Category Archives: Of Interest

Israeli Collective Punishment in the occupied territories is immoral

Israel makes a regular practice of collective punishment. They have the Palestinians in the occupied territories all living in what is not much different than internment camps. Although, many militants are rotting in Israeli prisons, as a general rule, Israel doesn’t distinguish between militants and civilians. This is an identical philosophy of Islamic extremists who want to kill Jews who also don’t distinguish between military and civilians.

A religious point of view
According to the Koran, it is allowed that you can defend yourself from an oppressor. And if you are evicted, you have the right to evict the evictor. Although Muslim extremists seem to do a lot of killing, they are people who like to live by principles. The problem is not their religion, but the interpretation of their religious principles.

Israel is an entity, and it is the entity which violated the property rights of 700,000 Palestinians back between 1947 and 1949. Due to the high birth rate of Palestinians, the descendants of these former (current) refugees number in the millions. I don’t know the exact count, but there might be around 4,000,000 Palestinian refugees as well as several million more descendants of displaced Palestinians. Many Palestinians foolishly blame “Jews” for this problem, when it is not the fault of Jews at all. It is the fault of Zionists. The further irony is that over 80% of the donations that go to Israel by Zionists are not from Jews at all — they are from good old fashioned Bible thumping Protestant Southerners from America! Jews are not to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians — Zionists are purely to blame.

So, the entities responsible for the oppression of Palestinians and the theft of Palestinian owned land are:
(1) The state of Israel
(2) Individuals with the ideology of Zionism which calls for the expulsion of non-Jews from the land of Eretz Israel.

Terrorism and why it is wrong
The basic ethical problem with Terrorism is that they target civilians. If Hamas fires a rocket into Israel aimed at civilian areas, it could kill anyone. It might kill children who are clearly not at fault for anything more than wetting their bed. It could kill non-Zionist Israelis. It could kill tourists. This is wrong. According to Islam, Palestinians have the right to fight their oppressor which is the state of Israel, but not civilians who are not directly involved in the conflict.

Not all Israeli civilians do military duty
Another issue to consider is that most Israelis traditionally were forced to do military service. Islamic extremists might argue that they don’t need to distinguish between military and civilians since all civilians go into the military in Israel. This is not true. The Israeli military does not typically take conscientious objectors. They also typically do not enroll orthodox Jews who are a quickly growing minority in Israel, soon perhaps to become a majority. If you are a Jew who has any sympathy towards Palestinians or any Palestinian friends, the military will not take you. So, there are many Israelis who are not in the military and who object to the cruelty that the military inflicts upon civilians.

Collective punishment goes both directions in Israel.
Hamas engages in collective punishment against Israeli civilians through missile attacks. Israel engages in collective punishment against Palestinian civilians through holding them like prisoners in their towns. There are checkpoints throughout the occupied territories that make it time consuming or impossible to travel from place to place. Civilians are effectively under house arrest. From my point of view it is immoral to punish someone unless they have done something to merit the punishment. Punishing someone because they were born into a particular community is pure cruelty and bigotry and incites bigotry in return which is an unfortunate reality. Israel’s cruelty breeds extremism in Palestinians. It is easy to see how many could feel that extremism is the only chance they have. Palestinians who are pro diplomacy haven’t really made any headway in the last few decades. Of course, extremists haven’t made headway either.

Solutions to the problem
I don’t see any real solution to the Palestine Israel question. But, I do feel that both sides should only punish those who individually merit punishment. It might be easier if supporters of extremism all lived in the same areas. That way if there was a collective punishment, they would all merit it based on their demonic ideology! If ultra right wing Zionists all lived in particular communities, and Hamas targeted them — it would still be bad. But, at least the victims would have “done” something to merit this punishment.

An interesting twist on the reality of extremism
I think it would be fun if Palestinian extremists and Israeli extremists were forced to live together. I wonder what would happen. Would they just draw a green line between them and keep to themselves? Would they all kill each other? Or, would they make peace? The Israeli village of Neve Shalom is the opposite reality where Christians, Muslims, and Jews live happily together in peace as neighbors. Why is it that we never hear about them in the news? They make a great role model, don’t you think?

The benefits of astral travel. But, what is astral travel?

Don’t try this at home!

I don’t know if astral travel is considered safe or not, but I’ve done it while awake, and do it unconsciously while I’m sleeping. Don’t freak out, but the definition of astral travel is when your soul leaves your body and travels around. Your soul can go anywhere in the universe in the blink of an eye, and then come back.

What concerned me was: what happens to my body if my soul isn’t in it? Don’t you die if your soul leaves your body? It is the other way around. Your soul leaves your body when you die, but you don’t necessarily die when your soul leaves your body. Perhaps angels watch over your body to make sure that no bad spirits try to possess you — which is my worst nightmare. But, so far nothing bad has happened.

Spaceships
I took an interesting trip while awake. I meditated myself into a light transe. Then, I set my will to see spaceships in other parts of the galaxy. It was hard for me to do this. But, I saw a few. One had a huge domed ceiling. I moved around. When you move astrally, you are basically floating like a ghost. I saw some cubicles. There was an off-white being with a huge head in a cubicle operating some type of technology. I didn’t know what it was since it was not from our planet. It was some sort of communication or calculating device perhaps. The being saw me or sensed me. Keep in mind that my body was right here in Los Angeles. But, if you see an astral being, it might look like a ghost, or you might get a feeling you’re being watched, or sense something. In any case, this being started screaming in his alien way. I have never heard a scream quite like that. It was not at all human by any standard. I decided that I was intruding on these “people” and that I didn’t want to scare them. I had no idea they would sense me.

A few minutes later, the alien and some other guy in his ship astrally transported to my room and stared angrilly at me as I had intruded upon them. I was napping at the time. I psychically picked up their conversation. One of them said, “He’s just sleeping!” I guess they felt less threatened after they learned what a peaceful astral-travel blog writer I was! I just wonder why I was transported to their space ship, and not some other. Am I connected to these “people” on a certain level or was it just random. The world(s) will never know!

Rishikesh
I had a dream that I was in India. But, I was floating about thirty feet in the air. I saw a guy and girl in their early 20’s taking photos of each other. I figured they must be newlyweds. In India, affluent couples like to go to the mountains or hills for their honeymoons. I don’t know if I was in Rishikesh, Hardwar, Dehradun, or Benares. But, it was somewhere in India, and I didn’t have to take a rickshaw to get there. I had traveled astrally in my sleep.

New Mexico
I sometimes go to New Mexico while sleeping too. I once had a dream in New Mexico that I was watching my body sleeping. That is a bit disconcerting if you have never traveled astrally while asleep. But, another dream that tops all dreams was that I watched my body slowly walking to the bathroom. If I was out of my body, who was the pilot of my body that got it to the bathroom? Auto-pilot? I had to talk to my psychic for twenty minutes about that one. Talk about freaky!

I don’t know if it is safe or not to do astral travel, but if you run into some evil spirits, it might be bad. I don’t know what to say. But, I will say this: according to my guru, I’ve been to India dozens of times without paying for airfare. He prefers that I stay in my body, but I’m not doing this consciously!

You might also like:

He wrote a blog about appreciating life while facing death
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/05/11/he-wrote-a-blog-about-appreciating-life-while-facing-death/

Do people go to Bali to experience a simpler life, or to escape?
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/04/30/do-people-go-to-bali-to-experience-a-simpler-life-or-escape/

The Gardens of Marrakech, Morocco

The Gardens of Marrakech

Personally, I romanticize over how wonderful Moroccan and Tunisian food is. We have wonderful places in Los Angeles where the architecture and decor transports you into a North African paradise, where you sit on cushions and enjoy course after course of spices and yum! But, what about seeing the real deal?

A city of gardens
Marrakech is known for its great cuisine, architecture, but also for its gardens! Sure, British and Italian gardens are more famous, but Moroccan gardens are also highly renowned and have a very distinctive style.

The style of Moroccan gardens could be said to be in the Islamic Moorish architecture with its glorious arches, shades of blue, and castle shaped turrets, combined with ornate walkways, palm trees, and geometrically shaped pools. If I could create my own tourist attraction in the United States, it would be a Moroccan hotel built in the style of a garden in Marrakesh equipped with coffee houses, restaurants and more. The environment would be hard-wired to be permanently at a very slow pace!

Below are some gardens selected for their beauty. You can click on the links to see photos. I personally have never been to Morocco, otherwise I would include personal commentary for all of these gardens. When I finally do make it to Marrakech, I will visit at least a dozen gardens once after the next to really see what is unique and noteworthy about each one. I’ll keep you posted.

Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace has spectacular decorated walkways, arches, courtyeards and trees.
Click on the link below to see amazing photos!
http://www.galenfrysinger.com/maroc_marrakesh_bahia_palace.htm

Riad Enjia
This garden has amazing courtyeards, palm trees, and more!
Click on the link below to see amazing photos!
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/95472856

The Palmery Museum
This garden boasts a naturally shaped pool, and a Sonoran style cactus garden!
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/gallery/2013/apr/24/gardens-of-marrakech-morocco-in-pictures#/?picture=407764491&index=7

Ksar Char-Bagh
Ksar Char-Bagh has a very long pool lined with palm trees and a medieval house hotel which looks like a mini-castle.
For photos, click below!
http://www.cntraveler.com/hotels/africa-middle-east/morocco/ksar-char-bagh-marrakesh-morocco

Jardin Majorelle
Enjoy the tropical color scheme with turquoise, bright yellow and pinks throughout the architecture and pots!
For a map of the garden an photos, click below!
http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/jardin/

Cyber Parc
Wide walkways, pools, trees, and more!
http://moroccotraveltourguide.blogspot.com/2011/05/cyber-park-koutoubia-islamic-gardens.html

My karma followed me around like a dog(ma)

My karma followed me wherever I went!

Pestering at a meditation venue
I got upset that people pestered me where I was meditating. I had just finished two meditation sessions of two hours each. I had developed a good inner condition and was feeling a calmness. The first thing that happened as I was in a blissful daze, is that an annoying girl went out of her way to pester me.

Annoying girl: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Did I ask for help?”
Annoying girl: “No, but you look like you need help.”
Me: “Why don’t you pester every single person who walks by and offer them help. It’s really annoying.”

Pestering while hiking
I thought that the problem was limited to spiritual venues. Busy-bodies seem to gravitate to the world of meditation and yoga. But, I remembered that a few days earlier I was hiking. I was tired after going up a steep hill. I sat down on the ground. The first thing that happened was that someone asked if I needed help. I told them that I didn’t need help, but asked them if they needed help. Then, they said, no, but that I looked like I needed help.

Pestering in the bathroom.
I went hiking at Yosemite. It was beautiful. I used the bathroom after my hike. As I got up from the toilet, I groaned. Someone in a neighboring stall asked if I needed help. I explained that I didn’t. Then, he said that I sounded like I needed help. I explained that I really didn’t need help.

So, it seems to be part of the karmic cleaning from my meditation this month that people will offer me help when I didn’t ask for it and don’t need it. How annoying! But, on a brighter note, karmic cleaning is good. That means that whatever bad things are within my soul are being cleaned permanently. All I have to do is endure a little (or a lot) of pestering or whatever other unpleasant “Bhog” (sanskrit word meaning the effects of spiritual cleaning) is necessary.

Tweets
(1) People at ashrams and meditation centers seem to thrive on pestering others. Don’t they have anything better to do?
(2) I went to the bathroom in Yosemite. I groaned as I stood up. The guy in the next stall asked if he should call 911.

How to travel light: Unusual approaches!

I love Twitter, and I browse around and read tons of blog articles promoted there. I have a new travel twitter that is attracting new followers very quickly. A good twitter account will have a few viral tweets, but because mine is a travel twitter focusing on Asian travel, maybe mine will get SARS instead! But, I do have some bizarre suggestions about how to travel lightly. It’s really all about calculating what you can replace and how easily!

(1) Bring a hair dryer?
I have been to India many times. Every room is equipped with a bucket, so you can take your bucket bath. No showers folks unless you go to a 5-star venue. Every small store in India sells tide in 1-rupee packages. So combine your clothes, your tide, and your bucket, and voila! In a few minutes your dirty, sweaty clothes will be clean. If you are smart and bring hangers, you can drip dry your clothes and then finish them off with a hair dryer that uses local electrical currency. It’s better to buy it in the country you will use it in. My tip works better in dry parts of India. Chennai and Calcutta are notoriously damp, and clothes don’t dry that well there. If you wash your clothes every day or two, you need less changes of clothes.

(2) Sample size toiletries
We all tend to bring too many bathroom items while we travel. They take up space. Take what you need, but in smaller sizes. American supermarkets normally have sample or travel sizes. If you go to Asia, they have tons of smaller sized everything since people like small things there. American toothpaste tubes are huge, while in India, they look almost as small as the travel size. You can buy soap easily anywhere, so you don’t need to bring it in most cases.

(3) Flexible bags can help reduce your loads. They also might fit better in the overhead storage in the airplane. Heavy bags can take up a lot of room and weight a lot as well.

(4) Wear your large coats and boots. Wearing your most bulky items saves room in your bags! If your coat has large pockets, you can stuff the pockets with all types of other stuff as well.

(5) Bring less clothes and buy more in your location.
If you are a large American, you might not be able to find clothes that fit you if you go to a nation of small people. Bring what you need, but if you go to a place with nice clothing for sale, you might have more room in your bag for your return trip if you pack less when you leave home!

(6) Disposable items?
I once traveled with a few really thin shirts. They took up very little room and would be quick to dry. I could dispose of them if necessary. Disposable items are great. that way if you buy something you want to take home, you can get rid of the nominally expensive items in your suitcase.

(7) Buy what you “might” need at your destination!
Not all destinations sell what you might need. If you bring what you absolutely need, but don’t bring what you “might” need, this could be a good strategy assuming that you can easily purchase what you “might” need without losing half the day wandering around Mumbai looking for a sturdy raincoat that fits you. If you know how shopping works in your country of destination, know where to go, how much things will cost, and what fits or doesn’t, then you are in business. If you have no idea what you are doing, then you might find that this plan backfires.

(8) Bring less bulky items
If you are wondering what to take and what not to take, take fewer coats and jeans. They take up a lot of space. You need a sturdy pair of boots, shoes, and flip flops though. One pair of each is enough. Your shoes will get mangled stuffed in your suitcase, so perhaps bring your already worn out shoes.

(9) Maps can really take up space
I am a lover of map books. People in India don’t rely on maps. They are unaware of concepts like North or South. They just ask around until they know where they are going. I rely on maps, especially in places where nobody else does. Map books take up space, particularly when you are visiting ten cities and have a map book for each city. You need to decide which map books you really need, or what the most efficient format for a map should be. The foldable ones are a pain in the neck if you actually use them on the road in real life., although they take up less space in your bag.

(10) The rolling technique
Some people fold their clothes, while others roll or stuff them? You can stuff socks in a shoe or a boot. But, you can store your shirts and jeans efficiently by rolling them tight. Aging hippies understand this concept well.

(11) Books for the plane?
Books are unfortunately expensive, and take up a lot of space and weight in your bag. If you have a book that you have a duplicate of back home, then you can give it to some random person in your country of destination after you have finished reading it. Electronic reading devices are also very space efficient, but I don’t find them enjoyable! Another tip is to bring softcover books as they take up less space and weigh less.

What really goes in your bag?
Clothes: Shirts, pants, socks, shoes, jackets,
Other: books, maps, toiletries, hairdryers, gifts
How many of each of these do you need, and is there a way to get a smaller one? Most of us tend to bring more than we need when traveling overseas just to feel like we didn’t forget anything. But, we always manage to forget something, or have some unanticipated need. Can you be the expert at bringing just the right amount of stuff on your trip?

Travel makes me sad…

I am on Twitter a lot, perhaps too much. I always read about people who think that travel will make them happy or solve all of their problems. Then, there are people like my spiritual Master who discourages travel as it is a frivolity and encourages adding more children to this already overpopulated world.

What do you feel during travel?
My reality is that travel is not a happy experience. It is an interesting experience, sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes thought provoking, generally stressful, shocking, and sometimes even sad.

Overseas travel tends to be stressful. You are going to a new place where you probably don’t speak the language. The locals might be rude or have customs that perplex or offend you. People in India will nod their head back and forth instead of just saying, “Yes” like a normal person. Why can’t people just be normal? Because, that would defeat the point of traveling.

There are other times when you see breathtaking scenery, or learn about some fascinating cultural practice that you never knew about before. You might meet some fascinating people who could be locals, or other serial tourists who have been everywhere and have dozens of stories about each leg of each trip that they’ve ever taken.

Travel breaks the monotony of life. I recommend travel, because many people go crazy or become very boring if they stay put too long.

What about road trips?
I do a lot of road trips. I am ferociously busy with work most of the time. I escape the insanity of my daily routine by going on road trips around California, Arizona, and New Mexico on a regular basis. I generally try to finish what is on my plate before leaving so I don’t get behind on work.

What I learned about road trips is that my thought patterns change while I’m on the road. You really start thinking when you are on a long trip in your car. Your daily thoughts about frantically getting your huge piles of work done are now absent. Something else has to fill that brain of yours. I often get very sad on long trips. I start thinking of how lonely and sad my childhood was. I think about how my parents were so indifferent to my suffering. I think about social things that just bring me down. The next thing that happens on trips, is that I reconnect myself with friends who I haven’t talked to for a while. Being on the road affords me large quantities of uninterrupted time that I can use to connect with others. And finally, I tend to meditate several hours per day while I am on the road. My thoughts change when I meditate. Sometimes I become more calm. Although, I tend to have many submerged thoughts pop up during meditation that don’t always go away. Meditation is great if you do it regularly enough so that you enter a very deep state of consciousness. But, if you are troubled by thoughts during meditation, your meditation can make these thoughts worse.

Travel sometimes makes me sad, often makes me relaxed, but I do it as a matter of practice to refresh myself. Sometimes I think I should do more day trips, because shorter breaks refresh you, but are not long enough for you to get all emotional about stuff that happened 25 years ago.

Table Manners Around the World

Dining manners around the world!

I haven’t quite traveled the entire world, but I will tell you a few things. Guide books that teach international table manners resort to stereotypes and generalizations about the culture. Cultures are in fact complicated. If a country has 200,000,000 people, they don’t all share identical sensibilities, so keep that in mind!

———————
India
——————–

From my multiple visits to India, the fact that I learned is that they have no table manners, but they do have faux pas’. In India, upper class people might be likely to resort to a metal fork and knife. But, it is common to eat with your hands. Remember, that you eat with your right hand because you wipe with your left (supposedly) and then rinse your hands in a bathroom that has no toilet paper or disinfectant, but does have water.

Why people say Namaste
The reason people put their hands together and say, Namaste in India, is partly because they don’t want to touch your hands after an unwashed episode in the bathroom. Additionally, men are not supposed to shake hands with women in traditional families. Affluent families in India use high quality soap by the way, but public restrooms in India have neither toilet paper, nor soap.

Forbidden foods include pork!
Certain foods are typically avoided in India. Although the stereotype of India is a land with healthy cows strolling around while humans slowly die of starvation. The second stereotype is that beef is the forbidden food for Hindus. The truth is that for Brahmins, any type of meat, onion, mushroom, garlic is completely out of the question. For meat eating castes, that honor their traditions, beef AND pork are basically equally out of the question. Some people speculate that the origins of proto-Judaism are from India. You will never see a bunch of people as fanatically against eating pork than Hindus. Lamb and chicken are the main meats in Hindu India. Bengalis consider fish to be a vegetable (and you thought American schools were bad,) and Muslims eat most types of meat except for pork. Christians (numerous in the South) eat just about everything!

Eating with your hands
Although fancy people often use utensils, the soul of India revolves around using your hands to eat. Most Indians claim that the food actually tastes better if using your hands. I will admit that it is therapeutic to eat with your hands, but a bit messy if eating dahl and rice. I personally enjoy using my hands to grab food with a torn up naan bread, but messy stuff crosses my line! It is also common to put a banana leaf on a metal plate. The leaf has oils in it which if heated a bit on a pan can seep into the food, thus enhancing the flavor of the dish. This is popular in many other Asian countries as well, and in Latin America.

———————
Taiwan
———————

A nation of connoisseurs
Please understand that Chinese are the connoisseurs of the world. Some people eat to live, but Chinese live to eat. Each part of China or Taiwan has local specialty dishes which they are very proud of. It is also typical for Chinese people to have very long discussions going over each attribute of each restaurant and how good particular dishes were. No other nationality, not even the French have a passion for food like the Chinese. Taiwan is a culinary adventure. Their food is completely different from other parts of China. Street food consists of brown things floating in water in metal containers. Chicken feet, pigs ears, beef tendon soup, are all highly revered dishes, not to mention “chou dou-fu” which is a type of tofu that smells up the entire neighborhood (cooked outside)

Fighting over the bill
It takes foreigners a few months to get used to this. Taiwanese notoriously fight over the bill. It is a cultural dance they do that can last for a long time. They have all types of “the hand is swifter than the eye” manouvers too. Some of them pay the bill before you even noticed it arrived. Others just do it before you have a chance to argue. As a foreigner, you will lose every time. You can make a token fight for the bill if you like, but don’t expect to win, even if you are a millionaire, and the other guy is broke!

Chopsticks & double dipping
Some Taiwanese families share everything and that means what Westerners call “Double-dipping.” The chopstick that went into your mouth touches all, and I mean all of the food in the five or more serving dishes that are sitting in the middle of the table. This is an issue of contention in Taiwan. Some families like it this way while others prefer to use serving chopsticks. Sometimes the serving chopsticks are longer than regular ones. It is common to eat out of small bowls, and keep refilling the bowl endlessly. You will be force fed endless food in any Chinese, Indian, Arab or Jewish household, so get used to eating.

Sharing
Once again, it is common at family meals to have serving dishes at the center of the table. People get some rice, and then share the contents of what is in those serving dishes. Typically there will be a few vegetable dishes and a few meat dishes. There might be some glass noodles too (stained glass noodles if they are a Christian convert.) Many families start with soup as well. Taiwanese will switch back and forth between Mandarin, Taiwanese, English, and Hakka in the middle of a sentence. If you are learning Mandarin as a second language, it is hard enough if they just stuck to mandarin and bothered to pronounce it properly which Taiwanese typically refuse to do!

—————————
France
—————————

France has some complicated culinary etiquette. I hardly know anything about it. There are different knives and forks for various types of dishes, salads, and desserts. People typically have two wine glasses at their place: one for red and one for white. Let’s not forget about the glasses for dessert wines either. The key point to dining with the French, however, is not the formalities. It is the joy of enjoying food. Even while eating at a diner in a gas station, I said, “Bon appetite” to the guy next to me. He appreciated that. That is their culture. The culture of slowly savoring good food. Of course the gas station food was not the best, but the philosophy of enjoying the food without being in a hurry still applied.

My cultural experience in France happened alone in fact. I had slept in my rental car at a closed gas station in the mountains of Italy near the French border. The minute I crossed the sleepy unattended border to France, I suddenly understood what French culture really was. There was a feeling of relaxation in the air. The way the sun hit the leaves on the trees was like no other country. The landscape looked like a painting. And the subtle intoxicating vibration of wine was in the air. France is about art, wine and going slowly. I bet it is hard to make a living there. Additionally, everything is more expensive there, yet incomes are much lower than in the USA!

Tweets:
(1) Most Indians claim that food tastes better if you eat it with your hands!
(2) A comparison of table manners in India, USA, France & Taiwan!
(3) In Taiwan it is customary to fight over the bill while in India people gasp if you eat pork!
(4) In France people like to slowly savor their food while in India they enjoy the therapeutic joy of eating w/their hands.

See ten countries in a day at this virtual reality theme park

See ten countries in a day at this virtual theme park

Unfortunately, this idea doesn’t exist yet in real life, but I bet I can convince some bored billionaire to invest in it. Why not? It is a fun idea and everyone will like it! In another article I wrote on this topic, I sent some tourists to virtual Thailand where they may or may not have experienced a virtual coup. That is up to the creators of the theme park. I only come up with the framework for the ideas. Our tourists took a virtual flight, saw Thailand from the air, landed, exchanged their money for Bahts, saw a few temples, museums, beaches, at some real Thai food, got a massage, and hopefully got a dose of culture shock.

But, instead of flying to one country, wouldn’t it be fun to see lots and lots of countries in a day? I think so, and you might think so too, especially if you get to pick which countries you go to. Enjoy France for breakfast, and enjoy the vineyards of Croatia during the afternoon with time for nightlife in Tokyo.

The main point of my virtual travel idea is that you need to feel like you are really in that country, so there would need to be signs in the language, loudspeaker announcements in the language, money, people, food, sounds, and smells from the country that you were pretending to be in.

Entering the park
You park your car in what looks like an airport parking lot. You would hear the sounds of airplanes in the distance. You would take a shuttle to the airport. In the Thailand adventure in my other entry, transportation started with a flight. But, at this multi-country travel theme park, trains, or other innovative forms of virtual transportation might be used. It might be fun to use a different type of transportation for each voyage just to keep it interesting! We’ll make the first leg of the journey in a virtual plane, then explore the other “avenues” of transportation. You get your boarding pass, go to a virtual gate, and look out the windows which are huge flat screen TV screens showing an L-1011 docked to the gate. You show your virtual passport and board a virtual reality plane. You plane has seats, and mini-screens where the windows are, but a huge curved screen in front of you so you can see amazing views. You hear the sounds of the plane, perhaps inhale a little plane exhaust, feel the pull of take off, and maybe get some peanuts and a root beer as well! Upon landing you enter the central transportation hub of the park.

The central transportation hub
Since this virtual theme park’s theme is to be able to visit as many countries as you want in a particular day, and be able to choose which countries you go to, and in which order, you need a hub for transportation. This hub would be designed so that you would not be aware that it was actually catering to a dozen or more countries. You would feel like you were in one country when you entered and feel like you were in a particular other country when you exited. There might be different forms of transportation connecting the various countries, but all transportation would happen at this centrally located hub.

=============================

A sample trip
Let’s start in the United States part of the hub and make our way to Bali. We could take a train to this first destination. The train would go through Alaska. It would get lost in the Arctic Sea, and then get its bearings straight in the Bering Strait (sorry for the pun.) It would go down Siberia, through China, or even Japan since this is fantasy, through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and across a nonexistent rail bridge to Denpasar in Bali. Imagine the great virtual scenery you would see on this train trip! You could use authentic train bathrooms and eat train food during this potentially long and very interesting journey.

Or, the train trip could be ultra fast, and you could make the jump into hyper space, and then cross the virtual rail bridge to a coastal village near Kuta in Bali. When you exit the train, the signs, loudspeakers, and people are mostly authentic Balinesians wearing whatever they wear there, and speaking their local language. You could visit temples, beaches and other attractions. You could enjoy delectable local cuisine, buy some tourist attractions, take a rick shaw ride, and then go to the transportation hub to go to your next country.

The circle to other realms
I can’t remember which TV science fiction show has this. There is a huge circle that is about ten feet in diameter with a stone perimeter. You walk up the stairs, and then walk through the circle. But, you are in a different planet when you get out on the other side. It is like a warp in space! I strongly feel that one of the modes of transportation from country to country should be interstellar dematerialization — or at least something that feels like it. On one side of the circle you are in Bali, hearing the sounds of the language, the smells of the food, rick shaws honking, etc. On the other side of the circle you might be on a spacecraft on the other side of the galaxy.

Another version of this is a dematerialization elevator. You get in the elevator. Then, there is a rattling, lights flashing, and a buzzing sound. That is the sound of you being dematerialized and rematerialized. You then get out of the elevator, and it looks like you are exactly in the same hallway or room where you started, but you are in the new country or perhaps a new galaxy. In any case, after you are done visiting with the Androids, you could have slow roasted pork belly in a virtual Tokyo, then take a virtual walk down a virtual walkway with amazing scenery on the flat screens that would make you feel like you were really in the places that you saw.

In any case, I think such a theme park would be fun. It would be expensive, but on the other hand, it would be possible to see the entire world for around $100 in a single day. When you think of what the real cost would be to see all of those places in such vivid color, $100 is amazingly cheap, and very convenient too. But, don’t forget your foreign language phrasebook, because you might need it in this place.

Best Sake Tasting in the World!

What I can tell you is that you need to either find an upscale Japanese restaurant with a large selection of sake, or do as my short order tempura chef friend recommends and, “Fry to Japan!”

Smaller restaurants
Beware of low quality sake. I once had a slick guy recommend that I buy some high end sake for a low end friend. He had some on sale. But, in all honesty, most restaurant sake is low end stuff, or at best average. Finding high class sake is hard to do, and being able to taste it is even harder. Many restaurants have sake flights. You get to taste three small portions of sake for a reasonable price. Others have small glasses that you can get for a decent price. If you want to taste dozens of different varieties of sake, it doesn’t hurt to resort to the 300ml bottle size which is a popular size for sake.

Bottle sizes really vary
Japanese culture is really innovative, creative, and fun. Never mind how repressed they seem to you. They have sake glasses with a beer can top that you open like a can of beer. Okay, it looks like it opens like a can of beer, except that the entire top comes off leaving you with an attractive glass filled with sake! (hopefully chilled) Then, there is the 300ml sized bottle, which is small enough so you can still function after single handedly (mouthedly) totaling a bottle. After that there are 750ml bottles and really large bottles of varying ml’s are also popular in the sake market. If you are out for a taste a 1500ml bottle might not be the best idea.

Japan
Much like wine connoisseurs (and wannabe’s) fly to Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, and other regions of France or Europe to enjoy a week (or a month) of wine tasting, if you are serious about sake tasting, you need to fly to the motherland. Sake is a traditional art in Japan. It is taken seriously, just like wine making is in Europe. If you have someone who can make sure you understand the explanation of how they prepare this rice wine, you might have a very interesting and fulfilling experience overseas!

Soju anyone?
Soju has a very different brewing process than sake, but they have potato, barley, rice, and various mixtures of ingredients in some types of soju. Soju is not for the faint of heart, and is guaranteed to put hair on your chest. The taste is different, and it has become a trendy drink in many metros around the world. Some think that rice soju tastes more like vodka than sake, but you can see for yourself!

Taste sake in the USA!
Takara Sake Tasting Room & Museum in Berkeley, CA
https://www.takarasake.com/home.php

Taste sake in Japan

(1) The #Sake Town, Hiroshima
Features some of the oldest & most prestigious breweries in the area

(2) Japan Sake Center, Tokyo
1 Chome-1-21 Nishishinbashi, Minato, Tokyo 105-0003, Japan

(3) Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, Kyoto

(4) Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Kobe
There are other venues to do sake tasting in Japan. There are breweries strewn all over the country just like Napa has vineyards all over the place. I am not the expert on where to go and how to proceed, but my article had a few specific suggestions that I hope you capitalize on!

Drink with Caution!
Just a word to the wise, sake doesn’t hit you like grape wine does. Each different type of grape wine affects me differently, but sake is much more evasive. You might drink and feel nothing, and then all of a sudden be too intoxicated to function.

A cultural experience!
I once had a type of mildly expensive sake with cherry blossoms on the photo on the label. The sake was so good that it transported me into the consciousness of being in Japan near the cherry blossoms. The beauty of drinking beverages from other countries is that you can get a little bit of the feeling from that country if you take a few sips. So, enjoy tasting sake! And as always, drink responsibly my friends!

In defense of Dubai!

In Defense of Dubai

I have read so many traveler’s blogs talk about Dubai. People from the West have a love-hate relationship with the city. They love the excitement, social life, recreation, shopping and other offerings, but they often complain about the religious values. I have not been to Dubai, but am familiar with Islamic sensibilities. I’m also familiar with how Westerners desire to force the entire globe to be just like us in all ways.

Demographics
Dubai is the most liberal of Arab cities and has wealth beyond imagination. It is intelligently run like a business. To run a business, you need customers, and their customers are their residents and visitors. Only 11% of the population of the United Arab Emirates are citizens. The rest are workers from a variety of countries, primarily India, Pakistan, Philippines, United Kingdom, and many Lebanese and Palestinians as well. The Lebanese, Palestinians and British typically run the businesses there, the Indians to mostly labor jobs, and the Emeratis are often the owners.

Everything is better in Dubai!
Dubai is one of the top places in the world to go shopping as they have many of the world’s finest shops. You can eat some of the best food in the world. I’m not talking about only local Gulf Arabic food. They have some highly reputed food from all over Asia and Europe as well. Dubai even has nightlife which is typically forbidden in most Islamic states. You can purchase alcohol in certain select locations such as particular hotels. Additionally, it is clean and safe to live there, especially for women! You could call Dubai an Islamic paradise that bends the rules a little to accommodate the good favor of foreigners — and it works!

So, what’s the problem?
In my opinion, I don’t see a problem. But, many Westerners go to Dubai and criticize the Islamic parts of the culture. Muslims are being bashed by the media world-wide and are tired of being slandered. In Dubai, you can be jailed for saying unfair things about Islam, and media can be censored if there is slanderous or inappropriate sexual content. Is this a good or bad thing?

America is over-sexed and Muslims don’t approve!
In America, sexual content is all you see, and the result is that children are so void of morality, that it is like something that descended from Mars when they hear about it. American children make strange faces and act shocked if anyone should dare bring up moral principles. Muslim society is different from America. In Islam, morality is not only there — it is enforced by a variety of means. Good or bad? It depends on the way you look at it!

Scorpion drummer jailed
Recently a drummer from the musical group Scorpion was jailed for a few days in Dubai for making insulting statements about Islam. Good or bad? In my opinion Westerners make derogatory statements about Islam because all they have heard about Islam from friends and the media is negative. The negative statements arise out of a lack of education combined with a disrespectful attitude. Putting troublemakers in jail will bring order to society, however, it does not help to educate people about Islam. Dubai is very liberal about who they let in their country. This liberal attitude is how Dubai accumulates a lot of riff-raff that doesn’t respect Islamic values. Is Dubai too liberal? That is up to them, and depends on how much they are willing to put up with!

Educating people about Islam
Education about Islam is not widespread. Muslims would make life much easier for future generations if they educated athiests, Christians, and others about their religion in a positive way. I feel that Westerners should not visit a Muslim country unless they have taken a sort of a prep-course to acquaint them with how Islamic values are life is. Additionally, much of Islam is very similar to Christianity and Judaism which will be a source of familiarity for non-Muslims.

Women’s place in society
Westerners have a fit whenever women are treated differently than men. In America there is relative gender equality. The rest of the world doesn’t necessarily operate that way. You can’t go to somebody else’s country and expect them to be just like us in all ways. It doesn’t work that way. America’s gender equality comes paired with a 75% divorce rate. Although Dubai’s divorce rate is rising (I blame it on the fast lifestyle,) typically people with traditional values (which typically include gender roles) have a much lower divorce rate which is good for children. If you were a child, would you want to have two parents or a mom who has a boyfriend who you call John?

A transient culture
Many have commented that people tend to not live in Dubai for too long. People tend to not want to get too close to others simply because they know ahead of time that those others will leave. Some people might judge you by what neighborhood you live in. That makes no sense to me, because I’m from LA where you’re judged by what kind of car you drive! Completely different! There is no rule against meeting locals or longer term people. Honestly, the places in India I stayed in were transient too. People in India move from city to city faster than Gypsies these days. Los Angeles is a little bit the same way.

The Dubai paradox
Dubai has so many foreigners, that the culture has to adapt to accommodate the needs and wants of foreigners. It is like a tail wagging a dog. If Dubai loses their 89% foreign population, their economy will crash. They have put themselves into a position of dependence on others. Will this work in the long run? I hope so!

The Westerner paradox
Americans have this viewpoint that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want. But, the minute you bring up Islamic values, then Westerners suddenly want to forcefully prevent people from having or voicing such values or attitudes. Many claim that Islamic values are “scary.” What happened to being a loving and accepting person? It went down the drain in a blink of an eye without a second thought. The American attitude about freedom is that anyone should be able to do whatever they want. The minute you do whatever you want and it conflicts with American culture, then the Americans antagonize the hell out of you right off the bat. Very hypocritical attitude, but this is how we are over here!

Enjoy Dubai the way it is
If you visit Dubai. Enjoy them for what they are. Enjoy their passion for business. Enjoy their mix of traditional and modern values. Don’t expect them to be like Americans because they are not and probably don’t want to be either. You might have a better experience if you learn about how their culture operates and understand that you are not forced to live like that for the rest of your life. It is temporary for you. So, enjoy whichever parts you like, and whatever you don’t care for, don’t dwell on it!