June 9, 2010

Japan April 11th-14th

Filed under: Asia, Travel — maryparadox @ 2:51 am

I was working for the last three days we were in Japan — we had a team “offsite” where all of the program managers got out of the office and spent several days talking about overall organization changes that would improve our jobs and productivity. It was pretty fun and we work covered some pretty nice lunches as well as dinners. My mom and I split the dinners so she got to come out with us, which was really great.

A.G. (middle above) lives in Tokyo so could order for us and also knew good restaurants to take us to. This night was a little fancy and had some drinks as well as sushi and assorted meats.

The next night we went out for street food which was dish after dish of “mystery meat”. I tried raw cow heart but I don’t think I would eat it again.¬† Afterward we went to this really cute bar and had drinks and dessert.

Below left is me and my coworker Anna, who I bonded with during the trip. Below right is my coworker Thomas, from Hong Kong. This guys is totally tough but below he is demonstrating how he is a “puppy” for his wife.

Back at our hotel a company selling razors (I think) had set up this huge TV which had a digital camera set up in front of it. It recorded you standing in front of the TV, then displayed you on the TV with the addition of a beard or mustache. It then put shaving cream on your face and then shaved it off. It didn’t make me buy a razor but it was totally awesome!


June 4, 2010

Japan April 8th-11th

Filed under: Asia, Travel — maryparadox @ 2:44 pm

I went to Japan again for work, and this time my mom came with me (last time my sister came). We were lucky and this time it was cherry blossom season and we came at almost the peak week.

This is the street our hotel was on (before we switched to the work-provided hotel), it was definitely the most beautiful street in the neighborhood so we felt really lucky.

We got to spend a lot of time walking around town and looking at all the parks and waterways. Luckily we happened onto the big (we think) cherry blossom park:

Everyone was outside enjoying the trees and the beautiful weather. The park was full of people walking and having picnics (though everyone stayed within the designated areas!)

Renting a boat and viewing the trees from the water was really popular:

December 16, 2009

Phuket, Thailand

Filed under: Asia — maryparadox @ 5:37 pm

I went to Thailand for a couple of days with my dad in between my trips to Hong Kong and Taiwan for work. He was helping out at an orphanage there and it seemed like a good time to visit a country I had always heard good things about.

I was totally expecting some cliche orphanage from the movies where all the kids are miserable and there are yuppy white people shopping for the perfect child. Instead the kids all looked really happy — like you got to hang out will all your friends all the time. They also were surprisingly *not* up for adoption. The plan is to put them through school then set them off into the world — no parents required. It was a neat thing to see and the kids had a lot of resources available to them; in fact the parents of non-orphans complained that their kids were at a disadvantage so the orphanage opened up its job training classes to the whole community. I didn’t spend too much time interacting with the kids since I unfortunately ended up working the whole time, but they were all really sweet, and I am now convinced that being an orphan instantly makes you cuter:
2009-11-29-47 (1)The countryside was amazing and it seemed that just about anything would grow anywhere. We went down to the beach and plants were just growing out of the sand. Apparently coconuts need the salt water to take root.

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While driving from Phuket, where the airport is, to the town with the orphanage, we passed by a number of these shrines as well as stores where the shrines were sold.

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Most importantly, we ate. My dad and I both love food so we took every opportunity to try new places and eat anything and everything that looked delicious. We tried eggs over rice with a sweet sauce (left) and tons of grilled (fried?) fish. Usually you just walked in and asked for food and they brought you something, with some occasional pointing at things like eggs or rice to see if you wanted them on the side. It was always a surprise but never bad, and occasionally fabulous. Thailand is definitely my favorite Asian food destination at this point.

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Fried flat bread with (spicy) red curry and usually eggs.


A weird coconut banana paste which tasted *exactly* like banana bread. Yum!

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December 15, 2009

Hong Kong

Filed under: Asia, Work — maryparadox @ 3:25 pm

I went to Hong Kong for the first time for work last month. The work wasn’t very exciting but the hotel was pretty weird. It was the W and it was super hip to the point of being obnoxious. There were some cool parts though:

The pool on the 87th floor (roof) of the W hotel and the view of the building next to it from the roof. Apparently the building next door is the 4th tallest in the world:

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The view of the harbor from my window:

And the view of the harbor a couple days later from the breakfast buffet:

To give you an idea of the weirdness of the hotel here is the weird Alice in Wonderland whitewashed hallway:

Me at work in Hong Kong. This is a pretty accurate distribution of skin tone and gender at our company:


October 22, 2009

Kimono Shopping, Tokyo, Japan

Filed under: Asia — maryparadox @ 7:47 pm
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Jackie and I spent a day walking around in the Asakusa neighborhood shopping and relaxing. It was raining cats and dogs. We tried all sorts of novelty foods and looked at every shop for kimonos. My sister really wanted one but we had no idea how much they were supposed to cost and the different quality levels. After several hours we got a pretty good feel for it — there seemed to be cheap packages at the tourist shops which contained a cotton or synthetic kimono, an oobe (belt) and sometimes shoes. There were used silk kimonos for around the same price or up, but they didn’t contain the belt, which is required to really wear the kimono, and the selection wasn’t as good. Then, after we had just about given up, we found a store which sold new silk kimonos for the same price, and cheap belts too! Jackie was so overwhelmed at this point she wasn’t sure she even wanted to buy one anymore, but the women in the shop were *very* good at sales and convinced her that she should try it on.

This ended up meaning they would dress her up properly in the kimono, which was a rather long process.

First there is some sort of undergarment which keeps the collar of the kimono in place.


Next they put the kimono over it and tie a small belt around your waist to pull the extra length of the kimono up.


Then they tie another two layers of belt around your waist to really cinch things in. Jackie said it was really tight.


The oobe goes over that. Unfortunately Jackie couldn’t see what they were doing, but it was some sort of crazy complicated knotting method we will never be able to reproduce.

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When they were Jackie looked pretty happy! I hate to say shopping is satisfying, but we were pretty happy by the time we left that shop. I even almost bought a kimono, but I managed to stop them from putting it on me, which would have been the kiss of death. I almost regret it, there was a beautiful orange and cream one that was totally “me”. Jackie is going to hang hers on the walking stick from Mount Fuji (more on that later) in her bedroom, which I can’t wait to see.


Interestingly, the oobe isn’t supposed to match the kimono. We had a hard time with that, so ended up picking one that matched on one side and was a contrasting color on the other. I think the combination looks great.


And for when Jackie does want to attempt to tie that crazy oobe again — there is an whole instruction book to go along with the kimono!

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

Filed under: Asia — maryparadox @ 7:15 pm

My sister and I went to Tokyo, Japan from August 8th-15th. Jackie was lucky enough to go to Kyoto the week before that but I had to go to Sapporo for work.

I’ll try to post our Japan photos over the next couple of days — posting them all at once has been a little intimidating. So here are our photos from visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market. We got up at 5am to try to catch the auction but somehow missed it still — either it was not on that day or we were too late. It was also POURING that day so we spent most of the time walking through foot high fish-water.


The fish were HUGE! The process seems to be to freeze the fish, cut it with a table saw (look how dangerous that looks!), thaw, clean up with a crazy huge knife, then haggle!

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October 1, 2009

Hsinchu, Taiwan (6/28-7/4)

Filed under: Asia, Hsinchu, Work — maryparadox @ 12:20 am

The last time I went to Hsinchu (I’m here again now) I managed to persuade¬† my work to send my friend and coworker Devin along with me. It was great to go with a friend and he was much more outgoing than I was; when there by myself I just stayed in the hotel at night, but with him we went to a night market, explored the mountain side, went shopping, and tried lots of random foods.

Here is our little adventure in pictures:

We left the hotel and started walking towards a green mountain we could see in the distance. First we found a zoo where we bought ice cream in order to get change for the entrance. Unfortunately the “ice cream” was some sort of frozen banana mush. Yuck.


In the zoo the the animals were much closer than they are at home. These emus were only held in by a wooden railing which they could stick their heads through to nip at you. Their cage also bordered the outside of the zoo and they were mimicking a dog on the other side of the fence.

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After leaving the zoo we came upon a square with a bunch of motorized cars with Pokemon characters. We bought a mystery drink (tasted like Gatorade) to get change for the cars.



Once we had the change I had to torment Devin to get him to drive the little car around. It played music as it drove, which is did lurchingly, but I was happy with my photos.


We left the square and continued our search for the green mountain. Along the way I found this picturesque fence.


And soon after we made it to the mountain where we found all sort of amazing things. To start with, the mountain was a park, and the park had workout equipment and hula-hoops!


The park also had beautiful trees and this hilarious paper cups with pigs. There were a some other people in the park and mostly I noticed a lot of old people, which made me realize how little I see old people in the US. Are they more visible in Asia because they live at home or because they are still working?

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Most importantly, when we left the mountain we found a random restaurant on the road where a waitress happened to speak English. We asked her for a recommendation and she brought us two HUGE bowl of soup with dumplings in them. One was pumpkin and one was tomato soup; both were excellent.


Later in the evening hwe went to the hotel bar where there was a woman singing primarily Beatles songs accompanied by a karaoke machine, with a little piano thrown over the top to give it “class”.

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May 5, 2009

Hsinchu, Taiwan

Filed under: Asia, Work — maryparadox @ 12:24 pm

My first time in Asia! Hsinchu is large in a sprawling sort of way, and authentic in the sense that no one speaks english. The people I worked with there were incredibly bright though, and very very nice. It rained the whole time we were there, with thunder and lightning. The weather was warm and steamy, which would have been nice if we hadn’t missed a weekend of 80 degree weather back home.


A sign in the elevator in the Hsinchu office. Hilarious. The next image is the potsticker box our lunch came in.

The strange porn menu in the hotel room; I hadn't thought of the fact that people might care if the woman in the porn video was white or Asian.

A display of cigars for sale; each with an image of a pregnant belly on the front, I assume to discourage pregnant women from smoking.

I flew through Toyko, Japan on my way to and from Hsinchu. On the way back my boss recommended a sushi restaurant in the terminal, outside of my gate. Airport sushi?? It sounded terrifying, but I went anyway. It was amazing. Probably the best sushi I’ve ever had, and it makes me really want to go back to Japan.

This was alive in the sushi case. No I did no eat it.

Oddly, as in California, all of the guys working in the sushi restaurant were Korean. There was a hilarious drunk guy that sat next to me at the bar and he kept saying the only English words he knew; these consisted of “hamburger” which was accompanied by the motion of biting into a hamburger, “roast beef”, “Hollywood”, and “San Francisco”. At least he got one of them right!

Shwag for my sister from Hsinchu.

I managed to take only a small gym bag and my backpack with my this trip, which meant only carry on, and no waiting at the carousel!

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