From Las Vegas to Flagstaff isn't that big for a roadtrip. But the difference in landscapes is. From the dusty vast desert planes to the mountains again, with woods and rocks and waterfalls en peaks with snow on.
Well well. Williams didn't feel like being interesing for lodging so we ended up again in a Best Western: pretty lam and old and shared accomodation and crappy wi-fi but we managed to install ourselves for 2 nights and enjoy the environment. Though we wondered of the wildlife park in Williams would have been interesting paying a visit.
We found a local restaurant which was pretty nice and we also went visiting the town itself. A bit charming. We were kinda cold, but the locals girl wore like almost nothing as temperature was risgin from deep freeze to a ultra hot 16 degrees... well we came from over 25...so i was wearing my fleece and the local pizza girl was being her sunny self in a light summerdress. I didn't care for it it added jsut that spice to the delicious pizza she served us.
Anyway the town of Flagstaff is a bit dead, it has some charactristics and it has it kind of people and dodgy sides. Apart from that you find everything you need: gs station, supermarkts all over and nature. Beautiful nature.
We kinda underestimated the distance to Grand Canyon. But taking te shuttle spared us a lot of time. The problem with the Grand canyon is it's too big. So big you can't even feel overwhelmed by it while standig on the edge as yuor mind has no ideao about the bigness of that thing.
And most of the shuttlestops jsut serve you the same view but different. Alas we didn't find and didn't look for the spot were you can walk over the canyon on a glass floor.
We were tired and returned home in the afternoon.
Breakfast in the best Western was not that great either but hey as said everythig you need in the supermarkts a few miles along the highway.
When leaving Flagstaff we tried to visit some other natural parks but as we didn't have time to hike over there, we just could imagine what we were missing out on.
So, Flagstaff: great stop to visit the GC in the middle of nature and of you want to hike: lots of possibilities.
breakfast in Luang Prabang, Laos, 2009
Always nice enjoying breakfast outdoors on the porch of the restaurant with the sun coming up driving the morning chill away. Hot coffee and eggs and sausages. What does one need more. What I remember the most of all my trips are these kind of outdoor breakfasts. Back in Indochina, where i had my own little cottage and breakfast was served on the porch. Back in Nepal the last day of the Anapurna trip when i had e few hours of sleep in the storeroom of potatoes on a wooden shell...aboven the ktichen which was oprative as sunbreak (5 in the morning) with the golden view of the Himalaya shivering down my bones.
And so we wen ton, packing the Tuscon and calppin gthe trunk with force to close it as puzzling the luggage went more difficult at those times ha! Long trips over the dusty roads right to nevada, the other state and to another state of mind LAS VEGAS.
I really did not knwo what to expect. Traffic was more hectic and rushing than evrywhere else we have been before but hey we Belgians are used to that kid of driving. we had reserved ourselves a suit in de Signature at the MGM grand through internet. We chekced in the car, and ourselves. I stayd at floor 28 and my friend at floor 19 I believe. A huge suite!!! The one of my friends was almost as big as the place where I live back here in Ghent. And the got a little terrace with a nice lookout but big noise from the dancing bar at the pool. A pol which i never went visiting. A pity as i really got tired after a few hours of aimlessly dwellin gcasino by casino. Las Vegas was meant to be relaxing to have somethign else, to drown a bit in luxury. But gambling, no... I really was tempted and i went looking at tables to follow the games a lot but i never went for it. As i did not fully understand the rules it would have been the same as just throwing my money away. Temptation was really hard anyway. Bt i spent it on frozen yoghurt and good food. Becasue one thing Vegas has is good food. OK you pay average Belgian princes for a dish but it's really good. And that made me happy. I wnet walking the night to shoot some nightpictures. But where i was, really there was nothgin but stupid crowds...not like in the TV-series with beuatifull stylish people. i guess that all happens behind the corridorwith teh 'high limits"-signs.
Anyway the roller girls who went to Vegas todl me I had to go to the old strip but anyway what could i've been doing over ther eon my own?
So Vegas, really i can't give you any points. Glad I saw it but it's even more dump than the local Kermis or Sinksenfoor in Antwerpen.
Good food thoug, We went eating our first dish at the rainforest restaurant, exceptional place for kids, but gloomy and every 15 minurtes the animated animals make a deafening noise.
Mister E was fascinated. We also at at great fresh ravioli with truffles at Fiamma's, and italian restaurant near our hotel with great friendly service and they didn't even mind Mister E throwing all things in his neughbourhood with full force to the ground. I even drank a big coffee after dinner, which i normally don't because of the fact I fukking can not sleep at night when i drink coffee.
It's also ironic, that now i had my own place far away from my friends and baby, sleep was really not that good. And seems my friend spent a horrible night that night too :s which had some consequences on the tempo of our trip but we managed to go on anyway luckily!
So because we really were not able to do big things in Vegas we bought ourselves tickets for Cirque du Soleil, they had their own Ka-theatre. I've never seen such breathtaking things like this. The full theatre is used as a decor with moving floor and spectacular smoke and light illusions. I really really enjoyed it so much. I think the tickets were like 170 dollars or somethign per person. We didn't care. It was worth it. I also did finish my enormous ginger drink without having to pee in the middle of the show. Afterwards my friends went sleepig and i wnet for a little strool through the casino's as people seemed to be dressed up , typically for a fridaynight. But no bet placed.
Finding good breakfast in vegas is anohter weird thing. The little bar at our hotel didn't serve what i wanted and all other restaurants served also greasy stuff. Coffe I could find in the starbucks. And I bought myself some egg-dish with toast but I really didn't enjoy it.
Back to nature!!!!
So The next day, there was no alarmclock from another room that was waking me up from 6 o'clock in the morning. Even Mister E managed to sleep a bit longer. And after breakfast we packed the car and drove off to Death Valley. A long road. A very long trip. But as I said traffic on US-highways is really relaxing. And beautiful weather and again marvelous landscapes. And ok, watch the fuel! And yes there it happens. We're driving for hours in dusty desert planes with no town or gasstations for miles. And suddenly when you think you will get to the next city, the range of miles drops like a rock in the sky. So you drive for minutes with zero miles on your computer till you find a very little gasstation at the side of the road. You also want something to eat because it's way in the afternoon it's hot and you're tired and thirsty. Luckily the lady of the house tells us we can drive the next road off and follow the road for 14 miles to California City where we have plent of choices in gas and food. And so we do.... so the civilization in the desert lies far beneath the dusty roadtracks.
Lots of sand covers the road as do warning signs and yes police speedcontrols like in the movies hidden beyong a littel bush...really...
We entered the city...and had some Subway. We really did get addcited to subway during our roadtrip. And actually i kinda liked it and always took the BMT. Lot's of charcuterie like we call it in Belgium and i love the jalapeños and pickles.
At the local gas station you see those idiot warnings like "no shirt, no service" and other really offending warnings that makes you watch your moves and behaviour. Anyway the kind of people you see in these kind of town is what you can expect: what kind of business or employment is there here in the middle of the desert?
So now we had our tummy filled the diapers refreshed and hydrated ourselves and our car, we could go on through Death valley. And there it lied, breathtaking surroundings. Panamint Springs Resort.
A camping along the road full of tough bikers and campers, a cottage, the only cottage we had reserved for us and some other buildings with rooms. We had to register ourselves at the gasstation next to the restaurant and bar. The lady at the gasstation is kind of robotic in her answering and doings...i couldn't help laughing. Really really weird lady. Anyway we got the keys of the cottage and installed ourselves and just enjoyed the tranquillity of the vast surroundings. The mountains at the horizon where the moon rose that evening. Amazing. The restaurant serves quite nice food, not that much choice and if you want alcohol you have to buy it at the gasstation which opens till late at night luckily.
Breakfast is all you can eat for 10 dollars and coffee is not that bad!
From Panamint Springs you just drive 45 minutes to Stovepipe Wells and the Mezquite Sand Dunes: amazing again and early morning it's still not that hot in the sand. From Stovepipe Wells you drive further to Furnace Creek: the most recent village and resort. We moved further on the Bad Water: the lowest point of the park beneath sea level: salt lakes But when you have seen Uyuni Desert in Bolivia: this is nothing. Actually whole of Death Valley reminds me of the Bolivian Andes but less pretty. Anyway the desolated vast landscapes still are mindblowing and makes one wonder about existential things. But maybe that's just me. I love this kind of nothingness. You can learn a lot about the history, geology and things like that. So there we went back to Zabriskie Point: the most amazing look out I've ever seen. Such colourfull rocks, mountains, i never could have imagined that.
Really die hard people can go hiking in Death Valley and even to the famous Peak you see from everywhere around 12.000 ft high.
I'd do it on other occasions!
When we returned after lunch in Furnace Creek and after I send some postcards to the home front, of which the most important one arrived, the one to my grandmother arrived at the wrong adress and the one to my godchild never came through as I was mistaken in the road...again, now that i had the housenumber right..., we stopped by a old mine. This was where the 20-mule -team was going back in the dark days. Borax transported by a 20-mule-train over hundreds of miles.
Chinese workers sleeping on the spot. Tough life conditions...
After we returned I went also to visit the Mosaic Canyon but it was not that spectacular.
El Capitan, one of the famous peaks you can see along the road to Ysemite village
At our last day in San Francisco it was time to pack the luggage and leave for Yosemite National Park. On that sunny morning. Me and P left with the cable car to the Alamo Rental Car center. Just as we arrived we claimed our SUV which was not that easy as they were short on SUV and tried to give us anothe car a huge Chrysler 300 but alas the trunk isn't that big. The people that entered the room jsut after us also claimed a SUV so we were lucky to have the first chance. It was a Huyndai Tuscon, which hasn't got that big trunk either but no had to take it and we got it without any further trouble. So getting used to the automatic transmission and finding the warehouse to buy a babyseat. I went for a starbucks while my friend was searching his parking ticket which he lost and had to go to a lot of administration and 24 dollars to have his car out of the parking lot. So there we went, after a short puzzle we managed to get all the luggage and the baby in tha car and of we went to Yosemite. Ok we missed one of the highwayroads but then we were on the road to nature. And what kid of nature. Amazing landscapes just out of the city.
After a few hours we arrived in Oakhurst where we stayed in Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn shared accomodation as my bedroom was apart from the other, wi-fi not that good except in in the restaurant, TV full of white noise except in the bedroom of my friends. And of course Mister E made his terriotory all over the place ;-) They got a nice restaurant there where i ate a burger. Alas for me. the little guy had a little illness and the next day i really was sick....
but after breakfast we went to Yosemite, we already had paid for our annual park admission fee. The road were full of curves and yes it's not easy when you're sick...
In the park we stayed in teh valley and after a while we found out how the shultte worked. Everythign in the valley you just can do on foot. The waterfalls, you see El Capitan on the way to it, lots of other mountains and you can go for a hike, even small ones but anyway quite steep when your not that fit. So we still enjoyed the trip but it was a long first day in nature.
And all of the parks have visitor centers where they help you out with almost evrything you may want to ask. A pity if you're queueing and some tourists are asking irrelevant questions bout the weather elswhere and the road to undefined other destinations. We hadn't got time to visit the Sequoia's due to tiredness and of course Mister E needed food and to sleep.
That night luckily i got better and the next morning i even could eat some breakfast, except no pancakes for me.
If you really like to feel the latino vibes. U must take a tour into the heart of Mission District. Not only that neighbourhood is totaly different then the North side of San francisco, it does really feel like you are in South-America. So different then in Belgium where you have also neighbourhoods with immigrants but they still look Western with a exotic touch. There the architecture, the noise, the people, the stores really look like you're on the South of the Americas. But most important when you take the bus over there is to have a walk (guided is possible) along the great murals that speak of the indigeneous people that are oppresed by the European discovery missions. I will let the pictures speak for itself.
I didn't have time or oocasion to taste some of the latino food alas.
Definitely take your time to discover Chinatown. You can take the bus and cable car straight into it. Or just have a nice work out by walking. Don't forget your sunscreen, your sunglasses and a jacket because of the chilly wind. At first sight it might be just a busy nieghbourhood full of little asians and stores and tourist stores and grocery stores and noise and people and more people pushing you in the masses on the crowed jammed sidewalk. But hey, there are a few things we discoverd. A weird temple on the top floor of a warehouse. And yes that's aactually all we discoverd. Murals again. And we ate some veggie, no sorry, VEGAN chinese. Very very cheap but not always that good. At the time we ate it and we liked it.
We're budget travellers, but if you want to spent your moeny on food: chances enough. We did it the very local way in very local joints.
When you don't like crowed places: get there in the morning. When you wander off the sides of Chinatown, where no tourist are: you prolly get swarmed by the lcoals doing their shopping and goign out for dinner in the local joints. And they don't mind you. It's a stram and if you don't go with it: you get pushed. your own fault. keep walking. Quite Amusing. Watch your stuff and pockets. Not beause of they do pickpocket you, but because elsewhere in the world you'd be pickpocket in that situation.
views from the secret temple
View from Coit Tower
Well, let's say, I went with my friends to California for a road trip (20 march - 8 april 2013). This road trip brought us to more then just Californian Dreaming. We actually ended up crossing 4 states! Yeaj! (CA, UTAH, NEVADA en some desert of Arizona. 18 days of travel. Way too short to enjoy the beauty of a country of which I was and maybe still am full of prejudices. Anyway, bordercontrol and US-laws didn't really cause a hazard as we were never in trouble, we got no speeding tickets whatsoever, never had accidents, Trouble with hotelbookings, car breakdowns, so one happy trip! And this with a 16 month old little bastard. Yes travelling with kids demands a certain state of mind and change of your daily rythm (early mornings, early evenings). Why travelling with a baby so many of my friends asked, that's going to be horror. It wasn't. Adapt and everything will be fine. Sure there were difficult times, but the times we all had fun with that little guy were also many. As long as you have enough me-myself-and I-time. Which I always need. I like to get out on my own, but when the day ends, it's always nice to rejoin your friends. And there was springtime, full sun! over 20 degrees! While here in Belgium at the time it was still hell freezing over!
While planning the trip it all started with the idea of getting abroad. I'm used to travel in groups, not only pure Belgian travelagencies (vreemde kontinenten, joker, anders reizen) but also international (intrepid, gapadventures, dagboekreizen.nl => Brasil ,...). I've also been travelling with friends lately. I prefer travelling with people i know than to be in a group with people I need to get to know to have good times with.
And the US of A was already some time on my wishlist. Then my friends told me they wanted to go to San Francisco. Then I said i'd like to join them. All of sudden they told me thye had booked tickets. So in in hour I booked my flights too. Air France, leaving with THalys from Brussels, ending up two hours later in Charles de Gaulle for our flight. And then we needed to plan. The interwebz has it all. Shortly we ended up booking all best westerns and shared accomodation. Only a few days I had a private room for myself. No big deal.
Booking a car with Alamo rental went quite fluid. And finding suitable housing in San Francisco neither.
With Flipkey we ended up quite in the middle of the things-to-see, right next to a cable car and walking distance from everywhere we neede to go. It was a nice topfloor appartment. Old, maybe a bit chilly, but the heating worked fine in the living room. Contact with the owner was per email exclusively but we had no troubles finding the keys and making the place cosy. Well let's say it was full of babystuff and we had to fit in between. We found ourselves supermarktet and coffeebars at walking distance, we were even very close to Fishermen's Warf and Pier 39, the Embarcadero and Washington Square: the gate to Chinatown.
WHAT TO SEE & TRANSPORT
As every city San Francisco has a lot to offer for everyone. Everything you need. Even if you might be that one person that needs to stay ot of the sun, is allergic to masses or jsut wnats to dive into the undergournd nightlife. Look and you will find. I like to go off the beaten track, but anyway off the beaten trakc means most of the time: places where actually ther's nothgin to see but the daily life, like you would be strolling your own neighbourhood where you live. Local places are local and yes they have their nice thigns to discover, otherwise it would be boring for the people livign there. But Le Louleur Local, it is always somethign you need to dive in.
Colourfull San Francisco: mind the steep streets, yes it is like in the movies. So if you aren't used to hike, i'd can be quite tiring running up that hill.
I like running up hills. If you don't: take a look at the map and follow the flat big streets as much as you can before you turn to a side street. Take the old cablecar or take one of the buses. We bought ourselves a 3 day munipass: about 24 dollars each i guess to take all the buses you want. Well not all, but most.
the mansion of Danielle Steele
One of the must sees is walking down the piers at the coast line. Call it the boardwalk. Yes it is full of tourists. Yes it's even full of tourist traps. Anyway start at Pier 1 where the fresh market is. walk down further along the pier and then you find Pier 39 Fishermen's warf with tons of places to eat and you can watch to sunbathign sealions. Walk further to the museum with vintage games and World war II old warships. Taste some Crab Cioppino. Rent a bike and to all the way to the Golden Gate Brigde: put your feet in the sand and the beach. Cross the bridge, take pictures, go downhill to the next little village, have some icecream, don't forget to watch the ferry to take you back to SF along Alacatraz.
Famous neighbourhoods are the Castro and the Mission. I went walking the big lanes up to Alamo Square along lots of famous mansions and ncie shopping streets before I took the bus to Mission. There i followed a walk in my cityguide along the Latino graffitti streetart walls.
In the bus it was strange. In SF you have a lot of Asians...when entering Mission, slowly Asians made place for Latino's and even the district itself looks more like Sout-American slums: loud, not that clean, more macho and more nacho. I felt quite safe on my own. Though some streets can be very lousy and deserted even in daylight.
De Amasia-reeks is op vele vlakken positief. Niet alleen wordt zo een breed gamma aan Aziatische films aan een wereldwijd publiek bekendgemaakt. Het biedt een kijk op de verschillende genres die de Aziatische cinema te bieden heeft. Al moet gezegd worden dat deze films zich toch concentreren op historische krijgerfilms of postmoderne film-noir-adaptaties, die wonderwel stukken kwaliteitsvoller zijn dan de Amerikaanse popcornfilms in het genre.
Zo ook de Zuid-Koreaanse A Company Man (2012) van Sang-yoon Lim. Het recept is ouwe koek. Eén tegen allen. Payback. Dit met het nodige schitterend in beeld gebrachte geweld, bliksemsnelle martial arts en meedogenloze cool. Terecht verwijst de hoes van deze Blu-ray naar A Bittersweet Life (2005). Jaren geleden was dit mijn eerste echte Aziatische actiefilm en wat voor één. Het dreigt met elke nieuwe film een herkauwing te worden van hetzelfde. Maar A Company Man slaagt er in de nodige diepgang te creëren en een verhaallijn uit te zetten die het karakter van het hoofdpersonage meer uitdiept dan het personage zelf wil onthullen.
Korte inhoud:Ji Hyeong-do (Ji-seob So) is een beroepsmoordenaar. Hij werkt voor een bedrijf dat uiterlijk een gewoon bedrijf lijkt, maar achter de schermen een moordsyndicaat. Hij voert iedere klus uit met een extreem dodelijke precisie en met dezelfde extreme onverschilligheid tegenover zijn doelwitten. Elke dag trekt hij routineus een nieuw hemd aan en vertrekt voor een nieuwe werkdag. Vragen stellen komt niet bij hem op. Tot hij opeens toch ergens iets menselijks voelt. Door omstandigheden maakt hij kennis met Yuk Mi-yeon (Mi-yeon Lee). Een vrouw uit het arbeidersmilieu. Zij tracht zich te beredderen met twee tienerkinderen. Haar levensstijl is zo verschillend dan de zijne dat hij begint na te denken over wat hij doet. Wanneer hij verliefd wordt op Yuk, en de 'company' dat te weten komt, blijkt ontslag nemen uit het bedrijf moeilijker dan verwacht en moet hij alles uit de kast halen om zichzelf en zijn geliefde te redden.
De opbouw van de film is knap in mekaar gezet met de nodige afwisseling tussen actie en 'romantiek'. De momenten waarop de regisseur de tijd neemt om de relatie tussen Yuk en Ji te vertellen zouden saai kunnen zijn en overbodig, maar ze zijn het niet. De vele dagdagelijkse scènes, bijna nietszeggende dialogen, het in beeld brengen van bijna banale dingen, het leven zoals het is: iets wat Ji niet kent. Iets wat de film sterkt tussen alle actie in. Want je merkt de gesloten onbeholpenheid van Ji tegenover de openheid van Yuk. Ji wordt bovendien verscheurd door de keuze tussen zijn loyauteit aan het bedrijf en zijn nieuwe liefde. Maar hij aarzelt ook niet om de consequenties van zijn keuze op zich te nemen indien nodig.
De killer die mens wordt maar als puntje bij paaltje komt gewoon de meest efficiënte moordmachine blijft die hij altijd is geweest. Waar A Man From Nowhere (2012) misschien iets teveel bleef steken in de payback-premisse, biedt A Company Man zeker meerwaarde. Knap staaltje film in de typische Zuid-Koreaanse traditie.