Singing my way through North America, 2017 edition: how I karaoked in 14 new U.S. states (plus another part of Canada)

Selfie in front of Warren Buffett’s house in Omaha, Nebraska in September 2017.

As detailed in this post, in 2016 I continued to place a high value on international travel but added a new focus on seeing more of my own country, the United States – with the ultimate goal of visiting, and karaokeing in, all 50 of its states. Henceforth, I shall refer to that 50-state karaoke project as my American Karaoke Tour – the domestic counterpart to my World Karaoke Tour.

In 2017, I took a great leap forward towards completing my American Karaoke Tour. As the world rang in 2017, the tally of U.S. states on that tour stood at 28. Before the year was out, that number would climb all the way to 42. Plus I made some return singing appearances in a couple of additional states in which I’d sung in the past; and I explored a Canadian city that was new to me, thereby experiencing (and karaokeing in) a new Canadian province!

I realize that this blog post is exceedingly long, even though my recaps of particular destinations are quite condensed. Don’t feel overwhelmed; if you’re reluctant to slog through the whole thing, no one could blame you. πŸ™‚ Just scroll down and read about the locations that most grab your fancy. Nor do I expect that you would have the time to view anywhere near all 19 of the karaoke videos that are embedded herein, even if you wanted to; but I do hope you’ll play at least a small sampling of them, to get a feel for what my North American singing experiences were like as I crisscrossed the continent in 2017. If you want suggestions, I can tell you that my own favourite videos in this blog post are of my performances of “Walking in Memphis” (which I sang in Vancouver, British Columbia); “Rock Lobster” (which I sang in Portland, Maine); “Wonderwall” (which I sang in Salt Lake City, Utah); and “Blister in the Sun” (which is the second video that you’ll find in the section on Des Moines, Iowa).

1. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (February 2017)

During the long President’s Day weekend that my home country observes in mid-February, I made my first visit to the Canadian province of British Columbia – and specifically, to the city of Vancouver. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Vancouver, as so many travellers from all over the world have.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver is a rickety span that hangs 230 feet above the water below. Residents and tourists alike visit the park where it’s located, just for the opportunity to traverse it.

Vancouver is an intriguing amalgamation that combines a colourful history, quirky local institutions, and profuse outdoor recreational opportunities. In that latter quality, it resembles the nearby U.S metropolises of Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon – both of which are also situated in the region commonly dubbed the Pacific Northwest. (An additional commonality of Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is that they’re prone to periodically shaken by powerful earthquakes, due to their presence in the Cascadia Subduction Zone; but if you were to avoid all seismically hazardous locales, you’d be left with a lot fewer cool places to travel to. πŸ™‚ ) Also similar to Seattle and Portland, Vancouver receives abundant rainfall during certain parts of the year. For example, don’t go to Vancouver in the month of February, as I did; that’s one of its soggiest months, and Vancouver got soaked throughout the long weekend of my jaunt there. Continue reading

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Country no. 49 on my World Karaoke Tour: avoiding the wrath of Genghis Khan in Mongolia

Me in front of the equestrian statue of Genghis Khan, about 34 miles outside of Ulaanbaatar.

Not every mass-murderer gets an international airport named after him. But Genghis Khan wasn’t a run-of-the-mill genocidal dictator. He was a larger-than-life figure whose massive empire was the precursor to modern-day Mongolia, and who’s therefore regarded by Mongolians as kind of a founding father of their country and accorded commensurate respect. The fact that tens of millions of people died as a direct result of his commands – some as casualties in wars that were fought in his name, and some being outright murdered in extermination campaigns that he initiated – doesn’t detract from the esteem in which he’s held in Mongolia today.

In June 2017, I visited Mongolia’s capital, Ulanabaatar, as well as a couple of areas outside the city. As well, I sought to make Mongolia the 49th country on my World Karaoke Tour, after singing in Nepal and Bhutan during the preceding week and a half. Here’s the story of how my visit went.

Background: a little bit about Genghis Khan

Initially, it must be noted that Genghis Khan – or Chinggis Khaan, as Mongolians refer to him – was not the actual name of the medieval warlord who led the Mongol hordes; that moniker is an honorific meaning “Supreme Ruler.” When he entered this world in 1162, his birth name was Temujin. Although, I have to admit that “Temujin” doesn’t sound nearly as badass as Genghis Khan. πŸ™‚

Regardless of what you call him, Genghis has his defenders and was admittedly a complicated figure. In recent years, some historians have attempted to rehabilitate his image, seeking to contextualize the massive body count that resulted from his policies. For example, this video hails him as a unifier of rival clans. It also asserts that many of the cities that Genghis destroyed only met that fate when they rebelled after surrendering to him – as if their refusal to meekly submit to a warlord’s conquest could justify such wholesale slaughter. As you might have guessed, I don’t go along with the revisionist whitewashing of Genghis’s legacy. In my view, notwithstanding the purported justifications for his conduct, Genghis ranks on a short list of the most brutal and murderous people in history. And that doesn’t even include the melee he incited in a southern California shopping mall in the late 20th century. πŸ™‚

Yet in May 2017, to enter Mongolia, I flew into an airport that proudly bears his name. I mean, what’s next? Pol Pot International Airport in Cambodia? Josef Stalin International Airport in Russia? Adolf Hitler International Airport in Germany? Vlad the Impaler International Airport in Romania?

The airport that serves as the main gateway to Mongolia is named after one of history’s most prolific mass-murderers.

Continue reading

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Countries no. 47 and 48 on my World Karaoke Tour: H-Bomb in the Himalayas, in Nepal and Bhutan

Me in front of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro district, Bhutan.

I sang “Katmandu” in Kathmandu. And I’m excited to be able to say that. However, of the pair of songs that share the name of the city, I kind of wish I’d gone with the other one.

So how did I come to find myself in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital? Well, I was alighting there on my way to Bhutan, during an excursion to Asia in May 2017. Kathmandu is merely one of several cities from which you can fly to Bhutan’s international airport, which is in the town of Paro; but if Kathmandu is your point of departure, your flight path will include a segment during which you can enjoy a view of Mount Everest from above. So I availed myself of that flight option, reasoning that it might be the only time I would ever glimpse Everest from any altitude.

Monkeying around in Nepal

Now, Kathmandu itself is not the easiest of metropolises to reach — at least if you’re coming from North America. My itinerary was as follows: from my home base of New York City I flew to Beijing (which I had visited, and karaoked in, about a year earlier), and then after a couple of days there I proceeded to Bangkok. From Bangkok, I winged my way to Kathmandu.

A scene adjacent to the tarmac at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

Prior to my arrival, my preconceived vision of Kathmandu was of an exotic and mystical city, although admittedly I knew little about the place. When I got there, I found the streets to be dirty and dusty, and the traffic chaotic. I wasn’t a fan. Maybe I didn’t give Kathmandu enough of a chance; I’m not saying I wouldn’t return there if the opportunity arose. But it didn’t make a stellar first impression on me.

Incidentally, although Nepal contains some of the highest points on the planet (such as Everest — which straddles Nepal’s border with Tibet — as well as other portions of the Himalayan range), Kathmandu is situated in a valley called Nepal Mandala, and its elevation is a relatively pedestrian 4,600 or so feet. So I didn’t need to carry an oxygen mask around with me in Kathmandu. πŸ™‚ Nor did I need to worry about falling prey to the altitude sickness that I succumbed to in Cusco, Peru in 2013. Continue reading

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Country no. 51 on my World Karaoke Tour: a Bohemian rhapsody in Prague

A view of Prague’s Old Town Square (StaromΔ›stskΓ© nΓ‘mΔ›stΓ­).

I’ve fallen a little behind — okay, a lot behind — in updating this blog to keep pace with my international karaoke appearances. Prior to this post, my last blog entry chronicled my karaokeing in Dubai that occurred all the way back in January — which, at the time, brought the tally of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 46. Since then, the Earth has completed a large portion of a revolution around the sun, and my country count has increased to 51.

Part of the reason for my recent quietness on the writing front is that I’ve been travelling much more often on weekends. Most of those weekend excursions have taken me to various parts of my home country, the United States, as I pursue the accomplishment of karaokeing in all 50 U.S. states. That’s an accomplishment to which I’m well on the way; as of this writing, I’ve been to 40 of those 50 states, and karaoked in all 40 of them. (I’ll recount all of my 2017 domestic travels in a post to be published in late February, 2018.) But since weekends have traditionally been my most productive part of the week for writing, my “50 states of karaoke” project has contributed to the slackening off of the pace of new posts appearing here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke.

With my excuses out of the way, it’s way past time to catch up on telling the story of my 2017 karaoke travels. Although my last post discussed the 46th country, I’m now going to jump ahead to the 51st country, Czechia. Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll circle back to cover the 47th through 50th countries in which I performed. (Incidentally, when I speak of “Czechia,” I’m referring to the country that until 2016 was known to English speakers as the Czech Republic, but which then re-branded itself. Technically, the official name of the country remains “Czech Republic,” but “Czechia” is its intended name for everyday usage — in much the same way as, for example, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is commonly called “Luxembourg.”) Continue reading

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Country no. 46 on my World Karaoke Tour: everything is bigger in Dubai

This is a cheesy souvenir photo I purchased on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa. It was taken in front of a green screen, and the background was then superimposed.

Rising over one-half mile into the Dubai sky, the Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest building, a superlative it’s claimed since 2008. (Sources disagree on the precise extent of the Burj Khalifa’s verticality; depending on which website you ask, its height is either 2,717 feet or 2,722 feet. Regardless, it’s fair to say that this particular edifice is damn tall.) At this writing, an even more skyscraping building, imaginatively dubbed The Tower, is under construction across town in Dubai, and is slated to be finished in 2020. The elevation at which The Tower will top out has not yet been determined, but is expected to exceed that of the Burj Khalifa. Both the Burj Khalifa and The Tower, however, will be dwarfed by the Jeddah Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — also on target for completion in 2020 — which is planned to ultimately soar to 3,307 feet above ground level. That’s a full kilometer!

While Dubai stands to lose the distinction of possessing the loftiest man-made structure on the planet, it will remain an embarrassment of riches for urban architecture geeks like me. In recent decades the city’s skyline has experienced explosive growth, to the point where Dubai now ranks third among all world cities in number of skyscrapers (defined as buildings at least 150 meters, or 490 feet, in height); as of this writing, Dubai boasts no fewer than 173 skyscrapers. (The two cities with even more skyscrapers than Dubai are Hong Kong and New York City.)

Architecture: new and old

A pair of stratospheric erections (Get your mind out of the gutter; I’m using the word “erection” as a synonym for “building”)

Obviously, the Burj Khalifa is — for now — the signature landmark not just of Dubai, but of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the nation to which that city belongs. Soaring above the many other skyscrapers of Dubai (at least until The Tower surpasses it), the Burj Khalifa is visible from points throughout the sprawling metropolis. Continue reading

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Country no. 45 on my World Karaoke Tour: increasing my Q-rating in Qatar

On Doha’s waterfront stands this statue of of Orry Oryx, a mascot who was created for the 2016 Asian Games (which were held in Doha). An oryx is a type of antelope.

What’s the correct way to pronounce “Qatar”? Prior to my brief visit to that tiny nation on the Arabian peninsula, I’d been under the impression that the proper pronunciation was something approximating “Cutter.” But when I was aboard my Qatar Airways flight from Amman, Jordan to Doha, Qatar in January 2017, the narrator of the safety video that was played before takeoff pronounced the name of the airline as “Kah-TAHR Airways” — thus creating an uncertainty in my mind. So I chatted up a couple of the flight attendants to discuss this issue. Those FA’s, residents of the nation in question, agreed with their employer’s video and told me that they too recite the name of their homeland as “Kah-TAHR.” While internet research reveals a continued divide on this issue (see, for example, the results of this google search), I’ve adopted the pronunciation adhered to by Qatar’s flag airline — and by actual Qataris who work for that carrier.

Karaoke and sightseeing in Doha

Regardless of the right way to orally identify the world’s only country whose English name begins with the letter “Q,” I spent a couple of nights in that country — and specifically in its capital city of Doha — during the first week of this year. It was a brief pass-through, shamelessly tacked on to my itinerary in the hopes that I could add another country to my World Karaoke Tour. πŸ™‚ Israel had become country no. 44 on that tour in the waning days of 2016; and after I failed to find karaoke during an otherwise spectacular sojourn in Jordan, it was my aspiration that Kah-TAHR or Cutter (as you prefer) would earn the distinction of becoming the 45th country in which I’d karaoked. Continue reading

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I was jonesing to see Petra. Indiana Jonesing, that is.

Me in front of the Monastery (Al-Deir) at Petra.

Prelude: the day and night before

The longest ride

On the first day of 2017, a taxi ferried me from Jordan’s capital city of Amman to Petra. You may wonder why I’d arranged for a taxi to cover the approximately 150 mile driving distance between Amman and Petra, when an inexpensive bus serves the same route. Well, the only bus between the two cities that runs in the Petra-bound direction departs from Amman daily at 6:30 a.m. I’m so not a morning person, and waking up sufficiently early to catch a bus at 6:30 in the morning was a non-starter for me — particularly given that the night prior to my departure for Petra was New Year’s Eve, and I’d been up fairly late ringing in the new 12-month period. So I’d said ixnay to the bus and decided instead to embark on the longest taxi ride of my life. It wasn’t bad, though; I was treated to some pretty scenery along the way, and my taxi had free wi-fi! What could have been an at-times monotonous ride flew by with the help of my constant Facebooking and Instagramming. πŸ™‚ Moreover, I became excited as we began to pass a series of road signs that marked the diminishing distance to my destination.

This sign informed me that only 20 kilometres now separated me from Petra!

Before I knew it, I was checking in to my hotel in Wadi Musa, a town nearby to the Petra archaeological site. Most of the area hotels are in Wadi Musa. Continue reading

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Country no. 44 on my World Karaoke Tour: this year in Jerusalem!

I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally make it to Israel. Although I’m an atheist, I was raised Jewish, and the “land of milk and honey” is therefore my ancestral homeland. Plus, the country is a bonanza for a history buff like me. Some of the earliest civilisations in the world arose in areas that are now encompassed within Israel’s borders.

Jerusalem, the capital city, is renowned as one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world (and when I visited, Jerusalem didn’t disappoint in that regard). It also played significant roles in the formation of three major world religions, and is still regarded as sacred by those religions’ adherents. Anyway, I visited Israel for the first time in my life in December 2016. When I did, and the expectations that I’d formed over several decades were matched to reality, I was impressed by my experience.

Singing in Jerusalem

The historical and cultural aspects of my initial sojourn in Israel will be covered in a future post, as they deserve a fuller discussion. But we all know what’s most important for this blog when I’m reminiscing about a destination. πŸ™‚ When I landed at Ben Gurion International Airport, I looked forward to adding Israel to my World Karaoke Tour. Just about a month earlier, Hungary had become the 43rd country in which I’d karaoked; and now I was eager to increase that country count once again! Continue reading

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Country no. 43 on my World Karaoke tour: I’m Hungary for singing!

15179134_10154185271582198_7860121907890043812_n-1Budapest, the Hungarian capital, is a classic Eastern European city. Grand architecture; coffeehouses in abundance; and relics of the days when the city lay behind the Iron Curtain and under Soviet control. Budapest’s history, like that of so many European metropolises, harks back to Roman times; the Roman settlement was called Aquincum, and was itself preceded by a Celtic town whose inhabitants had dubbed it Ak-Ink (meaning “Ample Water”).

Adding to its allure, the modern incarnation of Budapest is bisected by the storied Danube River (the source of the “ample water” of which the Celts spoke); and that river — along with the Chain Bridge that spans it — make for some spectacular scenery. (The hilly area of Buda rises on one side of the Danube, while the Pest section is situated on the opposite side. In 1873, Buda and Pest, which had previously both been independent towns, merged to become the single magnificent city that we know today. True story.) During my first visit to Budapest, in November 2016, an additional attraction presented itself: Budapest is home to one of the Christmas markets that Europe is known for.

While I desired to thoroughly sample Budapest’s charms, there was one further, high-priority, item on my agenda when I descended upon that city. Since you know me, you know that it was inevitable that I would want to sing karaoke there. πŸ™‚ Continue reading

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A 2,200-year-old stone army and more: a brief visit to Xi’an, China

20160527_132453-01Maybe you can’t take it with you, but Qin Shi Huang (QSH) sure tried. The first emperor of a unified China, QSH directed the construction of thousands of terracotta warriors, assembled to protect him in the afterlife. This stone army — consisting of not only soldiers but also horses and even chariots — was interred with him in a vast necropolis when he departed from the mortal world in 210 or 209 B.C.

Eventually the burial site was lost to history, and it remained no more than the stuff of legend for over two millennia. Then, in 1974, QSH’s terracotta protection force was serendipitously discovered by a group of farmers who were digging for a well in what is today the city of Xi’an. The archaeological site has become a museum complex where you can explore some of the massive pits that have been unearthed, and view the terracotta fighting units arrayed therein.

When I made my first voyage to China in May 2016, an excursion to Xi’an was on the agenda, principally so that I could view the terracotta army — although Xi’an is actually a city of nearly 9 million inhabitants that offers a variety of attractions. Because I was there for one main reason, I hadn’t alotted much time for the city, and consequently I didn’t see very much of Xi’an’s other points of interest. Here’a an account of my activities during my two night stay. Continue reading

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46 countries and counting on my World Karaoke Tour!

Prior to the time when this blog went live on December 4, 2011, I had karaoked in 23 countries. In just a little over five years since then, I’ve doubled that total! Last night, I sang at a bar called the Hibiki Lounge in Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates thereby became country no. 46 on my World Karaoke Tour.

The 23 new countries in which I’ve sung since starting this blog have been on five different continents. And it’s not just about the singing; along the way, I’ve seen some pretty breathtaking sights in the places I’ve travelled to — from the pyramids of Egypt, to Machu Picchu, to the Taj Mahal, to the Great Wall of China, to Petra. I feel very lucky to have had those experiences, and to have made it to so many parts of this planet. I feel even more fortunate to have made it safely through my heart surgery in 2015, and to have been able to resume my international singing very soon after that operation. Finally, I’m grateful to the readers who’ve visited this website throughout my journey since late 2011.

Here are brief excerpts from my first song in Dubai — the song that brought me to 46 countries of singing. The tune was Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.”


In the coming months, full posts about my most recent singing and travelling adventures will appear on this blog. In addition, some exciting new destinations for my karaoke travels are in the works for later this year. Among those locales will be one of the seven countries that I’ve been to before without managing to karaoke in them. Here’s hoping that I’ll finally be able to cross that nation off my list!

I hope your 2017 is off to a great start.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world, rising an astonishing 2,722 feet.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world, soaring 2,722 feet into the sky.

What are your travel plans for this year?

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Singing my way through the U.S.A.: getting better acquainted with my country in 2016

14124516_10153968017432198_5873781346852298892_oAs reflected on this website, my karaoke travels — and my wanderings generally — have traditionally focused on international destinations. After all, this blog celebrates my World Karaoke Tour. However, in mid-2016, I began to place a greater priority on getting to know — and singing in — more of the vast, diverse United States in which I live. This new emphasis was foreshadowed on the penultimate night of 2015, when I made my South Carolina singing debut in the lovely city of Charleston. Then, shortly after the calendar flipped to a new year, I made a fulfilling jaunt to Baltimore, a city where I once lived and to which I often return. About halfway through the year, as the summer was heating up, I embarked on a campaign to expand the number of states in which I’ve stepped foot, while sometimes making repeat journeys to old favourites. I began flying (and occasionally railroading) all over the continental U.S. on weekends — in some cases, taking advantage of longer holiday weekends. Here are highlights of my American travels of 2016, and my “road” singing appearances in the U.S. during the year that was. Note: This post contains numerous karaoke videos. I get it; you have a busy life. So if you can watch just one of the videos, I suggest that you make it the one from Alabama. But you should watch more than just one. πŸ™‚

Baltimore, Maryland (January 2016)

In mid-January, I strode down to Baltimore to catch up with some friends from my university days. (I studied at Johns Hopkins University in that city.) Baltimore, which is nicknamed “Charm City,” boasts a handsome skyline when viewed from across the harbour:

The downtown Baltimore skyline on a cold day in January.

The downtown Baltimore skyline on a cold day in January.

Naturally, my Baltimorean excursion featured some karaoke. (If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have included that particular trip in this post. πŸ™‚ ) Continue reading

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A Beiing blast: singing in mainland China

13528087_10153781885782198_5515978226484355728_oThe People’s Republic of China (PRC) is really, really big. The second-largest country in the world by land area, the PRC covers some 3.7 million square miles. It’s also the most populous nation, housing an estimated 1.38 billion people as of 2016. The largest cities in China are also ginormous; for example, Shanghai boasts a population of approximately 22 million, while the capital city of Beijing is not far behind at roughly 19 million. Overall, no fewer than 14 Chinese cities count populations north of 5 million. (Note: various websites provide widely divergent population totals for these municipalities, depending on how such terms as “city” and “urban area” are defined.) But although you’d expect those sprawling metropolises to offer a plethora of entertainment options, one diversion that’s common around much of the globe is missing from China’s megacities. Specifically, just try to find a karaoke bar in the PRC where you can sing in public. In my experience, it can’t be done.

Believe me, I tried. But in the PRC, karaoke seems to consist exclusively of the “private room” establishments so popular in eastern Asia where patrons rent individual rooms in which to sing with their friends or business associates. In China, such venues are known as “KTV” joints. Now, in China this past spring, as is the case with most of my international journeys, I was travelling solo. For that and other reasons, KTV-type establishments are normally a non-starter for me. I mean, singing by (and to) myself in a closed room is not my idea of fun times. Yet during my travels in China, every single karaoke venue that I, or my hotel concierges, was able to find was a KTV club — even in the vast megalopolises of Shanghai and Beijing. (I also failed to find a bar or restaurant with public karaoke in the other Chinese city that I visited, Xi’an, whose inhabitants number just under 9 million. It’s possible that a Western-style bar with public karaoke might exist in one of the many other large cities that dot the PRC, but the absence of such a place in either of the PRC’s two biggest cities is glaring, and isn’t a good sign.) So what was I to do? Continue reading

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Country no. 42 on my World Karaoke Tour: singing inside the Axis of Evil in North Korea

selfie2016 marks the quarter-century anniversary of my taking up karaoke. On my birthday in March 1991 I sang karaoke for the first time; and during the ensuing summer I first began to embrace karaoke as a passion. You can read more here about how I got started as a karaokeist. Never during those formative days of my obsession did I imagine that I’d embarked on a journey that would one day culminate in my performing karaoke in North Korea.

And yet, although my singing appearance in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, which is what North Korea officially calls itself) was 25 years in the making, I almost blew it. Things worked out in the end, but I’ll never know just how close I came to screwing up my chance to sing in North Korea. This post discusses how my stupid mistake put my long-anticipated trip to North Korea in jeopardy; then it covers what happened when I finally got the chance to sing inside a totalitarian state.

Prologue: I don’t want this plane to land

June 4, 2016
About 2:15 pm Standard Time of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

As Air Koryo flight 752 from Beijing made its final approach to Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, I grabbed my daypack from under the seat in front of me. Anticipating my passage through immigration, I wanted to gather together all the documents that I’d need to present upon entering the airport: my passport, my entry visa, and the three landing cards I’d filled out during the flight. As the first step, I unzipped the compartment in the front of my daypack in which I always carry my passport when I’m in transit.

The passport wasn’t in there. Continue reading

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Taipei unplugged: highlights of my stay in the Taiwanese capital

small Taiwan mapMy introduction to Taipei in late May to early June of 2016 was memorable in part because I sang in a karaoke taxi in that city — thereby making Taiwan the 41st country on my World Karaoke Tour. But I wasn’t only there to sing. A city of some 2.7 million inhabitants — the capital and largest city of the island nation of Taiwan — beckoned me to explore it!

My sojourn in Taipei came in the midst of a vacation during which I checked off two bucket list items (the Great Wall of China, and the Terracotta Army in the Chinese city of Xi’an), and which culminated in my tour of North Korea, a country rarely visited by Westerners. It would have been easy for Taipei to be overshadowed by such high-profile destinations. Nevertheless, Taipei left just as much of an impression on me as any of my other stops in East Asia this past spring. Moreover, as you’ll see, my visit to Taipei lasted slightly longer than planned, although the circumstances that extended my time on Taiwanese soil weren’t necessarily a positive highlight. πŸ™‚

Taipei 101: a skyscraper like no other

As an architecture geek who’s enamoured of supertall skyscrapers (“supertall” being a classification that applies to edifices at least 300 metres, or 984 feet, in height), one attraction that I particularly looked forward to checking out while in town was the Taipei 101 building. Indeed, I even chose a hotel across the street from it. Taipei 101 didn’t let me down.

Getting to know the building

Opened to the public on the last day of 2004, Taipei 101 stands 1,474 feet tall at its roof, and 1,671 feet tall at the tip of its spire. From the time of its completion until 2009, it was the tallest building in the world; that title was wrested from it by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which I’ll be seeing in person in early 2017. πŸ™‚ As for Taipei 101, its distinctive profile has been likened to a series of Chinese food takeaway boxes, piled one on top of another; it’s also evocative of multiple levels of that most traditional of Asian architectural genres, the pagoda. Further contributing to its unique appearance is its green hue. Incidentally, its name derives rather prosaically from the fact that it rises 101 floors above ground. (It also has five subterranean levels, which house a parking garage.)

My very first first daytime activity after arriving in Taipei was an ascension to Taipei 101’s observatories. It boasts indoor observation decks on the 88th and 89th floors, and an outdoor observation platform on the 91st floor. That outdoor observatory encircles the building at an altitude of 1,285 feet — the second-highest alfresco viewing platform of any skyscraper in the world. Continue reading

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