Sunday, January 26, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Asia for Work - Fall 2013

The goal of the trip was to meet folks work in Asia, build a personal connection and collaborate on several projects. I can’t stress enough the importance of meeting and listening to folks in person. So much is lost over a phone conversation.

After oversleeping my alarm for a flight earlier this year, I try to avoid early morning flights. It didn’t happen, so I ended up on the first flight from Austin to San Francisco. I uncharacteristically took a window seat and managed to get some sunrise shots over the wing.

The flight over was uneventful, and I tried melatonin for the first time. I’m not sure why I took so long to do so — it worked like a charm. Since I arrived early Sunday, I made arrangements to rent a road bike from the Bike Butler and rode with the Anza cycling team around part of the country. They're a friendly group of fast expats. I rode with the group on a freeway, AND I saw the border with Malaysia! 

Strava route for ride around Singapore


After a couple days of great meetings in Singapore, we left for Tokyo. Since I was jet lagged, I woke up way before work the day after Halloween in search of food. I saw tons of folks heading home after a night of drinking in full costume. Glad to see Halloween is a universal holiday.

I spent the weekend in Tokyo and met up with Regan & his wife Sharon at the Park Hyatt. It’s a gorgeous hotel. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to swim in the pool due to their strict no tattoo rules. On the other hand, we were there for Tokyo Design Week. 

Regan in the sticker storage container @ Tokyo Design Week

Me @ Tokyo Design Week

After Tokyo, I headed onto Shanghai. We got to stay at the can opener, which was the highest building in the city at the time. They were building something even taller nearby. The office in Shanghai is just gorgeous - I felt so energized yet relaxed in the office. 
View of the Pearl Tower & Bund from hotel

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Japan - Summer 2013

Originally, my friends and I had plans to head to Tokyo and check out the Ghibli Museum. However, they were flying standby and didn’t catch their flights. Instead of criss-crossing back and forth between Kyoto and Tokyo, I went straight to Kyoto. I spent the next two days going from shrine to temple to shrine.  

On the third day, I headed to my hotel in Tokyo. Shibuya. The weather was cold and rainy, so I didn’t venture outside. However, I did spend plenty of time in Tokyo Hands before dropping by the office.

Taiwan - Summer 2013

 As soon as I got off the airport bus, the heat and humidity hit me like a wall. It took the will out of me. I didn't want to do anything or leave the cooling AC. I had plans to see sights (or at least the National Palace with all the historic Chinese treasures), but I didn't want to walk outside.

I stayed with my friend Rick and his roommates. They have a 4 bedroom apartment with a Japanese room (commonly used to play mahjong) as a guest room. Since I didn't see many sights, I spent my time eating and hanging out with folks I haven't seen in a while (Regan and his bride Sharon, the out of town folks, etc). We went to Din Tai Fung which still blew me away after all these years.  We also had a 10 course omakase lunch at a Japanese restaurant. This cemented my opinion that Taiwan is a great foodie destination. 

The wedding was at a restaurant on the 86th floor of Taipei 101. Breathtaking views, and a beautiful wedding.

Even though we stayed out late at the wedding after party, I still woke up early due to jet lag. Rick’s roommate was up and preparing for a 10K with her friend. So, I hydrated and did part of the Nike women's run. I had a hard time in the heat, so we cut off back to Rick’s place after 4 miles or so. Good way to say goodbye to Taiwan.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Asia - Summer 2013

My high school friend [and college roommate] Regan has been an expat in Taiwan for several years and got married in June. Several of his friends traveled to Taiwan to celebrate his wedding.


My first stop was Korea where I met up with Regan and Do for Ultra Music Festival. I went to Ultra with Do and the Lambda's eleven or twelve years ago in Miami, and it's always been a fond memory. UMF Korea took it up a notch.

The only things we did other than going out was eat (my favorite meal was a traditional Korean meal with a table full of kim chee), sleep and sit in traffic.


After Korea, I headed to Singapore. It was my first time traveling outside the US by myself, and it was the perfect place to do so (except I ordered food for only one). As Malaysia's neighbor, it's very similar with its mix of cultures. As a financial hub, there are more expats and wealth. With tight government control, it has less crime. Many of the tourist t-shirts refer to it as a "Fine City" due to fines levied for small offenses like jaywalking. It wasn't always this way. My cabbie to the airport described Singapore as dirty and mafia-run about 50-60 years ago. As the government cleared out the shanty towns and replaced them housing projects, the criminals had nowhere to hide. He mentioned that gangsters could be thrown in jail without trial.

Since the land area is so small, the government can provide great infrastructure for very low taxes. The low taxes and rule of law then attract multinationals. The subways and buses constantly run, so there's little need to own a car. Even during rush hour, there was little traffic compared to Seoul.

Fires in Indonesia caused a massive haze while I was there, so I didn't ride around the island as originally planned. I still walked about quite a bit and got in several good meals.

Since I was still jet lagged and sleeping odd hours, I made it a point to find an early breakfast place. I had an amazing eggs benedict at Toby's Estate (sometimes, you just want a "normal" breakfast). I then headed to the Gardens by Marina Bay and the Cloud Forest exhibit. Aside from the much needed cool air, I loved how the exhibit took me from the "top" of the cloud forest to the bottom with different plants in each section. I made my way to Burgis Junction for a quick lunch in the AC (the random soup at Soup Spoon was flavorful and satisfying) and decided to have a look around. The Burgis Market was tightly packed with hundreds of stalls selling clothes, electronics, accessories and food. I grabbed a mango juice from one of the stalls, and I spent the rest of the time in Singapore looking for a similar juice. So refreshing and tasty.

I made it back to the hotel, and set my alarm so I'd make it out for dinner. After reading online reviews, I decided on the Chinatown hawker stands (as the Newton and Maxwell ones were too touristy). Following the instructions from this website, I chose the Mixed Claypot Rice and was not disappointed. The chicken was juicy, the Chinese sausage salty and fatty, and the rice was properly burnt at the bottom. As a future note, the seafood market in Chinatown seems like a good spot for seafood -- the patrons were all happily eating (opposed to some very glum folks I saw at Jumbo's on the riverfront).

The next morning, I headed into the office to say hello to some folks I'm working with. Always nice to meet folks and put a face to a name. At the office, I learned that school lessons were taught in English and that there weren't many Chinese writers anymore (different from Malaysia). Tired from running around the previous day (and from the heat), I made my last tourist stop the botanical gardens. It was amazing to see such a massive lush garden in the middle of the city (right by the Orchard Road shopping district). The Orchid Garden was top notch, and I took several photos there.

All in all, the food was amazing. I ate every time I was hungry at random food stalls, mall courts, markets. I never had any issues - all the vendors have a "cleanliness" grade displayed prominently by their signage. I randomly had a red bean pancake and a lychee pop drink from Mr Bean (amazing!). I ate at a fluorescent lit shack by the hotel (just around the corner from new developments). The only downside is that Singapore seems much more like a running town than a cycling one. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bay Area in May

Blue Bottle Coffee, Ferry Building

I started a new job recently, and the company sent me out to Cupertino for the week. I had a great time meeting with  smart, friendly and dedicated folks. I also brought out my road bike and explored South Bay. Many of the major streets had bike lanes, and the hills were a short ride away. Originally, I was going to stay in Palo Alto and ride the hills on Saturday morning, but decided to head into the city with my [high school] friend Cathy instead.

I woke up with the sun on Saturday and convinced Cathy to get some food and head for a run. We went to the Ferry Building and grabbed a waffle from the Blue Bottle company and then went on our run. After our run, we went to a farmer's market and TCHO for a chocolate factory tour before heading to brunch. I've been on a Rickshaw Bags kick lately, so I convinced Cathy to walk to the factory store about 3 miles away. After customizing my new bag, we walked around the neighborhood and stopped into Chocolate Labs for a quick bite. The soufflĂ© and chocolate cake were my favorite meal of the trip. We went back and forth a bit more and ended our day with about 15.5 miles of walking. 

Mural by Cathy's building

Where's Waldo atop Cathy's building

Sunday, December 30, 2012


It took a few years, but I finally got around to finishing another Ironman. I signed up for it a year in advance, and when it came time to really train, my heart wasn't in it. I came up with the bare bones minimum plan for training and did even less training. To be honest, I rode my bike a lot. I rode my bike around Croatia and Slovenia. I rode my road bike all around Austin. I rode to the bakery with some friends. I rode by myself. I even rode to the F1 track. I didn't really ride my tri bike though. My run training was atrocious. I managed to do a 10 mile run once. My swim training was a bit better. I did a couple of long swims at the Pure Austin Quarry, and I swam with Texas Iron Master's around 10 times. I basically had no expectations going into the race.

The one preparation I did do well was figuring out where to stay. I booked a boutique hotel from Airbnb. Location location, location. We were 2 blocks from the convention center (registration) and 3 blocks from the finish line (I even walked back after the race). It was right by town and the grocery stores. The owner had her son pick us up from the airport, and she arranged a taxi for the athletes the morning of the race. Staying away from the hubbub of the race really helped calm my nerves. (After all, I was going into an Ironman undertrained!)

Race morning, I knew I was going to have a slower swim. So I stuck to the back when entering the water. As luck would have it, they allowed the late comers to jump into the water from the pier, so I quickly made my way to the shallows. There was quite a bit of current, so I hung onto a line to conserve my energy. When the gun went off, I stuck my head into the water and tried to get into a rhythm as quickly as I could. I expected the washing machine effect, but I lucked out. Most people stayed closer to the turn buoys, so my path was relatively clear of arms and bodies. The water was so clear, I was able to sight off coral below. I could also see anyone that tried to get in my way.

With previous diving experience, I instinctively knew how important it was to stay on course and not get swept away. I put some extra oomph into my stroke on the last two turns into the current to make sure I kept the line. Some of my other friends weren't aware of this, and lost about 10 minutes when they drifted away on this turn. Aside from the turn, the swim back to shore was uneventful. It was long and tiring, but given my lack of swim training, I was happy with my time. I found out later that at least 100 people didn't make the swim cut-off due to this year's strong currents.

My plan on the bike was to start easy and put progressively more effort into it as the day went on. The bike course was 3 loops, so I thought I could do 125, 135 and then 145 Watts. Seemed easy enough, but I've been nursing a right hip injury for some time. As it turns out, my left (and weaker leg) was able to keep up to plan, but my right leg was about 20 Watts down. I just wanted to finish and ride another day, so I didn't care to push it.

Nothing exciting happened the first loop. On the second loop, Mel passed me in a flash, and then Rhonda caught up to me. I paced off her for a while until the bike special needs stop. She went on ahead, but I sat down and had my lunch. On the way out of special needs, I ran into Mark and rode with him for a bit. I accidentally lost him as we turned out of the headwind. My plan of taking it easy worked well until the last loop. My right IT band started to tighten up, and some awesome athlete handed me a roll-on bottle of Biofreeze while we were riding. It took the pain away, and I was able to finish the bike with plenty of time to spare to walk the run.

It takes a long time to walk a marathon. I had done some calculations before, and I knew that a 20 minute mile would have bored me to death. So I walked fast. The run course was a three loop out-and-back, so I got to see a lot of my friends along the way. I wanted to bank as much time as possible in case I slowed down, so I walked about a fourteen minute mile the first two laps. Vegas caught up to me midway through the second lap, and we walked together for a bit. She went on ahead with her run-walk. At the end of the second lap, I decided I couldn't take another 2.5 hours of walking by myself, in the dark, incredibly bored. So, I started run-walking. Since I wasn't beaten up from the day, it was a real run. I passed Maggie as she was running her steady pace, and I finally caught up to Vegas half way through the last lap. We ended up finishing the race together.

I loved all the support on the course. There were people out on all parts of the bike course: a DJ spinning on the southern end of the island and tons of families on the outskirts of town. The run course was just a big block party. People dancing to music, and many people cheering. There was never a truly lonely section of the course like in Arizona and Couer d'Alene.

Swim Total1:29:34 (2:19/100m)
Bike Total7:14:32 (15.46 mph)
Run6:20:04 (14:30/mile)

Monday after the race, we packed up our bikes and took the ferry over to Playa del Carmen for the relaxing part of the vacation. We did a tour of Tulum, climbed the ruins at Coba, hung out at Mamitas Beach and had a couple nice dinners at Yaxche.

Outside swim practice at Chankanaab Park