Posts Tagged With: travel blogger

Country no. 55 on my World Karaoke Tour: this time, I had the luck of the Irish

Me with a friend at the Guinness Storehouse, where I learned how Ireland’s most celebrated beer brand is brewed and then enjoyed a complimentary pint.

Sometimes when I make my first foray to a country, I don’t find an opportunity to karaoke there. On rare occasions, I’ve even been known to travel to a country twice without managing to add it to my World Karaoke Tour. That occurred with Italy, where I finally sang (in Rome) on my 3rd visit to that country in November 2015; and it was also the case with Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), where I finally sang (in Prague) during my 3rd journey to that country in September 2017.

As of mid-February 2018, another nation for which my initial 2 journeys to it had proved karaokeless was Ireland. For the background of how I got to that point, see this post. So that month, during the long weekend that the U.S. celebrates as Presidents Day weekend, I returned to Ireland’s capital city for the sole purpose of performing karaoke there!

Daytime in Dublin: a classic beer and a classic book

During the daytime hours of my latest sojourn in Dublin, I kept myself busy, focusing on a couple of attractions that appealed to my passions for history, culture, and general knowledge. First, I toured the Guinness Storehouse, a massive facility adjacent to the St. James’s Gate brewery (the largest brewery of Guinness stouts). The Storehouse presents the history of the beer brand that dates back to 1759, and also explains comprehensively the processes involved in the production of the company’s beverages. Included in the price of admission is the opportunity to enjoy a pint of one of those beverages, on the house – an opportunity of which I naturally took advantage.

Also on my agenda for Exploring Dublin v. 3.0 was the Book of Kells. That tome is an illuminated manuscript crafted circa 800 A.D. in a Scottish monastery and containing the texts of all four New Testament Gospels. Originally 680 pages long, it’s been split into 4 sections (one for each Gospel), 2 of which are on public display at any one time in an exhibition at Dublin’s Trinity College – where the Book of Kells has resided since the 1650s. (Trinity College – whose official name is the “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin” – is itself quite historic, having been founded in 1592.)

Some classic examples of Guinness advertising, on display in the Guinness Storehouse.

Continue reading

Categories: Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hawaii 5-0: I’ve now karaoked in every U.S. state! (plus Washington, DC)

Me enjoying a Mai Tai at a restaurant in the Waikīkī section of Honolulu.

Since 1959, the U.S. has consisted of 50 states; in that year, Alaska and Hawai’i became the most recent jurisdictions to gain statehood. Just visiting all 50 of the states in the sprawling nation that I call home is a mammoth undertaking. In the final hours of 2018, I completed my project of karaokeing in all 50 of those states (as well as the national capital city of Washington, DC, which does not itself belong to any state).

For a more detailed background on the quest that I was pursuing, see my prior posts recounting my karaoke appearances throughout the U.S. in 2016, 2017, and the earlier part of 2018. Between July 2016 and July 2018, the number of states in which I’d karaoked increased from 20 to 49. That left only one state to check off: the archipelago of Hawai’i. I felt it was fitting that the 50th state to join the U.S. would become the 50th state on my American Karaoke Tour.

Blue Hawaii: saving the best for last

Geographically, Hawai’i differs greatly from any other state in the U.S. Consisting principally of 8 main islands (7 of which are inhabited), its territory also includes numerous additional islands, islets, atolls, and reefs. Did you know that Hawai’i is actually composed of 137 total islands of various sizes? Those islands, stretching from Hawai’i (often called the “Big Island”) in the southeast to the Kure Atoll in the northwest, extend for roughly 1,500 miles. But you only ever hear about the octet of main islands — such as Oahu, home to the state’s capital city of Honolulu.

That capital city lies over 2,500 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The Hawaiian state is located in the Tropics, the zone between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In fact, the main Hawaiian island chain forms one of the corners of the Polynesian triangle. (That triangle’s other vertices are Easter Island and New Zealand.) Such an exotic setting seemed the perfect locale for the culmination of my American Karaoke Tour.

This image shows the complete Hawaiian archipelago.

My first stop in Hawai’i was the island of Oahu. Continue reading

Categories: Oceania and South Pacific, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

On the brink of history: I’ve karaoked in 49 states, and no. 50 is imminent!

While transferring at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport en route to Fargo, North Dakota, I spotted the best luggage tag ever.

Since 1959, the U.S. has consisted of 50 states. This Saturday night, in Honolulu, Hawai’i, I’ll complete the achievement of having karaoked in all 50!

As recounted here, in 2017 I made great strides in my American Karaoke Tour (the domestic subset of my World Karaoke Tour). By year’s end, the number of U.S. states in which I’ve karaoked had soared from 28 to 42! Thus far in 2018, I’ve karaoked in 7 of the remaining 8 states – bringing my total to 49, with only Hawai’i remaining to be checked off. This is the story of how I got to 49 during the present calendar year. This post also covers a trio of new-to-me cities, in states that I’d previously karaoked in, in which I sang in 2018

One introductory note: for two of the states covered in this post, I lack karaoke videos to share with you. In early July, I discovered that at some point during the preceding few weeks, Facebook had deleted eight of my karaoke videos, without prior or subsequent notice to me and without explanation. All eight of the videos had originated as live Facebook video transmissions which I then saved to the “Timeline” on my Facebook page. (Four were originally broadcast from locations in the U.S., including cities in two of my “new states” that are discussed below; and the other quartet were originally broadcast from various European cities.) There was no valid reason for the removal of any of the videos, which were fully compliant with Facebook’s community standards. (If any record companies had objected to any of the videos on the grounds that the musical content – i.e., the underlying song – was copyrighted, Facebook’s written guidelines provide that I should have been given the opportunity to address such objections. But I was never notified of a challenge to a single one of the videos in question – which, notably, don’t generate revenue for me – and my complaints to Facebook were met with silence.) Moreover, because the deleted videos all originated as live transmissions rather than having originally been recorded as MP4 files, I didn’t have backups of them, so I’ve lost the priceless memories that the videos represent. (I’ve subsequently downloaded copies of all my remaining karaoke videos that are housed on Mark Zuckerberg’s site.) But you don’t care about any of this, because it’s not like you were even going to watch all 9 of the surviving videos that did make it into this post. 😀 So let’s talk about travel and karaoke!

1. Little Rock, Arkansas (March 2018)

In early March I travelled to Little Rock, the Arkansan capital. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was from Arkansas, and he chose to build his Presidential library in Little Rock. Touring that library was high on my agenda for that city. While the facility contains copious historical information, my favourite feature was its exact replica of the White House’s Oval Office.

Me in the replica of the Oval Office at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.

Karaoke in Little Rock

• Venue: Khalil’s Pub

• First song: “Just Can’t Get Enough” (originally recorded by Depeche Mode)

My song selection in Little Rock had nothing to do with that city or Arkansas. Continue reading

Categories: North America, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Categories: Asia, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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. 🙂 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

Categories: Airlines, Asia, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

Categories: Asia, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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

Categories: Asia, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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

Categories: Asia, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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