Austin Sunset Post Rainstorm

This gallery contains 3 photos.

The sky over west Austin on a Sunday evening – at sunset….I think the photos say it better than I would be able to describe…Weird yellow-red glow due to the heavy moisture in the low clouds.  Enjoy!    

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Conde Nast Traveler: Strange Article on Visiting the Great Wall in China

Over the years I have read the Conde Nast Traveler magazine on a relatively regular basis.  Until recently, I also thought their articles are thought provoking and of good value to the experienced traveler.  All that until now – I just came across an article that proclaimed a good way to have a visit to the Great Wall and avoid crowds.  Why, do I say the article was strange (and barely useful)?  Because of its key points – if you want to visit the Great Wall in a way that avoids the crowds you need to:

  • Go to Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai…
  • You will avoid bus groups
  • avoid souvenir hawkers

Here is the excerpt that made me laugh:

It’s more than a fantasy: We recently took a guided and chauffeured tour organized by the Opposite House, an ultramodern hotel in Beijing’s energetic Sanlitun district. With the help of a registered guide, fluent in both English and Mandarin, and a chauffeured Audi A6, we were able to bypass the popular, overrun Badaling section of the Wall to explore less-touristed stretches—Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai, or Jinshanling—free from bus groups and souvenir hawkers.


No one knows about Mutianyu or Simatai…??? Hardly!!!

No crowds and no souvenir hawkers….??? Hardly!!!

Just take a look at the photos below and you will see the evidence of the opposite

Mutianyu Market     Mutianyu-Great-Wall-May

Now, can you enjoy the Great Wall in relative crowd free manner?  Yes, it is possible – just need to make sure you select the time of your visit carefully.  Pick a work day of the week, plan to visit one of the sections like Mutianyu and preferably do that in the months closer to the Winter…. E.g. March

Here are some views of the Great Wall at Mutianyu which actually reflect a day when there were hardly any people at the site.  Enjoy!

(Side note: here is the link to theConde Nast Traveler article...)

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Best Landmarks in the World

I have been a regular user and frequent contributor to Trip Advisor – I believe their platform has become a good forum for travelers – leisure and business travelers alike — and a place where you can find up to date information on hotels, restaurants, attractions around the world.

Being driven by user contributions, I think it offers a good and well balanced set of views on various locations around the world.

Well, now that you know about Trip Advisor – get ready for their 2015 Best Landmarks in the World ratings.  Those ratings are based on the reviewers / members of the Trip Advisor community.

After I took a look at the list, I thought it will be good to publish it in a succinct fashion and also provide links to additional information I have here in this blog.  Here is the list (per

  1. Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
  2. Machu Picchu – Machu Picchi, Peru
  3. Taj Mahal – Angra, India
  4. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque– Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  5. Basilica of the Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain
  6. St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy
  7. Milan Cathedral (Duomo) – Milian, Italy
  8. Alcatraz – San Francisco, California
  9. Corcovado – Cristo Redentor – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  10. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California
  11. Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
  12. Church of the Saviour on Blood – St. Petersburg, Russia
  13. Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris, France
  14. The Alhambra – Granada, Spain
  15. Hagia Sophia Museum and Church (Ayasofya) – Istanbul, Turkey
  16. Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) – Prague, Czech Republic
  17. Great Wall at Mutianyu – Beijing, China
  18. Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool – Washington DC, District of Columbia
  19. Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  20. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum – New York City, New York
  21. Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) – Bangkok, Thailand
  22. Chichen Itza –  Chicken Itza, Mexico
  23. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
  24. Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  25. Panama Canal – Panama City, Panama

Well there you have it — the list and the links to other places in this blog that provide information on the attractions above.  As you can tell I have a whole lot more to do in order to cover these impressive sites around the world…

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Thalys – Traveling from Antwerp and Brussels to Paris Gare du Nord and Charles de Gaulle Airport

Europe has built a success with the now well known Thalys Red High Speed train – which links four countries and offers great travel services for leisure and business both.  The train operates route between Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam…in a very convenient way.   I took the train with the objective of getting from Antwerp to Paris to Charles De Gaulle airport.

Train-To-BrusselsFrom Antwerp to Brussels I took the local commuter train, which brought me to Brussels.  Where I had the opportunity to get on the red Thalys train.   My only pet peeve with the service (I was in first class) was the WLAN – it barely worked – pretty much to the point of being useless.

Thalys TrainThe train ride was very fast – approximately 1.5 hours and while on the train I was asked (it is a normal service) if I need transportation beyond Paris Gare du Nord – which I needed, so the attendant asked me to fill out a card which was the way to book a taxi for my trip from the train station to CDG

Paris-Neighborhood       Antwerp-Commuter-Train

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Stockholm Snapshots

Stockholm is a beautiful city.  Thought to add several collages with photos from it as a way to quickly get a view of the sites and the special places around the old town

Sweden-Stockholm Sweden-stockholm

Sweden-Stockholm Sweden-Stockhom

Hopefully, these images / collages, will allow you to experience just a bit and from a far the beauty of the city


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British Airways – Odd Boarding Process

British Airways in Stockholm – What a strange boarding process Stockholm-Arlanda

Interesting observation about the boarding process on a British Airways (BA) flight from Stockholm to London.  As usual, the frequent travelers and status holders on BA/OneWorld airlines had lined up at the lane for FastTrack access. Then came the surprise – Once the boarding process started the agents at the gate announced that the frequent travelers as usual will use the Fast Track lane while in parallel the agents will start boarding the last 10 rows of the plane.  Now, all this would have been fine except once the boarding passes were checked out for both lanes (Fast Track and Regular boarding) the passengers actually proceeded at the same time to the plane.
Net-net you had absolutely no gain in being freq flyer and with any status…..why?  The main advantage on the flights with all economy is the space for your luggage… And if everyone starts boarding in parallel your little advantage to get your luggage in the bins is gone.
If you are local traveller – no big deal, but if you are getting your stuff carry on only that is significant.  As I always travel with carry-on luggage only (you really do not want to be dealing with the airlines when you are moving from city to city everyday and your luggage gets lost), the ability to have space for my carry on (roll-on-board) bag is a big deal.

So hopefully this was an outlier event – and British Airways is not making this a regular practice….If they did I would expect many frequent flyers, me included, will have a significant issue with the approach.   Hopefully, won’t have to deal with it…

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American Airlines Chicago Beijing Flight in Business Class

Coincidences are always great. Earlier in April I flew from Chicago to Beijing on American Airlines Boeing 777-200 a 12 hours 50 minute flight which of course can be tiring.  I have done that flight in all classes – First, Business and Coach.  The coincidence I am referring here is that just as I had done this flight in Business Class, I came across the review of the same flight in First – so of course I wanted to compare the two experiences

Per the reviewer there were some good and some bad things about the flight

  • Amenity kit:  surprisingly essentially the same – please see below

American Airlines Amenity Kit in BusinessAmerican Airlines First Class Amenity




from Boarding Area Blog


Not easy to see from the BoardingArea Blog – but the amenity kits are essentially the same..

  • Then we go to the food:  The Boarding Area blog reviewer was VERY disappointed by the quality of the food in first class.   Interestingly enough – I had the same selection – the reviewer had pan seared sea bass — so did I.  Here are the images:

American Airlines Food American Airlines Food




The business class meal



The First class meal




Well, aside from the presentation of the food, I could not tell much of the difference in the fish.  Actually, mine was not half-bad….

  • Then off to the dessert:  I had a great selection – either ice cream (as in the first class posting) or a very nice tiramisu parfait

American Airlines Dessert Business class meal dessert







So all in all, I think my experience in business class on exactly the same flight (may be not the same date) of American Airlines was actually a LOT more satisfying – especially given the price difference in the two tickets I am sure!!!

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Venice, Italy

And now for something completely different – from the other side of the world.  Last summer my family visited Venice, Italy.  Unfortunately, I could not make it — work, work, work….But they had a great visit and what is better than a photo album to remember the trip by.

So here it is – a snapshot tour of Venice…


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Next: Shenzhen Sea World

Shenzhen Sea WorldI wanted to add another posting about potential sites for you to visit while in Shenzhen.  This one is the Sea World Park / Plaza — a mix of commercial and entertainment area in the Shekou area of the city.  The area is VERY popular with the Shenzhen crowd due to its nice entertainment and food options.  Location-wise it has access to both the metro and local taxi cabs.  Here is a map to help you find it…


Sea World was opened as an entertainment center in 2003 with a key attraction for it being the MingHua ship and the dancing waves/fountains.

Shenzhen Sea World

Of course the other aspect of the area are the numerous restaurants and pubs/bars

In case you need to show an address to your taxi driver – you can use this one:  深圳市南山区蛇口海上世界环船广场C-005

Well, that is it for time being… Enjoy!

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Visit to Dameisha near Shenzhen

Dameisha ShenzhenDameisha Resort – experience during Labor Day weekend…

What do you do on Chinese Labor Day (Lao Dong Jie – 劳动节) – of course if you are in China…. May 1st is the official Labor Day in China.  It used to be a reason for a Golden Week holiday – i.e. a whole week off, but in the last several years this holiday changed to a day long only event.  This year it fell on a Friday which made it a 3-day holiday across the country – a good thing and a bad thing.  Tons of people went on traveling leveraging the 3-day weekend.

Given the time available I decided to check Dameisha – the trip there requires at least 1/2 day.  My recommendation – take a cab from Shenzhen – even with the major traffic jams on the way (as you can tell from the photo above) – the fare was in the 140RMB range.

Shenzhen DameishaThe scenic area is located on Dapeng Bay in Yantai district of the metro Shenzhen area.  The drive was long but only because of the heavy traffic which my driver assured me was due to the May 1st holiday crowd.  Should be much better other times of the year.   The area is heavily built up with villas, local hotels (and a lonely Sheraton), and condo buildings – this relatively high end housing units show the high interest in the area by many… The area includes a long beach – estimated close to 2km in length.  Overall, in many places that will not be a big beach, but in China it is.  The beach is actually pretty scenic if it were not for the heavy crowds.    Here are some photos from the beach area – it is rather busy, isn’t it…?

Shenzhen Dameisha

Shenzhen DameishaDameisha Shenzhen




So, should you go to Dameisha beach?   My recommendation is NOT glowing!  Why ?  Well you can judge by yourself given the photos below – or at least, avoid it during national holidays!  My guestimate though – probably best to visit in the winter!  Why?  Most likely to have fewer people.

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