An Interesting Development in ROC and PRC Relationship

The chairman of the KMT (the current opposition party in Taiwain’s government), Lien Chan, visits mainland China for a week today, marking it the first time a member of the KMT has visisted the mainland since the seperation of Chang Kai-Shek’s KMT to Taiwan in 1949. Understandably, demonstrators at Taiwan’s Kai-Shek airport were hurling insults of traitor and sell out to Chan as he left for the mainland. This is a very interesting twist indeed to the Taiwan Strait issue and I’m not certain of what the implications from this move are.

Historicaly (I’m sure I’m going to get some stuff wrong here, so comment any corrections), the KMT was the original political party that fled to Taiwan after being chased out by the communists in the 1949. They are now the opposition party to the Democratic Progressive Party, who currently hold power after some fifty years of KMT rule. While the KMT were the ones forced out of China, they now lean towards unification or some sort of appeasment while the DPP supports status quo or independence.

Of course, anything to ease the tensions between the two nations is a Good Thing, especially in light of China’s Anti-Sessation Law, which authorizes military force to maintain One China. However, this eaisly could be seen as a backhanded move by the KMT to gain the favor of the PRC’s government. Current seniment in Taiwan, apparently, favors status quo over independence over unification (in that order). The Washington Post has a good article covering it as well as the English Chinese press on Xinhau, which points out that the delegation is over per the invite of the Chinese President (head of state) Hu Jintao and the Central Committee.

Europe Pictures Online

I’ve put the pictures online. I shot something like 700 megs of pictures, it’s a bit nutty.

Back in San Francisco

Sadly enough, this vacation has drawn itself to a close with an anti-climatic loss of my luggage by Delta (it’s being delivered tomorrow). After being gone ten days, I can get a taste of why Europeans call their 3+ weeks of vacation “holiday.”

We spent Friday taking a day trip out to Zaanse Schans, a little town outside of Amsterdam that has preserved 6 of the 100+ windmills and operates them in the 1700s style, producing oils, mustard, paint pigments and other things. It’s an incredibly picturesque town, with beautiful wood homes, windmills overlooking the Zaanse river, small canals (seems to be a Dutch pastime), couple of animals running around (sheep and the like). It was quite beatufiul.

After Zaanse Schans, we made our way back to Amsterdam and checked out the Museum Van Loon, which is a preserved 18th century canal home owned by the Van Loon family that shows how one of the canal mansions was kept during the period and the architectural style of the day (including false doors to preserve symmetry in rooms). We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that was filled with locals near Vondelpark (on the southwest side, near tram line 2). The food wasn’t anything to comment on, but it was a good way to end the trip. The cable I need to pull the pictures off of my iPod is stuck at the office, so I won’t be able to pull them off until Monday.

The Last Two-ish Days in Amsterdam

I can’t believe I’m at an easyInternetcafe. This is the kind of thing I make fun off all the time. Yep, it’s gaudy and orange but it is acutally cheap (e.g. 1.70e/hour cheap and half the computers don’t work cheap). We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday morning on time, the first of our intra-European travels that went off without a hitch. The sightseeing started (the shopping started a bit before, me picking up a Moleskin and a gauffre on Museumplein) at De Pijp and Albert Cupmarket, a large outdoor market. We had lunch at this great Surinam-ean place on Albert Cupstraat, right after the market where we got a dish called “roti vegeteran” that was a huge bowl of a curry with potatos and a large roti on top. Very filling for only 3.50e! We made our way over to Dam Square and took in the sights, including some window shopping in De Bijenkorf and a couple of the side streets in the area. We walked around quite a bit more through the area and many of the canals, crisscrossing north/south a large part of the city

Today started at Anne Frank Huis, the house in that Anne Frank and her family hid in during the occupation of the Netherlands. It’s an incredibly well done exhibit, with many primary sources, such as the family member’s identification cards, as well as the actual diary of Anne Frank. We followed that with a walk through the Negen Straatjes (but not making any purchaces, even though the toothbrush store was quite tempting) and then to the Bloemenmarkt and strolled through the flower stalls. It’s a funny town, Amsterdam: on one shelf would be tulip bulbs to talk home, the shelf below it a grow-it-yourself cannibis kit (seeds included, of course), below which would be a grow-it-yourself bonzi kit. Something for everyone, it seems.

A Very Long Post from Budapest

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog, but I’m at the computer in my hotel in Budapest. When I last wrote, we had spent the day in the Marais in Paris. On Saturday, we missed our Thalys train from Paris Gare du Nord over to Amsterdam Centraal, so we ended up getting in to Amsterdam quite late, around 11PM. Once we made our way, via tram, to our hotel, we found out that it was sold out for the night and the desk had to make alternate accommodations for us.

Funny story first. As soon as we arrived at Amsterdam CS, we were totally the lost tourists trying to figure out whether to taxi it or use the tram. Mind you, it was pouring rain at the moment. As we fumbled using the ticket vending machine at the station, a very skech looking guy came up to us asked where we were heading. Our destination being Vondelpark, he punched a bunch of buttons on the machine and ran away, only to return a few moments later as we couldn’t figure out how to pay. Suggesting a stripcard (e.g. a 15 ride pass), he helped us figure out how to punch it in the validator then disappeared again. As we started walking towards the tram, he appeared out of nowhere again, telling us which trams we could take. After all that sketching out, he asked for three euros for him to get in to a hostel for the night. Best three euros spent, ever.

In any case, the “alternate” reservations turned out in our favor, as we were upgraded to the swanky Hotel de l’Europe, in the center of town, on the intersection of two canals. We settled down, and left for the Red Light District (time being around 12:30AM now). Quite a scene that red light district. We found a falafel place in the middle of it to get a midnight snack and watch the commotion. It was hilarious to watch the people try to negotiate ‘favors’ with the hookers in their windows. Apparently, over 40% of the business comes from the British. We made our way back to the hotel, passing through the scenic canals and passed out.

The next morning, we started the day at the Van Gough Museum, a wonderfully full and comprehensive collection of his work in the middle of the Museum park/district. We finished that tourist landed place off and went over to the Rijksmusem. On the way, we made the obligatory stop for waffles at a street vendor booth, proving the fact that the Dutch/Flemish really do make the best waffles. The Rijksmuseum was largely closed down due to renovations, but we were able to see a good number of the exhibits, including Rembrandt’s Night Watchman. We finished the sightseeing for the day walking along P.C. Hoofstrat and peaking the boutiques before making our way back to the train station to catch the next train for the airport en route to Budapest.

At the airport, we were delayed 6.5 hours on our flight due to bad equipment and the weather being so bad in Budapest that the flight over wasn’t able to leave. Ever wonder what Schispol looks like at 2:10AM? I have the pictures to show you. We landed in Budapest at something like 5AM, took a taxi to our airport and passed out.

Monday started late, around 10:30AM. After taking breakfast at the hotel, we made our way up the staircases behind us to Castle Hill, entering via Fisherman’s Bastion. Beautiful old architecture everywhere, it was plain gorgeous. We saw Mattais Church, plus all the other splendid sights up on the Hill. After Castle Hill, we went down to the City Park via the Millennium Subway (which is worth seeing in its own right) to Szechenyi bath house. It’s quite a sight. Pretty much a public (it’s state run) public pool and mineral bath, we saw all sorts of people, young to old, locals to tourists (although mostly locals) taking the waters. We even saw a French guy who looked stunningly like Dan. The day (well, really our energy) drawing to a close, we had dinner on Andrassy Utca at a place called Goa Cafe, which served up some interesting Asian/Mediterranean fusion ravioli and farferrel.

Finally, today. Forced awake at 8:30 by our wake up call and another round of breakfast in the hotel, we made out early for Szent Istvan Bazilika to start a long day of exploration on the Pest side. After seeing the basicalla (which was surprisingly colorful inside) we walked down Andrassy Utca for nearly the whole length of it and continued to Vaci utca, a pedestrian walk way full of shops and cafes (many of which we stopped in) Near the end of Vaci utca, we did some shopping at the Vasarcarnok market hall as well as lots of walking on side streets and ended up having dinner on Andrassy and walking across the Chain bridge back to our hotel. Tomorrow, our flight is at 7:25AM heading back to Amsterdam. Hopefully I’ll get a couple more opportunities to blog while I’m over there (and buy a Moleskin as my journal’s run out and it seems that they’re unavailable here).

Friday in the Marais

After sleeping a solid 12 hours and waking up at 11AM, we made our way to the Marais, soaking in the beautiful stores, the gorgeous stores, and the rain. We walked aimlessly through streets in the 3rd, eventually deciding to make our way over to the Picasso Museum. The museum was enormous, the largest single collection of Picasso works ranging from his paintings to sketchbooks to sculptures, as well as the works of some of his contemporaries. After finishing the museum, we made our way to a cafe, and after sitting for about half an hour over a tea and et un cafe (espresso), it started to drizzle, thus forcing us to move on. We decided to head over to Place Vosges and walked around the square and sat in the park, thankfully full of sun and no rain.

We continued our aimless meander and ended up around Republique around the time we were supposed to head back to the Ile to meet my sister, so we hopped on the metro and went back. At the Ile, we had some more to drink at a cafe facing Pont Saint Louis after which we made the obligatory stop to Berthillon. I ordered a mint, Ami a blood orange, and my sister a cinnamon. There’s nothing quite as unique, tasty, fresh and fantastique as Berthillon ice cream. Once we’d gorged ourselves on ice cream, we came back to my sister’s place to meet a few of her friends to head to dinner. We went to a Mexican place near the Pigalle (I think) for my sister to get a little taste of home. The worst service ever, but the food wasn’t half bad. I had an interesting rendition of an enchilada, which was served in a bowl, almost as a cheese, tortilla, and pico de gallo soup.

When dinner was over, we headed back to the Ile, changed, and walked over to the Louvre, to head to Cabaret, a happening Paris mega-club about at 1AM. It’s in a bizarre location, pretty much within a mall. It’s a great model of how I’d want to open a club at the Metreon (which is lacking a vendor at the 4th and Mission entrance). We had a good time dancing and making fun of the French dance. At around 4AM, we left the spot and crashed.

Thursday Afternoon and Evening in Paris

We started our walk on the Ile, making the obligitory stop at Bertillion to see what ice cream flavors they currently have (yes, mint and blood orange where avaiable!). We made our way past Notre Dame, to edge of the Latin Quarter and found Rue St. Germain and walkted in the direction of my sister’s school. After picking up a few creps (sucre and banana nutella) from a recomended street vendor, we walked around peaking our heads in to cute boutiques and shops. We ended up settling at a Hemmingway favorite, Cafe de Flore, for some tea (which, mind you, was 6 euros a pop — the Hemmingway/Sarte tax). After my sister left for class, Ami and I continued around the general St. Germain area, doing more window (and acutal) shopping.

We walked to Le Senat and observed a protest happening, with riot police, molotov cocktails and the works. It was acutally a bit insane. The riot police, with the shields and all where moving around, not acutaly doing any riot protection, but the streets were blocked off by barracades and by officers. The protesters, from best we can gather, were exploding things, throwing glass bottles at the police, and trying to pull down the gilded fence around the senate house. After getting bored of watching the police “keep the peace”, we made our way to St. Suplice and were greeted by a Madagascar-ian vendor fair, where people were selling all sorts of goods from that country. And why wouldn’t you see that, right? It’s Paris after all.

We met my sister and her friend back at Cafe de Flore and walked for what seemed like ages towards the Marais to get falafels. We arrived at L’as de Falafels, a Israeli falafel joint, which hands down, unquestionably, served the best falafels I have ever had. Today, I think we’re going to continue to explore the Marais, go get North African food for dinner, then hit up a club in the evening.

J’aime Paris

I’m back in Paris, baby! And let me say, it’s the bomb. I love this city. The flight was uneventful and very non-stop. I’d never flown in to CDG in any terminal but number three (which is the discount one) and got totally lost trying to get our RER tickets. After half an hour of bumbling around the various automated terminals which couldn’t read my credit card, we managed to find one willing to dispense tickets. We boarded the limited RER B and headed towards Chatlet and changed on to the 7 for Pont Marie. Walking out of the Pont Marie station right on the intersection of the Seine and the actual Pont is a wonderful experience, full of honking cars, street vendors selling prints and beautiful views of the Ile Saint Louis. Weather is a bit shabby, overcast but no rain thankfully. It’s time to head out and walk around town to fight off any jetlag.

090T All Circuts Busy

I’m trying to call my sister’s mobile phone in Paris and I’ve been getting a error: “All circuts to the country you are calling are busy. 090T.” Are you kidding me? I think the last time I’ve heard some nonsense like that is when we were trying to call my grandparents in India when I was, like, 5.

Any Given Sunday

I stayed in most of the weekend recovering from a cold, so by the time Sunday rolled around I was itching to do something. Jamus IM’ed me around 11 in the morning, informing me of a Lakers vs. Kings game at 12:30. I tried to convince him to come over to no avail, so I decided to make the 90 minute drive over to Sacramento for some good basketball, beer and sandwiches. The game turned out to be terrible, like most Lakers games thes days but the sandwiches were good (from The Bread Shop, near the capitol) as was the Bass. I rounded out the afternoon in Sacramento watching Tiger clinch the Masters in overtime then made the drive back to SF.

Back in the city in the evening, I met up with Derek and went over to the Warfield to see the Garbage show. We jammed out to an awesome show, basking in the hotness of Shirly Manson. Derek’s second concert in as many nights (with U2 on Saturday) proved that he’s a total concert fiend. Ears still ringing, now with Ami in tow, we got burritos at 6th and Market. After burritos, it was over to Post and Sutter (?) to Thai place called Ozone in order to meet up with Steven and his friends for a few beers put a good end to any given Sunday.