Sunday, December 31, 2006


Happy New Year from Canada!

I'm off to celebrate,
but I will be back with lots of
travel info and pics in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Training in Martial Arts and More at Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Center

Heading to Hong Kong? Learn some of the martial arts moves seen in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre at Tai O, Lantau Island.

Some information is offered in English, but contact them directly if you'd like to to check dates and currency exchange rate.

The center opened on July 9, 2006, and offers a range of courses in martial arts, body healing and specific skills over one to four days, depending on the course. The Shaolin center is located near the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island (photos).

See my Lantau Island photos and more Hong Kong photos , with information about other attractions as well as a few Hong Kong hotels and attractions links.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tremendous Christmas Day Feast in Mississauga

Realizing with some surprise that Christmas Day is almost here (I've tuned out the ubiquitous carols since they began assaulting my ears on November 1), I turned my attention to what to serve for Christmas dinner. Our family is not that fussed with the typical Christmas (and other major holidays) fare of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, or Baked Ham and Scallop Potatoes, and various trimmings. (One's a vegetarian so we factor that in. Others really don't like turkey. I personally hate wrestling with a floppy, naked bird at any time.)

My middle child and I each took one of her two Jamie Oliver cookbooks and scanned the recipes. I'd submit a possibility, she'd reject it, and vice versa. But, as a sign that our civilization is going to heck in a hand basket, we found none of the options appealing. As I left the room, deciding to try again later, she called out,"You know, we should just order Chinese food."

Immediately, my heart quickened: Visions of congee with mushrooms and chicken, snow pea shoots with garlic bits, lemon chicken in tangy sauce and much else danced about. "Yes!" Add in some tofu and vegetarian spring rolls, and everyone's happy.

And so our dinner choices are made. We're ordering from our Chinese restaurant of choice in Mississauga :: Tremendous. We called to check if they are going to be open. Yes, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tremendous (located at 3550 Wolfedale, south of Burnhamthorpe) is close to our home. We can phone in our order and it will be ready when we get there. And yes, we've allowed for leftovers for later. All told, the cost is about the same as for a home cooked meal. That we don't have to cook it at all is an absolute bonus!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Polar Trekking Not What It Used To Be

Given my keen, albeit recent, interest in polar journeys, fostered by books such as The Worst Journey in the World and a few others, I noted with some anticipation that my new copy (Jan 2007) of National Geographic contained a story about three men heading for the North Pole in winter.

But after reading just a few pages, I put it aside. Polar journeys, like much else, it seems, are not what they used to be. With the advent of GPS tracking, helicopter back up, satellite phones and high tech survival gear and foodstuffs, well, that's like my roughing it in the lobby of the Hilton. Sure, it's technically 'camping', but not much of a challenge.

The Worst Journey in the World is Apsley Cherry-Garrard's account of the Worst Journey (to find the Emperor penguins in winter) compiled with the diaries and letters of others to tell the tale of Scott's final attempt to reach the South Pole in 1911-early 1912. (See details USA Today). Somewhat ironically, National Geographic names it the best adventure travel book of all time.

That Amundsen reached the South Pole first, and by less than a month, that Scott and all his party died on the way back to the main camp, and that his expedition -- using horses instead dog teams exclusively, charting a more westerly route, traveling by ship with coal-fired engines instead of oil -- and that Scott encountered terrible weather conditons, well, that's just plain sad. And no matter how many times you read the story, the outcome is always the same.

Those who mount modern day expeditions -- to reach either Pole, or climb whatever mountain is highest or more techcinically challenging -- also endure extreme hardship, even loss of life. Some are scientific undertakings, as was Scott's. But many are purely self-indulgent. At best, they field test the latest survival gear, clothing or electronics, or write a book afterwards.

Such modern polar expeditions owe much to advancements in navigation, forecasting and materials.Yet, though high tech gear smooths out some of the hardships, these accounts make less than exciting reading.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

1907 Stanley Cup Champions :: Kenora Thistles

From my cousin, who lives in Kenora, Ontario, Canada ::
"2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the Kenora Thistles winning the Stanley cup. Arrangements are being made for celebrations in the new year. Lord Stanley's cup will be in Kenora. Caps, shirts etc. are on sale. Sears is selling Thistles hockey sweaters since there was no copyright on the crest."
From the Kenora Thistles web site :
"In March, 1906, the Montreal Wanderers won the Stanley Cup from Ottawa and retained it until they met with the [Kenora] Thistles hockey team in January, 1907. The Thistles traveled to Montreal and cleanly beat the Wanderers, winning the first game by a score of 4-2, and the second 8-6."
How cool is this? You can find out more about this lovely city (that's closer to Winnipeg, Manitoba, than it is to Toronto, the capital of its own province) from Kenora Tourism.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

World Weather Forecasts Right or Wrong?

When I am planning a trip, I check the weather reports for some time ahead to get an idea of what to expect and what to pack. Today, though, I had two emails that gave me pause for thought. Both concern the local weather where the senders live.These emails made me wonder if I rely too heavily on the accuracy of weather forecasts. Here are the emails.

From friend Teena ( in Sydney, Australia, where in about 48 hours, it will be the first day of summer:
"Man, it's pouring and freezing this morning, a bit of a change -- a max of 21 C (70 F) expected after these hot balmy days. I woke in the night and my arms were freezing outside the covers . . ."
My local paper, the Toronto Star, reports Acuweather forecasts today in Sydney should be partly cloudy, with a high of 26C (79 F). In light of Teena's email, both reports seem a shade optimistic.

Then I heard from Sharon, of, who's in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
"Claudy and Louisena, two of the students we sponsor in high school and who work up in Sen Rafayel, had walked down the mountain today (a distance of about 28 kms/17 miles) to tell me about a bad storm last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They called it a cyclone and 'inundation' -- the river rose and overflowed its banks and the rain was torrential. The floods and high winds wiped out most of the banana trees and gardens. All the trees are denuded, wooden houses fell down, all the animals -- chickens, pigs, goats -- are gone. There's water in every house, including the schools, with most of the materials and student records ruined or swept away. I had just bought 200 lbs. rice and 100 lbs peas, so I sent half of it back with them when they left. They desperately need clothing, particularly running shoes and Tshirts. We can always buy food in here Cap-Haitien. As far as we know, no one has been killed."
This sounds like a fairly strong storm, with possibly a tornado, but I can't find anything on web news about this. Perhaps this part of Haiti is not well covered in the mainstream media.

So I checked the newspaper's forecast for Santiago, Chile, where it's supposed to be sunny and in the high 20s C/low 80s F during the day, and down to 11C/52F at night. But then, Santiago gets this forecast most days of the year, it seems. When I was there last year this time, it was exactly like that. Great climate for vineyards!

But it made me wonder: Is the weather where you are what the forecasters told the rest of us it would be? Or is it totally off?

Edit: To the Weather Guy with the detailed stats sites for weather: thanks for your links, though I'm unable to post your comment due to tech probs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cathay Pacific All-Asia Pass 2007 :: Kota Kinabalu is back in the list!

This is great news for those who plan to travel to Kota Kinablau (Sabah, Malaysia) but it's a few months too late for me!

I had planned to take advantage of the All-Asia pass last spring since in 2005, as touring Kota Kinabalu was the main reason for my trip. But no, it was not to be. For 2006, no matter how hard I read the list of free add-ons via Hong Kong, I couldn't find it anywhere.

I emailed my Hong Kong tourism contact and she double-checked with Cathay : Nope, not there. Nor was Beijing that year. (Beijing isn't on this year's pass, but the flight from Hong Kong is relatively inexpensive. (Find the best deals)

But now, for 2007, here's the full list of 22 destinations plus Hong Kong:
Bali, Bangkok (Thailand, photos), Cebu, Colombo (Sri Lanka, photos), Fukuoka, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Jakarta, Karachi, Kota Kinabalu!, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Nagoya, Osaka, Penang, Phuket, Phnom Penh, Sapporo, Seoul, Singapore, Surabaya, Taipei and Tokyo.

You can add on (for a very reasonable fee) Dhaka, Delhi, Mumbai, Hanoi, and in Australia, the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney or Auckland, N.Z. As well, you can add on days/weeks to the pass, again for a fee.
The all-Asia pass takes a bit of planning to work out the best value and itinerary, but it's worth it if you want to cover a number of destinations. Just be aware that you'll be starting each leg in Hong Kong. But that's a great airport, and it will soon feel like an old friend. (Remember, you can now take the cable car from the airport in Hong Kong to see the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island.)

In early January, I'll be processing my photos and travel tips for Kota Kinabalu, and Sarawak.
Stay tuned!
March 2008 The Borneo pages are now online at

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Time to Travel? The World Will Come To You!

Today's Toronto Star has a story (Droughts to set off exodus) by Peter Gorrie, about a conversation with Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University, discussing the impact of emigration from drought and severe weather afffected areas of the world, and the corresponding impact of an influx of refugees to wealthy nations, notably Europe, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. (Photo: Family Near Aksum Ethiopia)

According to Adeel, the number of projected emigrees, dubbed 'environmental refugees', will "swamp the current global total of 19 million refugees from all other threats . . . " and likely "hit 50 million in a decade . ." (read the full story) This is more food for sober thought for those who pooh-pooh climate change and global warming, taking the short for-profit view over sustainable-for-all.

The advent of the new millennium seemed to promise a new global era of wholesale change in our collective viewpoints: That differences in philosophies could be set aside for the common good, a laissez-faire approach embracing our differences, and celebrating our similarities. But that dream soon shattered. The best we can do, it seems, is to wring our hands in dismay, and stay the 'ignore it and it will go away' course, no matter that it's not working.

Even with the recommended 'fixes' (revegetation, solar power, eco-tourism) to allow people to stay in their homelands (the print story includes photos of Africa's Lake Chad and a desertified area in Somalia), some areas would likely be uninhabitable for many years.

For those who currently don't have time to travel the world, do nothing: In a few years, the world will come to you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2007 Niagara Ice Wine Festival January 19-28

The cold snap in early December resulted in a bumper harvest of primo ice wine grapes this season, marked with the annual Ice Wine Festival (see the official site, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival).

One of the highlights is a spectacular Icebar carved from a 7000 lb. block of ice. Dubbed the Twenty Valley Icebar, it's 18 feet long, engraved with ornate scenes of Canadiana and is placed right in the centre of Main Street in Jordan Station. The main street is closed for Icewine tasting from over 20 wineries, ice carving demonstrations, food and entertainment.

Reports Betsy Foster (Tourism Niagara):
Niagara’s famous wine route is prepared to welcome visitors from around the globe for an expanded ten days of tours, tastings, seminars, samplings, food pairings and a few surprises, all placing Icewine in the spotlight. A Winery Touring Passport enables the holder access to exclusive offers and complimentary events, January 19 – 28, 2007 at 30 participating wineries, at only $30 Canadian per passport.
Contact these sites for more details as needed. I've posted my photos of summertime Niagara at Niagara Falls Ontario

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What's Your Perfect Travel Holiday?

The reasons we travel and where we like to go are often unique to the individual traveler, but there are only a few broad categories. Here are my decidedly unscientific observations. What catgegory do you fall under?

Kick Back, Relax, Don't Bug Me for a Week. Budget: $
You want to get away from it all, whether 'it' is a job, a family situation or depressing winter weather. You don't want to have to think at all -- just have someone come out to the beach or find your hammock to tell you when dinner's ready, or pass you the sunscreen or bring you a drink. All-inclusive sun destinations were custom made for you.

Holiday Time is Play Time. Budget: $$
You love to (pick one or more) ski, surf, hike, bike, kayak, climb, do yoga, fish, golf, cook, knit, build a home with Habitat For Humanity, teach English, or otherwise volunteer your time and skills-- whatever your hobby or passion. Your idea of a perfect holiday is the freedom to more of the same, but with different scenery and different people. One of the small group specialty tours is your best bet. You get the comfort of having someone else handle the details while you get to indulge to your heart's content and hone your skill(s).

Culture Vulture, Shopping. Budget: $$$
You adore museums and art galleries, designer shops and fine dining. Your ideal holiday is rubbing shoulders with the well-heeled crowd. You tolerate camping only when you can pitch your tent in the lobby of a 5-star hotel. Believe it or not, there's a small group tour for you, too. Fashion week in Milan, studying French in Paris, soaking up history in Athens, a week at a spa.

All of the above. Budget: $-$$$$$
While some travelers are comfortable only in their specific 'zone', many of us happily cross over, taking from our holiday time whatever strikes our fancy, and combining various 'types' to get the most value for our vacation dollar. We add a few day tours to an all-inclusive holiday, or layover a few days in a stop-over city (London, say, to catch a few plays and do some shopping), or hike and bike, or plant trees for a week, then spend a few days stretched out in a hammock under a palm tree.

What type of traveler are you? Whatever your type, I challenge you to expand your horizons: Volunteeer for community service in Peru, then go walkabout at Manchu Pichu. Stir yourself from your beach chair, and visit a school or a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

And if you're already an eclectic traveler, you're well on your way to becoming a global citizen. And that's a good thing, Martha!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Eden Project : Travel in England

One of the presenters at the recent VEMEX (Europe Tourism/Media Exchange in Toronto) meetings was the intriguingly named Eden Project, and I immediately signed up to learn more. What I learned was, that the very first chance I get to next visit England, I am making my way to Cornwall, where I will spend a day or two touring the Eden Project. The picture here is a sunset shot, provided by the Eden Project. I chose it as it gives the best view of the size.

That a sterile open-pit clay mine could be turned into the world's largest greenhouse is a marvel; that it's been a major boost to the local economy in what was a depressed area is by design. Anyone interested in gardening, landscape design, reclaiming 'dead' land, protecting the environment and much else will learn a lot here, and have a good time in the bargain.

Before I lapse into superlatives, the easiest thing to do is visit the web site, check out the web cam and take a virtual tour (Eden Project). To find out how to get there, click on Visiting.

If you have a car, it seems an easier trip from London. By train and bus, it's a little harder, with the number of transfers depending on where you're coming from. I'll check around and see if some enterprising tour company is offering 1-3 day tour-stay packages and let you know.

Dim Sum in Mississauga :: Happy Garden

A while back, I wrote about the great dim sum at the Mississauga Chinese Centre, on Dundas and Cawthra (see previous blog) . There are several great dim sum locations in Mississauga, and I am in the process of getting the contact details for as many as I can.

In the interim, here's another one to try: The Happy Garden Seafood Chinese Restaurant, in the Roseborough Centre (phone 905 826-6688) at the southeast corner of Creditview and Eglinton. As with the other dim sum restaurants, it's very busy on Sundays. I was there last weekend, and the line up at 1 p.m. was out to the street.

If you can, avoid arriving at any dim sum location over the noon hour. We've had the best luck at getting prompt seating when we time our meal for jsut before 11 a.m. Much later, around 4, can be less busy, but the offerings can be slimmer.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

World Snowboard Championships :: Arosa Switzerland

If you're heading to Europe, check out this interesting travel goodie from Switzerland Tourism:
Arosa: Snowboard World Championships 2007 (January 13 - 20, 2007) For the first time ever, Switzerland will host the Snowboard World Championships. Arosa, the venue, guarantees first-class infrastructure, competitions and parties. The competitions -- Snowboardcross, Parallel Giant Slalom, Big Air (Ski jump) and Halfpipe -- will be held in the Tschuggen area. Entry to all competitions, and to the spectacular social program, is free.
I'm not fussed on cold snowy weather myself, but it sounds like fun. May as well join 'em -- you sure can't beat 'em!