Thursday, September 17, 2009


I just got to Korea after a long flight from California. Next week, I will attend a conference in the Southern part of the country, in Busan. In the meanwhile, I will spend a couple days in Seoul and probably some other smaller towns on the way South.

So far Korea looks pretty interesting. It feels somehow as safe as Japan and it has more street culture, like maybe China. Interesting mix.

Well, tomorrow will be the first serious exploration of the city. I will see if I can post some photos on the go! ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


After visiting Niagara Falls, I took a bus and in a little bit less than 2 hours I was in Toronto, the most populated city in Canada. The most outstanding landmark... the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the world (553.3 m). This tower dominates the landscape of Toronto and it is almost always visible!

Toronto has a typical North American financial area with high buildings and narrow streets around which the rest of the city is built.

However, it also has an underground feeling everywhere else in the city... it has a quite developed "alternative" culture that make it really cool!

And art is another element of the streets design... like this not too conventional street in the waterfront.

Downtown is also full of traditional English/Irish style buildings. Those brownish/reddish building everywhere confer a nice old feeling to the streets of Toronto.

Most buildings and churches are not too old, as in any North American city. However, some of them look pretty nice.

The City Hall is quite strange... quite a bold design... I guess it is the typical building you either like it or hate it.

Toronto has some island just off shore. They are very undeveloped and covered by a huge park. It is were people from the city come to relax. On the way there by boat, the view of the city is pretty beautiful!

Typical image of Toronto Islands and their canals...

... and their beaches.

As any big city around here, Toronto has a Chinatown with more than decent Asian food. ;)

And a very nice area which could be called "punktown". It is fulled of punk rock bars and punks on the streets. Some houses are decorated accordingly.

If you go on top of CN Tower, you can have a good glimpse on the city:

...and the islands:

And you can even enjoy walking on a glass floor, provided you are not afraid of heights!

Well, some people really seemed to enjoy the experience... :)

Even museums exhibit nice designs. This is the Ontario Art Museum (or something like that!).

The university was also pretty interesting.

Finally, some cultural note. These are some Canadian coins.

I was nicely surprised by Canada. The country is much the same as the USA. I mean, a highly intercultural population living is spread cities with a high focus on business. However, culture was important here and it was nice. People were more respectful and nice. And you could walk on the streets at any time without feeling any risk. It really felt nice!! Their neighbor in the South should try to learn some things from Canada. (Well, I only visited two cities... but I felt it was enough to understand that big difference between the two countries).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Niagara Falls

The last weekend in August, I went to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. Niagara Falls are one of the most famous falls in the world and they are in the border between Canada and USA. Actually, there is one town in each country called liked that: Niagara Falls. I checked the prices and to fly in the US side was quite cheap from within the US, so there I went. I arrived at night and could go to see the night illumination and some fireworks!

These are the so-called American Falls:

And these are the known as Canadian Falls:

At night, I could appreciate these falls were quite impressive, but they were much smaller than expected! And, as a matter of fact, from the American side, you can't see much of the Falls!

I wanted to experience the falls, and therefore, I went for all the possible activities there. I went down the cliff to be at the bottom of the American Falls...

... and took the "Lady of the Mist" boat to get almost within the Canadian Falls. I got pretty drenched!

I also checked them again from the edge...

... and enjoyed a closer look on the American Falls from that ship I mentioned before.

The best view you can get from the US is from an observation tower/deck:

I did everything possible in the American side (even visiting the aquarium, a museum or watching a movie), so it was time to move to Canada!

From Canada, the view was much better!! You are further apart from the Falls, but you gain perspective and can appreciate them as a whole. I enjoyed this view much better!

And you can get pretty close to the Canadian Falls!! So it was pretty much the same experience as in the US side.

Two more panoramas from Canada!

If you are going to Niagara Falls, do not miss the Canadian side!! If you only have time for one side, go for Canada!! seriously!

Jamaica (...and VI). Black River

Our trip in Jamaica was coming to an end and we wanted to go for a river safari to see crocodiles. Therefore, we went to Black River, a town at the ending of the Black River, a river famous for wildlife and crocodiles. Once there, it was not difficult to find a boat to go on a safari. This is what the river looks like:

And these are its inhabitants! We could see around 5-10 big lizards... ;)

The safari guy called himself "Jamaican Crocodile Dundee" and he may be right! He grasped some crocodiles so some brave people, including Naoko, could touch them!!

Some locals fish in the river using traditional techniques...

This is the area where safaris start from. Many fishermen offer their boats for tourists if you do not want to go for a big boat safari.

Our next step that day was Appleton Estate Rum Brewery, the place where the most famous rum in Jamaica is distilled.

The production process was explained...

... we could also see the barrels where rum is aging currently...

... and, of course, we could try the final product, including 151 rum (63% alcohol)!

We came back to Kingston at night and flew back to LA in the morning. A nice trip in the Caribbean.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jamaica (V). Negril

Negril is located in the western-most part of Jamaica. It is also one of the most touristic areas in the island and its 7 miles beach is worth of that!

One of the most famous spots in Negril is Rick's Cafe, supposedly one of the best sunset spots in the world! I do not know if that can even be measured... but anyway, it was a nice sunset.

People jump off the cliffs in Rick's Cafe to show how brave they are...

Many small boats come around these cliffs to see jumpers and the sunset.

The sunset here. Beautiful, right?!

And this is the beach! 7 miles of white sands and crystal clear water!! Unbelievable! You really have to pinch yourself to be sure you are not dreaming!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jamaica (IV). Montego Bay

After 5 days traveling in Jamaica and sleeping in not so nice hotels, we decided to go for a typical tourist all-inclusive resort in the most touristic area in Jamaica: Montego Bay. We went to a nice resort called Breezes, located in the most famous beach in Jamaica, Doctor's Cave Beach. It even appears in Jamaican Dollar Notes!

Nice isn't it??

It was time for some relaxing time, without getting worried about how to move from town to town in the cheapest possible way and finding some decent hotel for little money. This was our redemption for one day! Lots of cocktails, food and all included water sport activities!

However, we did not belong completely there, ;) so we went for a glimpse onto real Jamaican life to Montego Bay Downtown, out of the touristic area. The city looks like a chaotic big town with people everywhere. As in Kingston, dangerous situations may occur and the general atmosphere was too hectic and kind of dangerous. There were some nice places in the city:

Back to our resort hotel, everything was neat and peaceful. Tourism in Jamaica is quite a pity. Most tourists do not even go out of resorts and do not even meet real Jamaicans. They do not even care. People just go for the beaches and do not care where they are, call it Jamaica, Puerto Rico or whatever. There is such a gap between these luxurious resorts and the down-to-Earth situation of the country that it is almost grotesque.

Doctor's Cave Beach was superb. No words to describe it better than a few photos:

After some time in Montego Bay, it was time to continue moving West. Next stop, Negril.