Buying Socks in China: Tougher Than It Sounds

Before visiting China for the first time in August 2003, I truly expected to find clothes cleaners (洗染店 xǐ​rǎn​diàn) all over the place.  Was this the first thing on my mind as I landed in Guilin?  No.  It was the second.  The first was “do I have SARS?”

Frankly speaking, I don’t recall seeing even one brick-and-mortar launderer in Guilin.  Successive trips to China and Hong Kong have shown me that washing clothes is still very much done at home, and drying clothes is for ANYWHERE you can find space.

In order to do that, you first need to own clothes.

Shanghai - Shoe Socks
I took this photo in Shanghai in 2008.  The sign – which in Chinese, reads wà​zi, or socks – is immensely confounding.  Where are the shoes?  The socks?  The employees?

I’m not even talking about the bizarre sign.  It looks like a store that sells fish, keys and blades, you know, not socks.  MacGyver would be proud.

All of this thinking made me hungry.

Mexican Tequesquite: It Is What It Is (So, What Is It?)

Today, I took a trip to Roosevelt Ave. on the eastern frontier of Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City.  The mission expressly revolved around eating food from Mexico.  Continue walking east on Roosevelt Ave. towards Corona, and finding a taco will be as easy as finding a plastic surgeon in Seoul.

I walked into a Mexican supermarket called Bravo and strolled right up to the wall of dried herbs and who-knows-what.  Which is to say, I-know-what, because an amateur background in food and Spanish – in addition to knowing a fair amount of English – comes in handy when sifting through small packets of albahaca (basil), perejil seco (dried parsley) and tomillo (thyme).


Jackson Heights - Tequesquite (Mexico)

Known as such.  What am I supposed to make of that? Did someone royally screw up spelling mesquite?  At first glance, it looks like clay, or ancestors of Triscuits.  Clay…are we in Johannesburg again?

Tequesquite, what are you? Similar to salt but composed of various minerals, it originates from the depths of various lakes in what is now Distrito Federal (Mexico City) and the state of MichoacánTrivia time: Name two more Mexican states (if you say Texas, I’d like to see your globe).  The word stems from the Náhuatl language, whereas tetl means rock and quixquitl signifies gushing or sprouting.  During the dry seasons, the beds of salt lakes such as Texcoco would be exposed, thus giving rise to the practical uses of tequesquite.

Aztecs and their descendants predominantly used tequesquite to leaven corn dough, but it was also used to soften corn kernels as well as preserve the green color of nopales, or cacti.  On your next trip to Mexico, when you order a tamale or a corunda, its triangular cousin from Michoacán, you might have tequesquite to thank.

Oh, and as for assigning it an English name, there’s a possibility that builder’s or slack lime are contenders.  Slightly off-putting for use on supermarket shelves, but I can hear an avant-garde Home Depot calling its name.


Have you ever made tamales?  Were you able to find tequesquite?

My Allegorical Passport

Firstly, I’ll admit that this post was inspired by one on Flyertalk.

Having a passport from the ol’ US isn’t such a bad thing, if you take a look at how many countries US citizens can visit without requiring a visa, or a visa in advance.  Not that I’m necessarily interested in visiting most of those places – I might need to go to Chinatown to get a Thai passport instead – but hey, we’ve got Venezuela (somehow?) and Western Sahara on them!

In any event, collecting passport stamps used to be fun…for me, but never for immigration officials.  However, now that the US government charges citizens to add pages – I wonder how many pages long that act was; never mind that the I-589 is free – I’m not as keen these days.  Yes, I know that those of us in the states are spoiled by getting passports valid for 10-years and also for being able to add pages, but stop for a minute and think about how embarrassing visa page additions can be.  It serves as an embarrassing allegory for the Department of State.

Jonathan's Passport (2)

Everything is big in America.

Jonathan's Passport (1)
Generally, at this stage in my (now expired; that’s why the front page is hole-punched) passport’s life, border control agents would give up and stamp anywhere they could find space.  This included the signature page and the back page.

Two anecdotes that I recall are a Lebanese immigration officer getting angry that my Lao visa was written in Hebrew, and a hostel owner in Dublin adding a Post-it® to my cover page which read “American Guy’s Passport.”
Jonathan's Passport (3)
What is represented on these two pages – passport stamps from China and Hong Kong – is why my passport had to loosen its belt binding.  While I was living in Shenzhen, the Chinese city that borders Hong Kong, it was extremely easy to hop over the border.  Did I have a reason to do so?  Nah.  For instance, need to use the restroom?  Go to HK.  Want to buy a more expensive bottle of water?  There’s a 7-11 right after HK immigration.  Want to yawn in two different places in five minutes?  Hoooooong Kong.

I can’t forget the most important one– ran out of visa pages?:

Jonathan's Passport (4)

These days, it’s not as much of an issue – neither Hong Kong nor Macao, among a few other places, offer stamps anymore.

No matter where you hail from, do you still like getting passport stamps?  What is the process for getting/renewing passports in your country?

Welcome to Japan. Light Up, Kids.

I’ve wandered through the terminals of Narita Airport, currently Tokyo‘s primary international hub, enough to know the must-visit spots.  There’s the Lawson convenience store pre-security in Terminal 1 (T1), the casual Japanese place that seasonally serves kaki furai – fried oysters – in the same general area and the scattered stores that sell sakura matcha Kit Kats.  They are hard to find if…you never look for them.  There are observation decks at T1 and T2, again pre-security checks, and cheap bento (do I get a point for finally referencing my namesake?) lunches in one of the mid-levels of the arrivals hall of T1.

OK Japan, you’ve won me over with your randomness, your food and your somehow tolerable airport security checkpoints, but there’s (no less than) one thing I have to address:

Narita Airport - Adult Smokers Only Sign

A sign without a conscience.  Like one of these.

Indeed, the top line says “only for the use of adult smokers,” and the bottom “for anyone other than adult smokers, please refrain from the use {of this room}.”

My tongue-in-cheek question is, since they already start drinking at a young age, where will Narita let kids try out smoking?  Well, there are non-stop flights to China

This is What Happened When I Recovered Deleted Photos

Beware, for what you are about to see is completely un”re”edited for content.

…which is to say, in September 2009 during a visit to Bogotá, Colombia, I accidentally deleted the photos from the memory card of my camera.  As soon as I realized my ignorance – maybe there was a delayed reaction due to the one hour time difference – I rushed over to a camera store and asked for help in recovering them.

As a result of my stout fingers I suppose, a great deal of photos were lost from my ’round-the-world trip in late 2008-early 2009, as well as those leading up to September 2009.

Or did I?  Mostly, yes.  But with the help of the Bogotá Kodak store, we were able (to) recuperar many others.

After doing a bit of cleaning, I rediscovered the memory card on which said photos were deleted and then recovered.  These are the end product of the recovery- completely unaltered by me.
Clearly, pixels make strange bedfellows:

Cuzco, Peru - Recuperada Self

Yours truly.  I guess I did spend a lot of time in East Asia… though, it’s rather peculiar, because it looks like I am drinking myself.  Taken in Cuzco, Peru.

Kuwait - Recuperada CCTV Bus

Cool, my very own CCTV camera.  Taken on a Kuwait City bus.

Malaysia - Recuperada South Indian Meal

For those of us who are avant-garde food photographers, I bring you “everything but the food.”

Karachi, Pakistan - Recuperada Quaid

The memory card must’ve had a beef with its owner.  No, it’s just an ex-girlfriend’s artful way of framing the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, Pakistan.

Hiroshima, Japan - Recuperada Genbaku Dome

Surreal.  This building was formerly called as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, but has come to be known as the A-Bomb Dome.  It was just about the only structure left intact, and in case you were curious, it was designed by a Czech architect named Jan Letzel.

Aguascalientes, Peru - Recuperada Before & After

Before & After?  I’m rather fascinated by the photos that were randomly connected.  From the looks of it, the upper portion is Aguascalientes (near Machu Picchu) and the lower part is Kuwait.

Peru - Recuperada Shining Path

Since these were all taken in Peru, and the hue is overtly reddish, let’s name this tripartite image “Shining Path.”

Etihad AUH to CGK - Recuperada Jakarta & EY In-flight MealWhat a coincidence!  This in-flight meal was served on an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta, and the photo spliced in between was taken in Jakarta.  As for the blank lower quarter of this image, I have no idea what is happening there.

How do we assess this stroll through my memory card’s vivid imagination?  BACK UP your photos!  Although you may get a few credible hybrids here and there, for the most part, you’ll get this:

Recuperada - Recuperadidn'tHas this happened to you too?  How did you cope?

My Nominee for Best Street Food Vendor

It is surprisingly easy to choose which restaurants are my favorites.  Whether or not it has cheap eats, waitstaff that sit down and awkwardly talk with customers, windows, soap and water or some combination of the four, is of minimal importance in the ranking system.  Ultimately, if I was limited to one city on each continent in which to have a 24-hour food marathon, including only those which I have visited, I’d go with Mexico City, Lima, Cairo, Istanbul, and Tokyo…except that the flight between Istanbul and Tokyo was diverted to Seoul due to nothing other than my inability to choose one city in Asia.

Not to mention, it is just as simple to do the reverse.  For example, Manhattan has an overabundance of restaurants that aren’t worth mentioning here or there, so I’ll offer vague descriptions in lieu of names.  Think- American cheese instead of paneer stuffed into naan, nacho cheese woefully added to tonkatsu sauce and (hmm, this theme is pure coincidence) a stiff rectangle of cheese that forgot to melt itself on pizza.

Street food, though?  Now I’m in trouble.

Or am I?

Alexandria, Egypt.  A Mediterranean metropolis best known for its library and its 19th century trams.  For me, it was a food, well what’s the word between mecca and paradise?  Don’t be alarmed, there’s no hidden meaning in that question. I’ll save myself by writing good food, good food.  Koshary, falafel, sugar cane juice, grilled eggplant, zabadi, ful (fava bean stew) – a breakfast staple, and cantaloupe ice cream.

Enter, my favorite street food vendor. located by Sidi Gaber train station.  I had an early morning ride to Cairo, so I hopped aboard one of the storied trams earlier than necessary, in the event that the boarding situation might be entropic.    Turns out that that the chaos that awaited my arrival at Cairo’s train station wasn’t present in Alexandria, so I wandered around with plenty of time but sadly (fortunately?) only one stomach.

Alexandria, Egypt - Street Vendor (Foul, Eggplant, Falafel)

Ah, one of those soap-free joints. The welcome mat has been rolled out.

After already having tried out two nearby ful stands, I ended up at the one above.

Pickles, a tomato and cucumber salad, fries, ful, grilled eggplant, and falafel.  The mainstays of a breakfast vendor in Egypt.  All brilliant, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that no one seemed to mind that the customers freely picked away at the eggplant and falafel – the profit margins – sitting in buckets in plain sight.

Now that I think about it, I ought to buy this vendor dinner.


What are your nominees for best street food vendor?

Great Japanese Recipes


Japan is one of many countries with delicious dishes, as people constantly come up with new recipes and cooking ways to satisfy the hunger of the nation. In fact, many Japanese dishes comprise of local ingredients allowing them to have a greater taste. Some dishes in Japan are more of an adventure, which readily appeal to anyone with a good appetite. Also, Japan has some dishes recognized across the globe, making their recipes readily acceptable. Thus, this article explores some of the many wonderful Japanese recipes.

Fried Firm and Flavorful

The pan-fried noodles in Fujinomiya, Japan, are different because of their firm texture. Before cooking, there is a special steam treatment given to pan-fried noodles. The cooking is then done over a hotplate with the aid of slivers of cabbage and pork oil cake. You can gain extra flavor by pouring on Worcestershire sauce and accompanying the noodles with sprinkled mackerel or sardine.



Okonomi-yaki originated during the early 20th century in the Kansai region as a snack for the young ones. Initially, Okonomi-yaki comprised of sliced scallions and other local ingredients, mixed together with wheat-flour and cooked over a griddle. Today, this dish comprises a variety of ingredients, such as shellfish, cabbage, and meat in addition to scallions.

Soup Curry

It would be a hit in Japan whether it was a soup or a curry. The dish comprises of chicken legs cooked together with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, and potatoes. Finally, there is the addition of pork, chicken, beef, and vegetable broth. It is necessary to achieve the extra special zest with the additional of a spoonful of miso.


This dish, grilled beef tongue, compares with the beef sirloin; however, it is healthier because of lessened calories and fat content. First, cut thick slices and grill to softness. Then, there is the final seasoning of the meat by the use of salt.


This is a seafood stew with its name originating from its color. During the preparation of the dish, place the sea urchin and abalone in hot boiling water. Season with a little soy sauce and salt, and then sprinkle on some finely chopped green shiso. This is a common dish during formal occasions in Japan.


Mix wheat flour with water, knead it into dough and let it sit for one to two hours, then roll the dough into thin sheets. Then, tear the thin sheets into small pieces by hand and cook them together with seasonal vegetables. Finally, flavor the soup with soy sauce for additional taste.


This is a salmon dish usually using fish caught from the local rivers. First, cut salmon into thin slices and simmer them in a broth of a soy sauce, mirin, sake (sweet rice liquor), and sugar. Then, this broth cooks the salmon roe. Finally, you would then scatter the roe and salmon over the same savory broth cooked rice.


In order to prepare this Japanese porridge, one must boil buckwheat grains, dry them and then remove their husks. Finally, you would cook the buckwheat in order to produce a thick porridge.

Natsu Matsuri Cocktail

Natsu Matsuri Cocktail

This is a juicy shochu-based cocktail, mostly enjoyed during parties and summer evenings. Ingredients include a half measure of shochu (1 measure = 25 ml), three measures of champagne, a half measure each of raspberry liqueur and strawberry liqueur, and one measure of cranberry juice. Add all of the ingredients to a champagne flute and mix them well to make the drink.


Kim is a travel addict, avid reader and freelancer who loves to share his travel experiences on different blogs.  Presently he is working for Esta Visa which provides visa assistance to the USA. He has also worked for at least four years as a content writer.