals” (or that was maybe a negotiating tactic – most places did use arabic numerals this was the only time we ran into that problem).

Eventually it worked out when my Mom just put out the cash directly. This isn’t a great for various reasons (not the least of which people will grab it and hold on – making it hard for you to walk away). So this was a last resort but she did it this time.

Later on that same trip we were out of money and Mom and Dad wanted some statues (outside Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso) and we bartered for blue jeans and other things that I can’t remember. We had the art from that trip around our house the rest of my childhood (and it is still there).

Related: Cheetahs in KenyaGiza Pyramids in EgyptDad and me on a beach in Malaysia

Floating Down River in Yangshuo, China on a Bamboo Raft

The scenery in Yangshuo (near Guilin), China was great. Floating down the river on bamboo rafts was wonderful. I floated down a second river the day after the first because I liked it so much.

River, Yangshuo, China

I was happy with, Amy, my guide for Yangshuo. Her son was the driver. I don’t usually use guides but for China I am glad I did (it is very difficult to get by compared to Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.). Th costs were much more than those places without a guide but the charges were reasonable. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a guide and Amy was good.

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Hippodrome Casino in London, UK

The Majestic Hippodrome Casino (London, UK)

A place rich in history and culture, this beautiful establishment stands to be more than an entertainment mecca.

photo of London Hippodrome

Photo of London Hippodrome by Paul Hermans

Looming over London since 1900, the London Hippodrome has seen and adapted to all of the different phases of British culture. Found on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square – two of the most renowned places in all of Westminster – this old building is one of the most recognisable destinations for both London locals and tourists.

The name “Hippodrome” was used for many different music halls and entertainment centers in its time, however, the iconic Hippodrome in London is among the last few survivors. Originally built as a centre for circus entertainment and variety shows, the building once held a 230 ft. 100,000 gallon water tank for aquatic performances. This architectural marvel once became known for high-flying, death-defying circus acts and live performances unrivaled by any other establishment in London.

Its status as a circus was short-lived, however, as it was soon converted into a music hall that ran record-breaking shows from 1909-1951. All this before the Hippodrome was transformed into the Talk of the Town, an illustrious nightclub that featured a host of the most famous stars of their time, including The Jackson 5, Tom Jones, and Shirley Bassey. The Hippodrome also received the distinction of being named as one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the U.K. 2008 saw the theatre turned into a stage for the international burlesque cabaret “La Clique”, which successfully ran for four months until 2009, when the theatre closed down to make way for new developments in the Hippodrome’s future.

In 2012, amidst a growing demand for casino gaming and online gambling portals illustrated by Amaya Gaming’s acquisition of Intercasino and other Cryptologic brands, the Hippodrome reopened as one of the largest casinos in London. The Hippodrome Casino boasts of being the entertainment venue in London, with live sporting event coverage, music shows by the world’s top artists, and promotions with the biggest brands and names.

But while the casino is sure to be a wonderful place for any gamblers, those simply looking to experience old London will also enjoy visiting the Hippodrome. The majestic building has an exterior made from red sandstone, brick, and terracotta, all arranged in a free classical style with Ionic pilasters supported on elongated brackets. As though the building wasn’t large enough, entrepreneurs Jimmy and Simon Thomas also acquired the neighboring Cranbourn Mansions and built this apartment block into the design of the renovated casino. It’s truly an architectural marvel, and one that has stood the test of time.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world, situated at Angkor, Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city.

Angkor Wat complex with reflection in pond

As the best-preserved temple in the Siem Reap area, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

carving at Angkor Wat

As you would expect this UNESCO world heritage site is amazing. It is very large with a huge temple. The carvings are exceptional and numerous. I was there in the slow part of the season and while there were lots of people, there was plenty of room.

I went to Angkor Wat on 3 days. I was going elsewhere for a sunset visit (on my first day) but as it was cloudy I decided to go to Angkor instead (saving the sunset for another day) and get some photos in the nice light late in the day. I went to see the sunrise and continued on with my guide. Then I went back late in the afternoon on one of the other days – there was a bit more sun so I hoped for better photos and also it is huge, there is plenty to see.

photo inside Angkor Wat

Looking at my photos now they don’t convey the size of Angkor Wat. This last photo is taken inside the building several floors up above ground level. Angkor Wat is an absolutely wonderful destination and is surrounded in the larger temple complex (over a site 400 km square) by several other world class sites.