Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick

Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick
Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick

Wouldn’t you like to try one?

Located right in the center of Beijing‘s business district Donghuamen, the Wangfujing Night Market is known to many as the “Crazy Food Street”. Even though you can have the scorpions fried before you eat them, you also have the option of being brave and eating them alive. Mentally, one of the most difficult things to eat, especially since the scorpions are still alive an moving just before you eat them.

And if you are really feeling adventurous, try delicates like starfish, chicken heart, duck tongue, shrimp eggs, centipede, octopus tentacle and many more. I especially enjoyed silk-worms, very small but thick bugs that looked like they had a shell.

Discovering Beijing: The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City

Imagine we were just electrified in Tokyo, not tired at all hopping back to Beijing where we continued our trip. After passing through the chaos of the airport taxi rank, we decided to take the metro. Finally, after wandering around a few alleyways and asking a few times we ran into an old Chinese man who pointed us in the right direction and we finally checked into the Inner Mongolia Grand Hotel Beijing.

Smog covering Beijing
Smog covering Beijing

The first thing that comes to mind about Beijing is the smog in the air and the smell of exhaust fumes. It was very evident that the air here is not very clean even at night. Last time I experienced such air polution was 2007 in Bangalore, India. You hear a lot about it but you have to breathe it to fully comprehend how thick it actually is.

The Forbidden CityThe Forbidden City was the first site that we visited in Beijing. Off limits for 500 years, the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing was finally opened to the masses in 1949. This is a huge complex and China’s most spectacular architectural structure. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors in two dynasties, the Ming and the Qing.

The three main halls of the outer court, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony and Hall of Preserved Harmony form a line inside the gate. These halls are all situated on three-tier marble terraces, with ornate marble balustrades. An impressive stone ramp carved with coiled dragons and clouds is located between the steps leading up to each hall. The ramp of Hall of Preserved Harmony is the largest.

The Forbidden City is an amazing walk around that took us one day. We continued with …

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Entering Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan

Multicolored neon light that illuminates a major city center with a vibrant nighttime glow, businessmen cackling, Japanese girls in bright outfits: welcome to Shibuya on a Friday night!

Before going to Japan when I thought of Tokyo I thought of the Shibuya crossing which is pretty famous for being one of the world’s most heavily used pedestrian scramble intersections. I have seen so many photos of this spot and it was one of the places I truly wanted to visit.

We ended up in Shibuya a couple times over our trip but the photo in this post is from the very first visit. While the Shibuya crossing does have “pedestrian crossing lines” which cross in different direction it does seem like people will charge in more or less any direction, as you can see in this video that was taken a few days later.

Electrified in Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

After visiting more than half a dozen Asian countries (including six months in India), I left on my staggering excursion to Japan in June of 2014. I felt the little hairs on my arms standing up as I boarded the Airbus A330-200 at Frankfurt Airport, waves of excitement running up and down my spine, knowing I would end up on the other side of the world, in Tokyo.

After the seventeen-hour journey (via Beijing), and a loud bang, I awoke to a hazy, electric glow, which was almost too much to bear in my awfully jet lagged state. Tokyo glows.

Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, Japan
Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, Japan

Tokyo is perhaps the most gorgeous ugly city in the world. It’s a super-dense riot of mismatched buildings, overhead wiring and one of the planet’s best mass transit systems. In other words: Blade Runner city.

It’s like being surrounded by embers from a fire on speed at nighttime. There’s lights, such a large number of lights, all different colored sparkling lights reflecting all around, and people, so many people, and sounds, sounds that don’t stop.

After deciding I needed out after some days in Tokyo, I headed to Hakone for a respite from the Shibuya crossing

Gothic Majesty of Siena

Duomo di Siena
Duomo di Siena
Streets of Siena's medieval center
Streets of Siena’s medieval center
Basilica di San Domenico
Basilica di San Domenico

Truth be told, the real gems of Tuscany are the historic town and cities. One of my favorite is the Gothic majesty of Siena. Legend tells us that Siena was founded by the son of Remus, and the symbol of the wold feeding the twins Romulus and Remus is as ubiquitous in Siena as it is in Rome.

The streets of Siena’s medieval center are humongous and gorgeous. During the day the stone ground sizzles under the sun and the wonderfully crafted buildings bake from exposure from an incredible clear sky. To be on the safe side and because I love film grain, I decided to load my camera with an ISO 200 Fuji film to capture the town (click on the photos to enlarge them and to see the grain).

Our first stop was Duomo di Siena, a cathedral originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 and Siena’s main landmark. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The magnificent facade of white, green and red polychrome marble was designed by Giovanni Pisano. The lantern atop was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Later we visited the Basilica di San Domenico, which was constructed between 1226 and 1265, but was enlarged in the 14th century resulting in the stunning Gothic appearance it has now. In the afternoon we continued to stroll around Siena and had plenty of Gelati at Palazzo Publicco…