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This post is part of a Japan Trip series.


Today is the day. I really am going to explore Kanazawa.

Kanazawa map


Who — other than Hugh Hefner — eats a dozen oysters for breakfast? The denizens of Kanazawa, apparently. Gross.

Clearly the Omicho Market is the place to be this morning — and probably every morning — in Kanazawa. Young, old, professionals, tourists, men, women — everyone’s here and they’re either eating or yelling, buying or selling.


Feeling left out, I purchase a disk-shaped, deep-fried object for $3. I don’t know what this is.

I consume the disk-shaped, deep-fried object with pleasure. I don’t know what that was.


Next stop on my Kanazawa whirlwind: the Kanazawa Castle!

Did I miss something? A big yard, a big door, a big wall. Big deal. I guess the grounds are nice.


The Japanese — you may have heard — take their gardens seriously. Kenrokuen Garden is classified as one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, trees, bridges, teahouses, pagodas, stone lanterns — Kenrokuen is no doubt a special place (exhibits A, B, and C below):

Kenrokuen Park Kanazawa

Kenrokuen tree Kanazawa

I am especially drawn to the trees above because they remind me of coronary angiograms (I like hearts). Their branches are supported by a process called yukitzuri which prevents the boughs from breaking under the weight of snow. Mid-November is supposed to be the best time to visit Kenrokeun Garden as the leaves are at their peak of color and the yukitzuri ropes are alit with white lights.

Kabazawa Kenrokuen tree


Anybody can drop in whenever they want. – museum brochure

Well, not really. Exhibits are from 10:00 – 6:00 and the museum is closed on Mondays. But I don’t mean to nitpick — I appreciate a welcoming museum that doesn’t take itself too seriously — which is why I’m fond of the 21st-Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The experiential exhibits are quirky and clever and obviously selected to engage us otherwise lazy, passive observers, forcing us to question our sense perception. We shout into tuba-like pipes; read tiny, silly signs through telescopes; peer up from the bottom of the swimming people at the people peering down at us from above; watch the sky change through a hole in the ceiling and wander through the shifting Colour Activity House by Olafur Eliasson.


Final stop on my Kanazawa spree: Myoryuji, a Buddhist temple built in 1585 that served as a place of worship and protection from the shogun for the regional ruling family. Its construction includes multiple escape routes and means of defense, hence its sexy nickname, the Ninja Temple. It’s very Spy vs. Spy.

Reservations are required. The tour begins with the participants sitting on tucked legs (ow!) atop a thin tatami mat inside the shrine as a guide delivers a 20-minute presentation in Japanese. We gaijin are thankfully given an album to leaf-through, which explains what we will be seeing for the remainder of the tour (which is also conducted in Japanese).

The construction of the Ninja Temple is quite cunning, complete with escape tunnels, hidden staircases, pits, trap doors, lookout stations, secret passageways, and a ritual suicide chamber (gift-wrapping rooms are SO passé). From the outside the structure appears to be only two-stories (in accordance with the shogun’s building restrictions) but it is actually comprised of seven layers tucked into four stories. The entire tour lasts an hour.


And at the end of the day? It’s back to Daiba for more Yebisu drafts and tofu salad, of course.

READ the entire Japan Trip series.


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First post of a Sri Lanka Trip series.


I pull-on my egregiously masculine hiking shoes, tighten them around my ankles for support. Secure my earbuds and start my How Was Your Week? podcast. Look at my watch. 7:07. Let’s do this.

13 steps up. 13 steps down. 13 steps up. 13 steps down.

My cats look at me suspiciously. That Lady has finally lost it.

Practicing Climing Adam's Peak on My Stairs

I am conducting a test run, here in my condo, of climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) is a mountain in Central Sri Lanka that is a holy site to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims: the large footprint at the top was left by either Adam, Lord Shiva or Buddha, depending upon who you ask. Climbing Adam’s Peak is an important pilgrimage for many Sri Lankans, especially Buddhists.

The trek to the the summit of Adam’s Peak is greater than 7,000 feet — over 5,200 steps. I’ve calculated that climbing my loft stairs (13 steps) 100 times is the equivalent of climbing one-quarter of Adam’s Peak. Minus the altitude change, not factoring in the freezing temperature at the top and overlooking the fact that it’s a consecutive 5,200 steps up.

Adam's Peak Sri Lanka

I finish my trial hike in around 30 minutes, a little winded but not entirely exhausted. I guess that’s that. I guess I’m climbing Adam’s Peak.


I have only one hour until my taxi arrives.

“What do you mean you don’t have knee braces?” I ask. REI, a massive, two-story shrine to trekking, sells every imaginable item a hiker would ever need. Except knee braces (my knees were a little tender the day after my stairs experiment). Instead, I buy special socks to protect my toes, a shirt that “breathes” and official hiking pants.

Crap! Parking ticket. I stop for one minute…

Run to Kaehler Luggage. No knee braces here. Dammit. Down to 20 minutes.

CVS! CVS has knee braces. I throw them in my basket, tossing in Pop-Tarts, Pringles and vodka as I jog to the counter. I’m going to need all of this stuff if I’m really climbing Adam’s Peak.

Read the entire Sri Lanka series.


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First post of a Peru Trip series.

Peru Map



The discovery of the body of Sarai Sierra, an American woman traveling solo to Istanbul, is reported. She was murdered.

I’m not going anywhere near Istanbul this spring (that’s my July trip) —  I’m heading for Peru in two months — and although I’ve traveled by myself all around the world and know that random murders happen everywhere (My hometown of Chicago being no exception), the news reminds me of the vulnerability of being a woman traveling solo in a foreign country.



I receive an email from a friend containing a link to a post about Peru on the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security site, which reads:

The U.S. Embassy warns U.S. citizens of a potential kidnapping threat in the Cusco area.  The Embassy has received information that members of a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap U.S. citizen tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area.  Possible targets and methods are not known and the threat is credible at least through the end of February 2013. For the moment, personal travel by U.S. Embassy personnel to the Cusco region, including Machu Picchu, has been prohibited and official travel is severely restricted as a result of this threat.

Well, that’s just great. I’m traveling to Peru — including the “Cusco and Machu Picchu area” — in six weeks. The criminal organization in question is The Shining Path, which (according to Wikipedia) is a Maoist guerilla insurgency. Really? There are Maoist guerillas in our midst? I haven’t heard of The Shining Path since, like, fifth grade and now the bastards are threatening my vacation.

Is Peru safe? Should I reschedule my trip? I don’t know.


This just in: an America couple bicycling through Peru have gone missing. The common, obvious speculation is that they were kidnapped or killed.


I need to decide if I should take this trip to Peru at the end of the month or if the risk of danger is great enough that I should cancel it. I turn to the U.S. Department of State website to determine if Peru is safe:

The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) terrorist group remains active in Peru and has previously expressed an intention to target U.S. interests.

Violent crime, including carjacking, assault, sexual assault, and armed robbery is common in Lima and other large cities.

In the recent past, there have been a number of cases of armed robbery, rape, other sexual assault, and attempted rape of  U.S. citizens and other foreign tourists in Arequipa and in Cusco city, as well as in the outlying areas in the vicinity of various Incan ruins. These assaults have occurred both during daylight hours and at night.

Thieves often smash car windows at traffic lights to grab jewelry, purses, backpacks, or other visible items from a car.

Is Peru safe for travel? Is Peru safe for a solo, female traveler? Clearly not. Crap.  I should cancel my trip.

Read the entire Peru Trip series.


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