Spam holds a place dear in the hearts of many Pacific islanders, a legacy of the canned food rations brought to this part of the world by American soldiers during World War II. In Honolulu, the love stays alive through the annual Spam Jam on Waikiki Beach, where local restaurants come up with recipes for using the canned meat -- with varying success.
At last, a place where it's not only okay for cats to be on the table, they're SUPPOSED to be on the table. I give you: Calico Cat Cafe.
I almost stepped on this scorpion when I was walking around Yangon. Not good, as I was wearing sandals. He was in no particular hurry to leave either as I snapped some photos of him. He's about five inches long. You'll understand my hesitation in putting my hand near him to show the size scale, won't you?
Myanmar may have been cut off from the rest of the world because of years of economic sanctions, but love flourishes here...and so does Valentines Day. Here are a few glimpses from the streets of Rangon this day:
While in the Philippines, I interviewed an old U.S. vet who's lived in the country for years. Married his second Filipina wife after he outlived his first. He said he's always been amazed about America's attitude toward the Philippines, which was still an American colony as World War II broke out. "We fought the Germans and Japanese," he said. "We had the Marshall Plan in Germany and rebuilt the country into one of the strongest economies in the world. We had a similar plan for Japan. And what did we leave the Philippines, which fought beside us and suffered greatly for it? They got our jeeps."
Well, the Philippines have made the most of what they got. They retrofitted those early jeeps into splashy, lengthened buses, which became known as jeepneys. Sixty-five years later the progeny of the original jeepneys still roam the Philippine roads by the thousands. A ride only costs a few cents, and, much to the consternation of other drivers, jeepneys will stop wherever, whenever you want. Traffic be damned.
Here's a little taste of jeepneys 2012.
The boys below hang around in the waters near the outdoor restaurants on the bay of Zamboanga City, which is in the southern Philippines. They wriggle and generally make a commotion so that onlookers will toss pesos into the water, for which they'll dive in and retrieve. Btw, one U.S. dollar is worth about 42 pesos, so that's a helluva lot of diving to buy anything. And judging by the rib cage of the main dancing boy, he's not getting enough pesos for food.
Below was one of my first sightings after getting to Manila. I was riding in a car behind, and we were going about 30-mph. The dog kept teetering right and left, but he kept his balance. Lucky for him he has a helmet in case he did fall. A matching helmet with the driver. I got a few seconds of very wobbly video. Probably looks the way the dog felt! (The dog has something shaved into its fur on the side. Looks like a radio-tower beacon.)
My town of Akigawa held its summer "matsuri," or festival, recently. It started at noon and ended promptly at 9 p.m. In between were scores of dance and musical performances, capped off with a two-hour parade of mobile shrines and music floats featuring mythical creatures. I have to guess what a lot of it means, but I did get the sense that the whistles being tooted during the closing parade were mimicking the cicadas that start squealing from the trees this time of year. There's almost 10 minutes of video, so settle in with a drink and some snacks.
It's Olympics Fever 2012 in Japan, all the way down to the breaded goods. Here's what the bagel shop named Hoop near my office is offering up: a five-pack representing the Games' rings. Can't wait to try the green tea with white chocolate flavor. Hoop's staffs are cheer for JAPAN? We all are cheer for JAPAN!!
I recently spent three weeks in Vietnam for work and play. I landed in Hanoi and went to the famed Halong Bay, then flew to Danang in the central part of the country. From there I took a train to Hue, the nation's former capital before the French colonized the country. From there I went farther north to Quang Tri Province, which is where the DMZ (demilitarized zone) was during the Vietnam War.
Despite the horrendous legacy of war left by the U.S. -- millions of pounds of unexploded bombs and Agent Orange contamination that's still causing birth defects in the third generation born since it was dumped there by America -- the Vietnamese seem to have genuine warm feelings about America and Americans. They kind of view it as a moment of madness by the United States.
Too many pictures follow the jump. You've been warned.
This video shows some folk dancing that was part of a festival in Hue, Vietnam, in April. The last part of the video is a pedicab ride I took over the Perfume River in Hue. This gives you a little sense of what it's like to be on the road in a small Vietnam city. A few seconds into the video a pedicab passes on the left, which looks exactly like the one I was riding.