A Rev Evolutionary Edu Vacation

Shantiniketan is the home of a unique University Viswa-bharati , India (and Asia)’s first Nobel Laureate , Rabindranath Tagore used the money from the Nobel prize to further his father’s vision of a place of higher learning , one of the instances when the Nobel prize money was actually put to good use as was hoped for, by Alfred Nobel. Einstein actually used it to pay his alimony .

This is an open air school where each classroom has a tree and a podium for the teacher

Rabindranath Tagore as a child hated the traditional concept of a school and played truant on the banks of the river Kopai . I imagine the river looked more scenic in his day. Legend also has it that he wrote Gitanjali on the banks of this river

I found a vendor of date palm jaggery on the banks of the river

This is a date palm tree .

They use coconut shells to shape the jaggery.

The villagers use the dried leaves of the date palm tree as fuel. The sap is tapped and collected into buckets which is then heated on a fire . It reminded me of Maple syrup from Sugar Maple trees in Ohio and Canada. The process is very organic , natural , vastly different from the manufacture of any of our sweeteners . I don’t know but I am willing to bet that the Glycemic Index of this is substantially below industrially manufactured and bleached white sugar.

Viswa-Bharati has several different schools but the one that I could visit was called Kala Bhavan or the art school . Getting around in Shantiniketan is done via Tuk-tuks , an improvised contraption on wheels that runs on natural gas

Our guide told us that we could get to the school after classes were over at 1:30 PM so we ended up visiting a museum nearby which housed cultural artifacts and models of homes in several of the nearby states

The one that fascinated me most was the dwellings of the aborgine people of Andaman and Nicobar islands

These are supposed to be stilts and the house is built on a raised platform

The floor is made of bamboo and incredibly uncomfortable to walk on . I hear that they sleep on this . Mind boggling!!!

This was my first view of Shantiniketan

The grounds are immaculately maintained

These are works of the Sculptor Ramkinkar Baij

What is remarkable about these sculptures is that he created them by putting up a wireframe and then throwing gobs of concrete and plaster from a distance . I could not but draw parallels between this technique and Jackson Pollack

Walking in further lead to more amazing scenes like these murals


A painting in stone

Amazingly these murals were made with tiles



Watching this reminded me of Frank Wright LLoyds Fallingwater. A harmony of architecture with Nature !!!

Watching the Banyan vines made me nostalgic


This was an amazing artifact to me , the artist had created a bug with the gas tank of a Yamaha motorcycle , motorcycle mirror holders and other odd artifacts . In fact at the open air market outside the school were a variety of handicrafts , handloom textiles and curiosities as the above made beetle , all made from household materials . The artist had clearly seen regular every day items with a creative eye and produced something all of his own .

I loved the concept of this school , the idea of applying what you know while you are being taught . Unfortunately I could not quite see how the other schools in Viswa-Bharati were conducting their classes . It would be quite interesting to see the science schools

Education as a subject has always fascinated me . The current model of education all over the world which has pupils memorizing and regurgitate for the sake of the exam encourages a behavior where the student is rewarded for memorizing meaningless facts and promptly forgetting after the exam is over .

I have heard numerous arguments for allowing kids to drop subjects that they dislike . Math seems to be a popular choice for dropping . Plato had a quote outside his Academy that anybody ignorant of math should not enter  and if the ancient Greeks thought so highly of a well rounded education in those simpler times, this day and age simply demands it. I believe that not being exposed to the core ideas in all subjects is like going through life with your hands cuffed behind your back. I have learnt from personal experience as well as very interesting reading that exposure is what allows us to recognize patterns and exploit them .

Growing up in India and watching snow in movies made me believe that snow was white fluffy stuff that was good for skiing (which I thought was a risk less sport) and making snow balls and hitting your friends. I moved to Ohio in December and before the winter was out , I had recognized several kinds of snow , the fluffy ones , the heavy slushy ones . the ones that were overly slippery. I read that the Inuit living in the Arctic circle had 17 different words for snow . When your life depends on recognizing whether the snow / ice can handle your weight , I suppose it makes sense to be as specific as possible . It also makes sense to have specific words for it so you can hang your experiences on those words and thereby make it easy for recall.  Another  anecdote is about this tribe living deep in the Amazon rain forests who do not know the color blue . They know the color green and can discern minute difference in shades of green that most women would envy and yet when they were given a color wheel with shades of green and one blue and asked to point out to the color that stood out, none pointed at Blue. It is actually not too outlandish , first time I read Homer , I was baffled at his description of the wine dark sea . I could not imagine a sea that was the color of any wine that I had drunk . It made sense later on after I found out that the ancient Greeks had no word for blue . One could offer countless examples where one starts to recognize patterns only after one is taught to recognize the pattern or at least the principle behind the patterns .

The idea behind letting kids choose their future is an attractive one but to be able to do that , they need to be aware of all the choices and tools at their disposal. Paul Graham had an interesting essay , fair warning it is lengthy .

How to do what you love

In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had my play and here have I caught sight of him who is formless.
My whole body and my limbs have thrilled with his touch who is beyond touch; and if the end comes here, let it come—let this be my parting word.

This fragment from Gitanjali seems to refer to god but it could very well refer to that spark of creation that lies within each and every one of us , a spark that needs the tools that schools provide . This school is a testament to that spirit and to the vision of some great men who made it possible.



In praise of the City of Joy

The author  of Geography of Genius  makes a strong case for the fact that Genius tends to be clustered in space and time . Ancient Athens is the first known example when we had brilliant minds like Socrates , Aristotle , Plato , Herodotus , Aristophanes , Sophocles, Euripides,Euclid , Archimedes , Hippocrates  co exist within 200 years of each other . Moving forward , we can see the time of the Renaissance where we have Da Vinci , Michelangelo , Machiavelli live around the same time in Italy , fast forward a hundred years and we have the Enlightenment in Scotland that had Hume , Smith , Paris with Voltaire , Rousseau , Lavoisier, Montesquieu , Kant in Germany and our own Founding fathers in America , similarly between 1840 and 1920  Calcutta (Kolkata) experienced the Bengal Renaissance where we had Nobel laureates such as Rabindranath Tagore , Biologists / Physicists such as Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose . The book is very readable in spite of being only a subset of the different places and times (it skips Paris in 1920s).  So here I am in Kolkata , wondering if I can see what made the city so special in that time .

Kolkata had an interesting mix of populations during the British rule, while on the one hand , the most educated and Anglophilic existed here but co existing with them were the most fervent nationalists who were opposed to the British rule . The Indian national anthem comes from Rabindranath Tagore , there has been some rumblings that we should focus on”Vande Materam ” written by Bankim Chandra Bose (another Bengali) which is a fervently patriotic song that rouses one’s spirits even one such as myself who does not understand the language.

The people are reputed to be extremely friendly and helpful. I got my first taste of that when I was trying to get to the famous Kalighat temple. A rickshaw driver actually took a detour  to guide us through the narrow alleys to get us to Kalighat . I was touched. I had never ever experienced anything like it. Kalighat is an old Kali temple in Kolkata

Early morning street markets getting ready to open

The main temple dome

Inside the temple , I saw a streak of fresh blood across the floor and following the streak led me to the beheaded carcass of a baby goat. I suppose that was the sacrificial offering for the morning . I saw offerings of purple radishes  , I had never seen offerings of vegetables in temples before , asking the priest led to some incomprehensible mutterings in Bengali , after grilling him in Hindi , he responded curtly that I would not understand. I took the hint and moved on

A tram – relic of days bygone was certainly a sight to see . Though I see it routinely in San Francisco and find it mundane , somehow seeing it in Kolkata was different,  watching it amidst the crazy traffic is like watching a thriller .

This is a replica of the Big Ben in London.

These are the pictures of the famous Park street

I found some interesting fruits on Park street , I searched for them everywhere but could not find any

This fruit reminded me of starfruit, the texture is similar and just like starfruit , it is bland and juicy.

While this one was a total mystery

I learnt from Google that it was called a Rose Apple and apparently it is grown in Oregon and California but the ones in North America does not look anything like this. The texture is like a pear and it has a delightful rose fragrance. This particular variety grows in South East Asia

This is the iconic Howrah bridge on the Hoogly river

The Hoogly is a tributary of the Ganges , the holiest river for the Hindus . Hindu myths dictate that a dip in the Ganges washes away all of ones sins . Today the Ganges flows into Bangladesh where it meets the Indian ocean in the Bay of Bengal but every tributary is considered just as sacred so one finds a lot of Hindus bathing in the Hoogly

Kolkata is also the home of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa , an 18th century mystic highly revered in Bengal and also the home of Sri Vivekananda who travelled to America in 1890s and introduced a new spiritual movement in America . Sri Ramakrishna had his divine visions at the Dakshineshwar temple.

This is a view of the bridge from the temple

One has to take a ferry from the temple to get to Belur Math which is where the temples are dedicated to Ramakrishna, his wife  and his disciples and one gets to view where the old co-exists with the new

A fisherman in his canoe getting ready to launch his fishing tackle

As can be expected , the entrance from the water is quite scenic

The main temple

Feast for the eyes for Flora lovers

Dedicated to the wife of Sri Ramakrishna .

Just outside Belur Math was a street vendor selling something that looked like potatoes , and they call “Sweet Potato”, it turned out to be Jicama (Mexican Yam) my sister insisted on tasting it so we had the street vendor cut it up for us . He added some rock salt-spice mixture to the chopped pieces . The texture was more like  a pear and it did not taste at all like a raw potato or even the Jicama that I have eaten before. Just last month , I had encountered a book called the Botany of Desire which deals with 4 plants ; Apple , Potato , Cannabis and Tulip. The author reiterated was that these plants have been artificially moulded by our desires . Apples as sweet as a Red Delicious is an anomaly as is a Russet Burbank . We do not let these plants attain the vast potential that their genes are capable of . In the Andes is a purple potato that I have never heard about.  Kolkata showed me an apple that did not look or taste like any Apple that I had eaten before . A touching incident here was the interaction itself , my sister asked the vendor to add more of the salt spice mixture , he insisted that his concoction was the best but just to satisfy us , he gave us a packet of his precious spice mixture which he said we could add if we wanted but he assured us that we did not need to. I looked at him marveling at his torn clothes , extreme poverty had not affected his pride in his craft . His pride to me was touching and inspiring.

My tryst with history as I expected it did not materialize . There is a lot of history in this place including the Battle of Plassey which led to the first British stronghold on Indian soil in 1757 . Modern Kolkata owes a debt to Job Charnock who not only saved a young Indian woman from Sati , a dreadful practice of burning widows alive with their dead husbands but married her and sired 4 children and adopted Indian ways of smoking cheroots or Indian cigars and drinking arrack , a harsh palm brandy. I saw a hospital named after him and I presume that there are more memorials to the man .


The Grand Trunk road connects Chittagong, Bangladesh to Kabul,Afghanistan via Kolkata , Delhi , Amritsar and Lahore. Reading about Sher Shah Suri who ruled India in 1540  , I had discovered the Grand Trunk road .However I was to learn later that Chandragupta Maurya  had built large sections of it.  This was my great opportunity to ride on the section of the Grand Trunk Road west of Kolkata and retracing the steps of those brave travelers so many centuries ago. While thrilling , most of it is slow progress . Like most highways in India , they tend to go through the hearts of small villages so one can expect a small crowd in the middle of the street drinking tea , a herd of buffaloes crossing the road and other interesting sights so dont speed , you never know what will show up in front of you on the road.

I found the culture to be charming and interesting , the city shuts down come 12:30 PM and does not re open until 3:30 – 4 PM . They take their time for lunch and a much needed siesta after the delicious meal . The sweets have been reputed to be the best in India as long as I can remember , I consumed them like a glutton who knows no tomorrow and I have to admit that just about everything that I tried there was delicious . The pale imitations that I had eaten earlier in other cities do not come close . They have an amazing variety of sweets that I did not know existed . On the flight there , several of my co passengers after learning that I had never been to Kolkata heartily recommended several sweetmeat shops and I fortunately took them up and indeed the sweets did not disappoint. The Bengalis love their meat and fish and indeed so much so that I was introduced to an amazing sight , one that I had never seen before . Vegetables , fruits , meat , fish , chicken all sold in the same market place with no separation .

Here one sees the goat carcasses alongside the fresh vegetables and moving further one sees a sea of fish . The Bengalis love their fish and call it the vegetable of the sea .

Bangur road is a tribute to their artistic capabilities

Here one sees a lawn sculpture of the famous Dandi march statue in Delhi

A horde of elephants

Bangur street is covered with street posts that have been created by artists , one finds a lifesize clown loitering around and a roadside snack vendor and only close inspection reveals that these are sculptures . The traffic is horrendous and parking is impossible so I could not get out of the car to take much needed pictures

Turned out that my trip to Kolkata was far shorter than what I should have planned for . Also turned out that there were far more sights to see including the Sunderbans which is the home of the Bengal tiger , Ganga Sagar which is where the Hoogly meets the Indian ocean .Time to plan a return trip!!

Riding a 180 mile national park

To check out the ride on the GAP click here

Day 1 – From Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD

The Chesapeake and Ohio canal national historical park has its terminus at Georgetown (about 30 miles  away from the Chesapeake) but the other terminus is Cumberland , MD which is almost 160 miles away from the state of Ohio and 100 miles from the city of Pittsburgh where the Ohio river comes to life . So in my opinion the name  is a tribute to optimism , optimism that the railroad would eventually reach Ohio. Today it is a wonderful national park , a park to ride horses in and ride bicycles …. as long as they have trail tires.

Cumberland , MD is the meeting point of the C&O and the GAP.

We left Cumberland early and this is what it looks like .

Leaving Cumberland

Within no time , we were in deep wilderness . This is what the trail looked like (mostly) on day 1

C&O 4

The canal was dug up and the towpath(or the bike trail) divides the canal from the Potomac river . Today the canal hosts a large number of turtles ,among other fauna

I got to see this lil bugger on the road .

I decided to pick him up and put him aside for safety . Most of us would believe that the hard shell of the turtle would protect him from crazy bicyclists and I would have believed that too until I saw one where the shell was split open . If you ever decide to save a turtle , make sure to wash your hands , they do carry salmonella.

I got to see an old fashioned water pump , had not seen one of these since the mid 80s when I would travel to my mother’s hometown, Chennai . The water is pretty rank , ok to shower or wash but definitely do not drink . Some would say the same for the water in Chennai as well .


About 30 miles in , we got to see  the Paw Paw tunnel . The tunnel is 3/5ths of a mile long. It does not seem like much unless you walk through it ,it is pitch dark so maneuvering the trail while walking with the knowledge that there is quicksand 20 feet below does not inspire confidence even in the bravest of hearts.  For its day and time , it was an engineering marvel .


In spite of the ghost that you hear in the video , we emerged unscathed on the other side

The village of Paw-Paw seemed to be the only place between Cumberland and Hancock for getting food . They have a gas station and an ice cream shop . The gas station sells chicken salad sandwiches and fresh cut watermelon (which tastes divine after a 30 mile bike ride) . About 20 miles from Paw- Paw starts the Western Maryland Rail Trail which is paved and goes all the way into Hancock,MD.  Day 1 ended in Hancock , MD .  We stayed in a small motel and turned in for an early night after dinner


Day 2 – From Hancock,MD to Harpers Ferry,WV

The Western Maryland Rail trail ends in Big Pool which is about 10 miles from Hancock. This is also where one gets to see Fort Frederick , a Civil War fortification .

Barely 10 miles later, we arrived at Dam 5


Shortly after I saw this board and was happy to see it , our conservation efforts, meager as they are ,  do seem to be paying off  .


Shortly I was stopped by a a half hysterical female biker, I wondered if she wanted my phone number  ,  it turned out that there was a baby bird and it needed to be saved. Apparently she could not bring herself to save it!!!

Not too far we saw this unused magnificent structure .

This is a  lock . This is where ships from one water level are raised or lowered to another water level . The Panama canal is probably the best example of how important navigation locks are to us . Without the Panama Canal Locks, ships would have to go around the Cape of Good Horn around the tip of South America .

Soon we were riding alongside the Potomac

Riding with Don on the Potomac

Eventually we reached Dam 5

We finally got to Shepherdstown where we had lunch along with a West Virginia beer . I saw this cool picture and decided to get a pic of it

Should be everybody’s motto!!!


About 10 or so miles later , we ended up in Harper’s Ferry , our destination for Day 2.

But we had to walk across this bridge

Walking across the bridge with Mike

This was the only marine that was killed in John Brown’s raid .

This is the building that John Brown attacked .


Harper’s Ferry is where several national trails meet . We ended meeting some folks from Georgia , well they had walked all the way from Georgia on the Appalachian trail and were headed to Maine , over  500 miles away . They walked about 20-25 miles a day.


This church can be seen for miles and miles.It is built on a hill and looks simply majestic


We passed within a mile of Antietam , reputed to be the bloodiest single day battle in American history. Unfortunately we could not figure out where we needed to get off so we missed it. We passed a lot of historical spots that had been hot beds of activity during the Civil war but today they seem to be sleepy little towns . The day’s ride was extraordinarily beautiful in a trip that was laden with amazing sights

Day 3 – From Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington,DC

About 20 miles from Harpers Ferry , we saw the Monocacy Aquaduct


Turtles sunning on a log in the river

We had seen close to 50 locks but this one seemed to have some water

And on the other bank , we had a curious visitor

And a beautiful sight


We saw the Edison Power plant

and nearby was the location where the Olympic rowing athletes practiced before the Barcelona Olympics , sponsored by the power company.

We finally reached Great Falls


We tried to enter Goat Island but were told by the volunteers that we could not take our bike on the island , I am sure it is an amazing place to visit

Goat Island


That was our last majestic view of the Potomac wilderness before we entered Georgetown

We found some stragglers to welcome us to DC

Got a taste of DC traffic

Inside DC with Dan

And finally the grand finale . Tried to meet the MAN

DC is a gorgeous place and tons and tons of things to do for everybody. We ended up near Chinatown

This brings to an end , a magnificent bike ride.

Riding the Great Allegheny Passage


For several years , my friends and I do a annual long distance bike ride . The whole process was started by Mike and he has christened this ride as the Bear Paw Soap Company (my that’s good soap TM) . This year we decided to do the 147th 8th Annual bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC . Happily the two cities are connected completely by bike trails , a rarity by any standards.

Pittsburgh is connected to Cumberland by the Great Allegheny passage and it is 150 miles of gravel /crushed limestone .  I prefer wider knobby tires on trails like these

We started early and headed out to Pittsburgh where Mike’s brother had left us a bike for me to ride . Then we headed to West Newton where I drove off while the other 3 rode . West Newton has a great bike shop and a restaurant and a CVS in case you decide to do some last minute shopping .

We planned to meet in Connellsville. As I reached Connelsville , I found out that today was the historical re enactment of Gen Braddock’s crossing of the Youghigheny river.  Before the colonies were free , General Braddock was summoned from England to help in the French- Indian wars. The campaign ended in a disaster with General Braddock ending up mortally wounded.


After everybody showed up , we decided to go check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater which is in a town called Ohiopyle also on the trail but it was 20 miles away from Connelsville. We needed to be there by 2:00 PM because they close at 4:00 PM and it takes an hour for the tour of the house, so we ended up driving to the place.

He designed the building so that the waterfall would go through the house , just mind boggling . One of my favorite books “The Fountainhead” written by Ayn Rand,  had  the lead character, Howard Roark  supposedly based on Frank Lloyd Wright . I personally dislike Ayn Rand intensely and more so for her bigoted views but the book delivered an unmistakable message to me when I was all of 16 years old and something that I strive to , even now . Shakespeare puts it more eloquently “This above all: to thine own self be true”. Her message in the book was simple , that one must be original in their thinking. If you happen to be in Ohiopyle and not had enough of Frank Lloyd Wright , you can also go check out Kentuck Knob. Also Ohiopyle is a fair sized town to do any shopping / eating if you need to . I have managed to make some friends in Ohiopyle who inform me that they have some white water rafting tours . They drive you to a point upstream and let you loose and then drive down to meet you downstream after you have had your fill of white water .

But moving on , my friends were done and I had not ridden any yet so I decided to ride the 12 miles from Ohiopyle to Confluence by myself .

At Ohiopyle in the Youghiogheny river , I see people playing water volleyball

So I start riding and this is what the trail looks like for the most part

but since we were riding alongside the Youghiogheny and then the Casselman , it is punctuated by scenes like these


I saw this owl just chilling . Unusual to catch an own during the day .

I noticed a board which proudly declared that the Casselman river was  healthy  enough that fish , worms , insects and snakes were coming back so the Pennysylvania game commision had  re introduced the  American river otter into the Casselman after 75 years and the otters were thriving . I was gladdened to see that . I reached Confluence in less than an hour and we ended up staying at the Rivers edge cafe . It is a small cafe right on the rivers edge and one can hear the river bubbling by at night , it is a soothing rhythm that I could probably listen to and never get bored. Rivers edge cafe is a delightful place for dinner as well .

We had a sumptuous breakfast at the Sisters Cafe early morning and and got an early start on the ride and our first big sight was the Pinkerton tunnel

Bridge before Pinkerton


After that we stopped briefly in Rockport , PA where you see this beautiful bicycle sculpture. The smoke rings are bicycle wheels . There is also a bike shop nearby and a bed and breakfast which serves lunch.

Our next sight of wonder was the Salisbury Viaduct, an engineering marvel by any standards . The viaduct now runs across rail lines , a river , a freeway and fields and it is 2/5  of a mile long and 101 feet tall


Our next stop was Meyersdale , for shopping for biking merchandise and for lunch

For some reason  , this church caught my eye . In California , the churches tend to be oriented towards the Spanish Mission style so the Gothic architecture is a pleasant change.

Our next sight to see was the Eastern Continental divide . This is the dividing line for water going to the Chesapeake or  to the Gulf of Mexico

This picture gives us a good idea of the elevation involved.

continental divide

The next sight after the continental divide is the Big Savage Tunnel . Scary movie makers , take notice!!!  here are two dark dungeony tunnels , the Pinkerton and the Big Savage Tunnel,  that hare brained cyclists routinely enter without lights  , I see a wealth of opportunities for Slasher flicks .

But just outside the tunnel is this

Tim tried to fly here (or fall off the cliff )


It was barely  5 miles before we ended up hitting the Mason-Dixon line


and a super inquisitive deer that would not take its eyes off us

From here Cumberland was a mere trifle away (it is all downhill )and there ends our sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage.

The Great Allegheny passage is a wonderful bike trail with a wealth of sights to see including wildlife and landscapes , experience riding on an viaduct , alongside rivers and in at least two dark and scary tunnels . It is generously dotted with bicycle shops , places to eat and stay . If you are a bike aficionado , obviously add it to your bucket list

Don’t forget to collect your certificate



To check out the remainder of the trip on the C&O , go here

Viva Las Vegas

Untitled My first encounter with Las Vegas was the classic Mafia novel  “The Godfather” when I was 15 . I fell in love with the book , the characters and the places that were depicted in the book ,wandering through the villages of Sicily ,the streets of Brooklyn and Long Island and lastly but certainly not least Las Vegas . Las Vegas is probably the only place on earth which revels in its appetite for sin so much so that its nick name is Sin City and is proudly displayed everywhere . I have never taken  a census but I imagine it has more casinos , restaurants and options for entertainments than anywhere else that I have seen or read about. This last trip to Vegas was several firsts for me , first time that I had come to Vegas on a work trip , it was also the first time that I came to Vegas being single . What on earth would a married couple want to do in Vegas ? in Sin city?  Well interestingly Vegas has tons of entertainment options for normal married couples who are not gamblers . Every celebrity chef has a restaurant in Las Vegas , we saw restaurants owned by Bobby Flay , Wolfgang Puck  , Emeril , Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay , Thomas Keller’s Bouchon … there are only 3 other locations for the Bouchon, one across from Central Park in New York, one in Beverly Hills and one in Napa but luckily for tourists in Las Vegas there was one in the basement at the Venetian . The macaroons at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon are literally to die for . On Paradise Rd is a Japanese restaurant called Musasashi Japanese Steakhouse presumably named after the author of the “Book of 5 rings” . The food is Hibachi style or Teppanyaki depending on your choice . But the draw for me was that he actually serves Japanese Kobe . It is hideously expensive but it is the most delicious piece of meat that I have ever tasted.

And every casino has multiple shows , rich in variety; stand up comedies, Cirque , Magic , you name it . The Cirque du soleil probably had a different show at each casino , some I was astounded to see were still playing since my last trip in 2011. David Copperfield is a regular at the MGM and every time that I have tried to see it, the tickets are sold out , and if you have a strong stomach then the duo of Penn and Teller is a must watch .Jerry Seinfeld is a regular at Caesar’s palace .

I walked down the strip , slowly admiring the buildings . The strip has a unspeakable hold on me Untitled


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The Casinos have themes that they stay faithful to throughout the casino. The Luxor is filled with Egyptian memorabilia , New York New York has miniatures of the Chrysler building , 30 Rock and so on . Paris has the Eiffel tower . Bellagio has italian artifacts . The Venetian has a mini canal inside and sculptures of Machiavelli and other notables from Venice  .

These are the world famous musical fountains at the Bellagio


Also at the Bellagio is this magnificent ceiling sculpture of over 2,000 hand-blown flowers by glass artist Dale Chihuly 

At the end of the strip is the Stratosphere which probably has the scariest roller coasters in the world . Scary because they are mounted on top of the building and the rides consists of going off the side of the building and coming to a sudden stop 30+ feet from the edge of the building looking 300m straight down

Stratosphere and Las Vegas 021

Stratosphere and Las Vegas 016

The top shot shown above is the tallest thrill ride in the world

This is the view of old Vegas from the top of the Stratosphere

Stratosphere and Las Vegas 001

The stories that I have always heard is that at the casinos , drinks are cheap and so is the food . I don’t gamble so I have never experienced it but I have checked out the buffet sections at every casino and they are extremely reasonably priced and yet the selection is mind boggling and will cater to every possible taste and needs.

Las Vegas is one of the last places in the US where smoking is allowed indoors . So walking into a casino , one is hit with the smell of cheap air fresheners that the casinos  use to get rid of the stench of stale cigarette smoke . It always looks like night time inside a casino , they are carefully engineered to keep all daylight out , presumably to help people drink more alcohol so that they can make judgement impaired decisions , the pretty cocktail waitresses with skimpy dresses exaggerate the above mentioned effect.

We then move on to Fremont St in the old downtown

Fremont St 015




Fremont St is the old downtown in Vegas before they decided to create the “strip” . This is where Bugsy Siegel came in and helped create a city in the desert . The old downtown looks rundown in places or perhaps that is an effect that they try hard to maintain . Accentuate the disparity between the old and the new . But Fremont St does have some really cool attractions such as the world’s largest video screen and open air bars and bands playing out in the open , various entertainers performing strange acts on the streets.

Vegas is one of the few cities that has Machine Gun ranges and the variety of guns is mind boggling . They also had some amazing handguns most notably the Desert Eagle which apparently is familiar to gamers . I saw a reference to it in one of my favorite movies “Snatch”, it is amazingly loud for a hand gun and packs a punch. One can even fire the M249 (The Saw) here .With the exception of the Uzi , all the other guns were American , Russian and German. The range that I tried out was called the Gun Garage and they had awesome Groupon deals.

On this last trip , I stayed at the Luxor which has the permanent exhibition of Bodies and Titanic . Bodies was a magnificent experience . It has real cadavers that are sliced and displayed in several different views . The human circulatory system was a delight to see , they had actually used chemicals to harden the arteries , veins and capillaries in a cadaver and then chemically removed the muscles and skins . Viewing the whole body as a web of intricate interconnected parts was an eye opener and I could not help but think that something like this in school might have sparked a greater interest in Biology but that might just be an elaborate excuse for my laziness. Some of the exhibits does require some caution especially the fetuses in various stages of development and they have clearly marked the path so that if one was to be offended then they could skip it. If Bodies happens to be in your neck of the woods , then I highly recommend that you do pay a visit.

The Titanic was interesting as well , I gained a new appreciation for the research that James Cameron would have done researching the Titanic to come up with the details that he did in the movie .  I was sorely disappointed when I came to the main deck and could not find Rose and Jack!!!

The folks in Vegas have a sense of humor , I was eating lunch at a small Mexican restaurant on Paradise Ave and I caught sight of this mural and had to take a snap


The food was exceptionally delicious and I did feel some religion coming onto me after the meal

Long time ago, I read the Geek Atlas which is 128 places for a geek to visit , one of those is the Atomic testing museum in Las Vegas . Nevada was the testing site for thermonuclear weapons and the museums lists pictures , some interesting memorabilia . It is a must visit for every geek.

Not too far from Vegas is Lake Havasu city which houses the famous London Bridge from the beloved nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”

London Bridge 005

London Bridge 006

The story goes that a Real Estate developer imported the London Bridge that was going to be demolished . Every brick was labelled and the bridge restored in Lake Havasu city. The road system was designed by the designer who designed Disneyland . Take it from me that it is not nearly as much fun as Disneyland

This is the entrance to the London Bridge

London Bridge 001

And the surface

London Bridge 007


Also close to Vegas is the famous Hoover Dam on the Colorado river

Hoover Dam 017


and the enormous man made Mead Lake
Lake Mead 006 Lake Mead 007

One can also see the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that allows people to bypass the Hoover dam .

Pat Tillman Bridge 006
We all have the rubber necking desire to stare out at the Hoover dam but nobody wants to stop , the net effect is that everybody is slowed down . The government wisely decided to put up the bridge that US-93 now runs on. It is proudly displayed on the bridge that the pitons that were used to drive the foundation of the bridge utilized the same technologies that were utilized while building the Hoover dam in the 30s. A testament to physics that has stood the test of time.

The western rim of the Grand Canyon is a close drive . You can see the skywalk in the picture , it is called the skywalk because the floor is glass  and we can see straight down a mile or so. The glass is tempered to hold the weight of 10 elephants and since Elephants are not allowed on the skywalk , it are safe for us to venture out . They do not allow cameras on the skywalk , not for safety reasons but so that they can charge $40 for a picture but it is well worth it .

Skywalk 014

One can also see the Colorado from the rim

Skywalk 059

So next time you suggest Las Vegas to somebody and they retort with a scornful “Lost Wages!!! Never” , you can remind them of the zillion other things that are available for the rest of us.

West Side .. Market

The West Side Story is an American staple , a innovative take on Romeo and Juliet with the gorgeous city of New York as the backdrop . A musical which is a feast for the eyes and ears and indeed the the beating heart of any human being . I believe that even the English language is not a necessity for enjoying the movie or the play . But today , we are going to visit the West Side Market , Cleveland’s open air market on W25 street , not too far from the Cleveland Hopkins airport and yet close enough to the vibrant western suburbs of Cleveland.Supposedly the market dates back to 1840 . Astonishing considering that the city of Cleveland came into existence in the late 1700s .

Like most kids , growing up I looked up to my dad , anything that he said was gospel and sacrosanct . Proving my loyalty to him seemed more important to me as compared to my friends . I have wondered about it as time has passed by , I hypothesize that it was because he was a single parent or perhaps that is the prerogative of the elder child . His tastes were faithfully mimicked , his love of Shakespeare and Milton and Dryden has invoked the same in me,  his favorite foods seemed to become my favorite food irrespective of what my tastes told me. I had always had a sweet tooth but he loved fiery spicy food and I faithfully followed the dictum that spicy food is for real men and sweets are for wimps . I even adopted his favorite music , music that he had listened to as a teenager , music tastes that I defended against my contemporaries to the point where we would come to blows  . When he was diagnosed with diabetes , he was forced to stop taking sugar in his tea . Being deprived of the simple pleasure of sugar in tea was probably the worst punishment that providence could have inflicted on him . Tea in India is served with sugar and milk , sweet and syrupy , a delicious concoction of caffeine and sugar; the killer combination that the Coca Cola company has leveraged for the last 100+ years. So when he stopped taking sugar in his tea , I stopped as well . Part of me was stricken by his plight, the tea that he loved so much , that he could not do without was suddenly something that he seemed to hate and I wanted to experience his pain. Looking back at my experience, it is perhaps a tad bit ironical that I have completely switched to black tea and black coffee for no other reason other than realizing that to truly enjoy the taste of coffee and tea, one has to avoid the trappings of sugar and milky fats . Coming back to my father, everything that he said was gospel to me. Whilst growing up , he would tell me stories of his youth , when I was younger , I used to find it entertaining , now I realize that he was reliving the days of his youth. I also understand now that my mother’s death was harder on him that I realized at the time and I was his only channel at semi adult conversations or the only one who would listen to him reciting Shakespeare sonnets or verses from Milton or Dryden or reliving his childhood in Chennai. My sister has no recollection of any of that , but she likes to remind me that she is a whole 5 years younger than me so she has been deprived of all the wonderful memories bequeathed to me by our parents . He loved to tell me these stories of him shopping as a kid , and how he loved to bargain with the shopkeepers when he was not even 10 . The shopkeepers considered him a mini terror and hated bargaining and wheedling with him ;it is perhaps another one of the great ironies of my life  that I absolutely hate bargaining . I don’t even bargain in places like China where I am expected to bargain and leave the shopkeepers disgusted , bemused and presumably richer. One of the stories that he liked to tell was about the size of prawns that he would get in Chennai . He claimed that they were as large as his fists and he also said that these days , according to him those prawns are exported so we never see them in any marketplace in India. I had bought into that hook , line and sinker but as time passed , scales fall from our eyes and realization sets in that perhaps parents are human and have feet of clay. The realization that there are no damned prawns the size of fists and my dad was exaggerating firmly took root.  Dont get me wrong, I loved my dad and had the greatest reverence for him and some of the same loyalty was still lurking not too far from the surface but I also imagined that a lot of his stories were just that, stories.

I had moved to California from Ohio two years ago .  Ohio was a wonderful place to live , settle down . People like to poke fun at me , especially in the Bay area and in New York where there seems to be general condescension for the rest of the country. But I had a great time and if I have any regrets, it is that I did not soak in everything that Ohio had to offer more enthusiastically. I did not travel to see the museum of Aviation in Dayton , nor did I hang around the riverside in Cincinatti or check out what used to be the glass capital of the world , Toledo nor did I spend any great length of time in what used to be the Rubber capital of the world , Akron. It was only in the last few months that I went to see the Rock and Roll Hall of fame . It is a tad bit sad considering how much I love hard rock and metal . The Rock and Roll hall of fame is designed like the Louvre in Paris , inside it lists the history and etymology of music . One of my cousins who is extremely talented in terms of music , explained to me how the layout and etymology made perfect sense to him , how the gospels did inspire soul and R&B and eventually Rock and Roll and hard rock . It was a fascinating and delightful journey into the world of music .

But I have always had a delightful time at the West Side market on W25 st in Cleveland . I have looked at the West side market as a  one stop shop for fruits , vegetables , cheese , spices , meats , pasta , oils and pastries and snacks.  Not too far from the Westside market is another Cleveland treasure that one should not miss . The Great Lakes Brewing Company !! it is a microbrewery with very high quality beers and a restaurant that serves delicious American fare. One of the primary advantages of visiting a micro brewery is that you get samplers . A sampler platter of 6-9 beers served in shot glasses . An elegant way to sample all the deliciousness that the brewery has to offer without getting drunk.

While I was living in Wooster , the nearest Indian grocery store was in Cleveland which was 60 miles away. When I would go to get the so called essentials , I would swing by the west side market . Sometimes I did not even buy anything , just indulge in the pleasure of browsing . Growing up in India had me accustomed to open air markets and Singapore and the US had no parallels . The West Side market had an open air vegetable and fruit market and then inside a immense building was a treasure trove of culinary shopping . Mind you, I hate shopping with a passion even today with the exception of shopping for food , the more exotic, the more I delight in it . After shopping for fruits and veggies , I would go inside and talk to the pretty girl who was selling flavored Italian oils and learn how to make it myself , the Lebanese butcher who sold lamb and goat meat , the local farmers who would sell choice cuts of veal and steaks and porkchops. The sausage store that sold kielbasa , Chorizo ,Andouille , Bratwursts , Italian sausages flavored with sweet fennel and just regular sausage flavored with sagebrush . meetandcheeseThe cheese store was a delight , Gouda with its smoky sweetness , Havarti with the delicious astringent crunchiness of caraway seeds, soft Brie that one could spread like butter on toast, delicious English cheese like Stiltons , goat cheese , mozzarella , Parmigiana – Romano and many many more . There were several bakeries with more pastries than I could name and recognize . One of my regular stops was the Italian pasta shop where I would buy fresh Fettuccine and fresh Ravioli for my stepchildren , they loved my Fettuccine Alfredo and Zuppa Toscana and Chicken Marsala.  At the center was a spice store that one could find just about anything that one craved for , no matter what the origin was. The proprietor loved spices , spices were her life and the intimate knowledge of what ties in with which entree was something that she could effortlessly calculate in her head , it reminds me of accountants who could effortlessly calculate interest rates and calculate what your PMI is or what you would pay over the course of 20 years, most people would find it boring but I find the ease with which they proceed to be a delight. This woman was like that , she was the London cab driver of spices . She was white but she could correct me as to what I would need for Indian recipes . One could spend a whole day here and not get bored . Away from all of this hustle and bustle was a vestibule that led to a small section of the building . In here was the fish market , one could find grouper , Mahi Mahi , Freshwater bass , trouts , eels , even Pomfret from India . The first time that I was here , I looked at each fish and grilled the Russian proprietor  at length . However I was puzzled about this hunk of meat that vaguely looked like a prawn but it was enormous , probably bigger than my fist . The texture was slimy , reminded me of prawns and shrimp . The color did too . After admiring it for a few minutes , I asked the Russian proprietor again as to what this mystery animal was . He looks at me with a sly grin and says in a thick Russian accent  “Prawns” .  I wonder where they could be getting these enormous prawns from so I ask him “Where are they from ?” . His sly grin grew broader and he said “Well from India , of course” . To say that I was stunned would be an understatement . As I walked back to my car with my fresh fettuccine and Ravioli and lamb chops .  I silently apologized to my dear departed father for doubting him in the first place , an apology that was perhaps 10 years too late to matter .



In love …..with Hong Kong

Trip 1

On this trip I stayed at the Sheraton in Tsa Shim Tsui , a very nice neighbourhood in Kowloon , the promenade is supposed to be a must visit to get the best view of Hong Kong skyline  and I was fortunate enough to be staying right next door .


Apparently Hong Kong has no open container law which means you can drink on the street so we decided to buy 3 beers and walked around drinking our beers . I have no idea that open container was such a big deal but in the US , you can only drink in Vegas openly . We then walked over to the Temple Street Night Market with our beers . This is a paradise for  shopping lovers , especially the ones who love to haggle . After picking up some knick knacks which I did not even bother to haggle. We decided to find some place to eat , the local goodies seemed delicious but we ended up going to Indian restaurant because one of us was a vegetarian . The meal was delicious but living in the Bay Area has spoiled me . After a sumptuous meal , we slowly slithered back to our hotel and turned in for the night .

The next morning  I decided to go check out the Giant Buddha and also check Victoria’s peak off my list. But before that I decided to walk around and what do I see but the Peninsula

For James Bond lovers , this hotel is referenced in the Man with the Golden Gun when James Bond asks Mary Goodnight (With apologies to feminists everywhere but one has to admit, Mary Goodnight is a huge improvement over Pussy Galore) to follow a Green Rolls Royce and she informs him rather testily that if it is Green Rolls Royce then it has to go to the Peninsula . As can be seen in the picture, the cavalcade of Green Rolls Royce is still being maintained .

And for Batman fans , the roof of the Peninsula was used to show the meeting between Fox and Lau when Fox is getting off a helicopter . The Peninsula has only one of two private helipads in Hong Kong.

I head towards the train stations known as MTR (here they call it MTR , a source of confusion for me !!! In Singapore it is MRT and even after 18 years , I still cannot say but MRT) . As seems to be usual with all metro trains , navigating was a breeze and I ended up at my destination,Tsuen Wan MTR and walked across the street to find my Cable car . There are several ways to get to the top, you can walk , take a bus or cable car . For obvious reasons , I opted for the cable car . Years earlier I had ridden cable cars in Singapore and Malaysia where they had made a big deal of this particular ride and the one in the Alps . The wait time was (shockingly!!!) documented was 90 minutes , turns out that it was overly optimistic . After 3 hours , I finally got my ticket and there were two options , a glass bottom cable car and a regular cable car . The price difference is nominal , about 90 HKD but I calculated the probability and imagined that the number of glass bottomed cable cars to be far less than that of the regular cars (quite foolishly since I had no prior data). So my wise reader when you do visit , do make sure that you get the tickets online because it will cut your wait time in half and also make sure to get the glass bottomed boat . Dont worry about the glass bottoms , it is the same material they have used in the CN tower in Toronto and the Skywalk on the Grand Canyon . I am terrified of heights and I have been on both . They have the tensile strength to hold 10 elephants so very safe.

It became apparent to me that this was an entire different island by the name of  Lantau Island.

The views were absolutely breathtaking and I cannot recommend it enough for all.


And I got an awesome peek at the Hong Kong international airport . It seems as though no matter where I go and how strange the symbols on the planes seem to be , I always see a Fedex plane .


This is the walk way that is available in case one is interested or one is doing this for religious persuasions. I also caught sight of a quaint waterfall . I would have liked to do it perhaps another time.

At the top is a quaint little village of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island .

Again some shopping available for those interested but I hurried through.The signs have been forced to be of a certain style , so even the 7-11 has to adhere to some specific standards. Reminded me of a McDonalds in Dublin , Ohio which has no golden arches .

I caught sight of the 12 Chinese Zodiac signs , after a cursory reading I realized that these signs were named after Chinese generals who was considered to be the bodyguards for the Buddha . Interestingly the names seemed to be more Hindu in origin .

After I passed the 12 statues , I came across an archway


However the Buddha was on the opposite side

There are 268 steps to ascend to the top . I climbed it in less than 10 minutes after which I realized that I need to start swimming again . After catching my breath , I started wandering around and took several snaps




Interesting I watched the various poses and it seemed to me like there was an aspect of the pose from the Buddha in each of the worshipers . I wondered if that was done to invoke a sense of the majestic that he is within all of us or simply a more prosaic reason of bronze castings .

Having exhausted all my options (and realizing that it is past 5) , I decided to head down and out . I took one last look at the Buddha and took a snap


As I headed for the cable car which I had purchased a return for , I saw the line say the same dreaded “90 Minutes” . I remembered seeing a bus stand and I promptly headed that direction after asking my neighbor to keep my place in the line . Fortunately the buses came in every 20 minutes and though it took me almost 30 minutes to get to the train station , it was far better than the “90 Minutes” by cable car.  I took the train back to Kowloon and passed by the Avenue of the Stars and in the Subway , I saw this poster


I saw it a long time ago , probably the only time that I saw a Kung Fu movie with my father and that too in Chennai and I remember telling my mother about it so precious memories associated with this movie. Regardless of my nostalgia,  it was a wonderful movie with some very deep lessons that I remember to this day , for instance “Practice makes perfect” is depicted very elegantly and forcefully. It was too late for me to head towards Victoria’s peak so I decided to head towards the hotel.

After I reached the hotel , my friend was done with his work and we decided to grab some food . Our vegetarian friend was gone so we decided to find us some local food . We went to a small hole in the wall restaurant which specialized in Clay pot rice .My friend is white and I am Indian so we were the only non Chinese in that establishment ,everybody looked askance at us . The owner came to us and asked “Drink” . My friend ordered a Tsing-Tao and while we were looking around at the various assorted meats that we tried to identify, we got a bowl of boiling hot water and two glasses . I was puzzled but my friend rinsed his glass in the water and dried it with paper towels, I proceeded to follow his example ; Smart!!! disinfect your glasses . A liter bottle of Tsing-Tao came over and we ordered our food , he ordered Sausage rice and I ordered eel rice . My rice was absolutely delicious and it was incidentally also the first time in my life that I was eating rice with chop sticks comfortably  . Eating fried rice with chop sticks is difficult but eating sticky rice with chop sticks is far easier. Having eaten the delicious meal , we made our way back to the hotel and crept into bed . Monday morning , we had to head back to work in China.

Trip 2

I headed out on Friday evening by myself from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. After the customary clearing of Customs which never ceases to baffle me . Hong Kong is supposed to be a part of China but I have fill out papers that  say that I am leaving China and my passport gets a good grilling over by both the Chinese and the Hong Kong officials . After we leave the ‘border’ my driver suddenly takes off at 140 km an hour on the wrong side of the road . For those of you metrically challenged, that is 90 miles/hour. I was in a purple panic and I could not communicate with the guy . They don’t speak English and I don’t speak Mandarin or in this case Cantonese. About 10 heart stopping minutes later , I realized Hong Kong is left hand drive. DAMN BRITISH!!!! If you are thinking, why did I not yell , earlier this year in Shanghai , I yelled at the driver to look out and instead he decided to turn around to look at me promptly slamming into a parked mini van and then bounced off a bus. So I have become a little wary of screaming at drivers while they are driving.

Today I was going to stay at the W which is what my friend had recommended .  The view was absolutely gorgeous .

The W sits on top of a mall so I decided to walk around the mall and there were several different restaurants . I finally ventured into it and I looked at the Menu in shock and delight . top of the Chef’s recommendations was Snake soup . I asked the waiter if that really meant snake . He grinned and said yes but sadly they are out today . I was disappointed and relieved at the same time. Last year I had read about this incident where a soup chef had been bitten by a cobra while he was throwing its severed head into the trash . That had got me extremely curious.  I got myself a crab claw soup with egg white and house fried rice . The food was absolutely delicious and the portion of the house fried rice was probably enough for 4 people.

The next morning my agenda was to get on top of Victoria’s peak but I decided to get my swim in . I loved the swimming pool at Le Meridian in Shanghai which was on the 20th floor with a beautiful view of Nanjing rd but the St Regis in Shenzhen  with the 76th floor swimming pool blew me away ,however nothing prepared me for the swimming pool at the W


The swimming pool is on the top of the hotel and as can be seen , it is an open air swimming pool . The water is deliciously cold (about 77F) and refreshes you up instantly .

The elevator surprised me


I was afraid to step on it.

After my swim , I headed out to the train station ,ignoring my concierge’s advice that I should take a taxi,to get to Victoria’s Peak . I got off at Hong Kong station where I found this really cool alphabet (no relation to Google’s parent company) sculpture


I walked for about 10 minutes and reached the Tram station.

The wait time was almost 90 minutes but fortunately I started chatting up the blonde standing next to me after I realized she could speak English, turns out she is from Chicago . Small world!!!

The tram came pretty quickly and as we were heading up , I was watching for an illusion where the buildings seem to fall towards you because of the angle of the ascent. I took several pictures but the pictures failed to provide the illusion . After we reached the top , we took several pictures



At which point my companion bid adieu and went her way because she was getting cold . I decided to hang around and I found a walk way that I started walking towards and as I kept walking, I ran into signs that kept saying Public toilet but seeing no evidence of it anywhere unless they wanted you to go over the railing which I doubt . I found another girl walking by and when I asked her, she responded in flawless East Coast accent that she was new. I asked where she was from , she said New York. When I told her that I was from California , she looked distinctly relieved and said that I was the first American she had seen . It turned out she is doing her PhD in Political Science at the University of Kobe which led to some interesting talk about Kobe beef , turns out that she has never eaten Kobe beef and we exchanged some of our experiences in Japan . About 45 minutes later  and some more scenic shots later


I bid adieu to her




I decided to head down and as I am waiting , I hear two guys behind me yapping away in English with an American accent  and three women talking in English with a clipped European accent , as I debated where to break the ice , things were made easy by the women switching to French, I turn to the guys and ask them where they were from , turns out they are from Marin county and Atlanta(oddly he had no accent) , but after that I got to hear an earful of their travel plans for this year and the arrangements that they made in Vietnam and the rate that they paid per day and what they did last year and the year before that and what their respective mothers would say about their travels and how well traveled they were and the list of the funicular railways that they had been on and how the one in Bogota is scarier than this one. I silently endured the torture until the tram hit the bottom and after I bid adieu , I reflected that I had met two women and two men and by far the women were far more interesting . Moral of the story : Don’t talk to somebody just because they speak English.

I decided that I was going to do the Symphony of Lights harbor cruise in the evening but before that ride the Star Ferry across to Kowloon instead of taking the train . I slowly walked over towards the Star ferry taking in the various sights

My maternal family has been involved in the shipping business for generations so I have a inexplicable attraction for the sea and ships and anything that resembles ships .So I enjoyed seeing the Jardine house which looked as though it was full of portholes


I always love seeing IFC , perhaps because of the Dark Knight


I got back to Kowloon for a mere 4.5 HKD and I reserve a ticket for myself on the Symphony of Lights Harbor cruise .

The Symphony of lights is a true feast for the eyes , they tell the story of Hong Kong and the sky scrapers light up .

The whole show lasted for an hour and no trip to Hong Kong is complete without this cruise .

It had been a long day , as I slowly walked back towards the hotel , I happened to catch this sight


The next morning I was due to catch my flight back to San Francisco and I notice a wonderful convenience . They have something called “In Town” check in . So at the Basement of the W hotel is the Kowloon station and I checked in my suitcase and having done that, I was free to do what I pleased , I could have roamed around the mall but having been there for the last two days . I opted to go to the Airport instead and get some breakfast there . The McDonalds had a line that snaked impossibly , I had seen some strange breakfast items that looked intriguing but I opted to eat at the neighboring Chinese place where I got myself Congee and glutinous rice with Lotus stems. The Congee had some meat in it and so did the rice which was sweet . They were both simple and delicious . As I walked towards the security area, I promised myself that I was going to return .