Las Ramblas, Barcelona on July 11, 2010

It was the final leg of our Eurotrip, and it felt as though we were chasing World Cup 2010 all around Europe. It had to be Spain for the win, only because we would be in Barcelona for the final match. It was a beautiful day for celebrations. Me and my friend Krista bought an assortment of Spanish beers, and joyfully walked out onto the streets with beers in hand. After following the crowd in red and yellow, we found ourselves at Las Ramblas, surrounded by over a hundred thousand football fanatics pushing and shoving their way to the front, climbing onto water fountains and lampposts to get the best possible view of the movie-theater sized projector. Cheering at close calls, booing at the referees decisions, and patiently waiting for the game to gain some momentum… 45 minutes pass, and then another, with no goals to show for leading up to the 90th-minute mark. The crowd was getting anxious during extra time as another 20 minutes pass, and still, nothing. Four minutes from the end of extra time, and just when everyone had prepared their nerves for the penalty shoot-out, Iniesta changed the game completely. The championship was theirs for the taking, and the crowd erupted. On July 11, 2010, it was not a victory for the Catanlans or the Español; I witnessed a victory for Spain united as one. Read More …

Tokyo: Experiencing Gyozas

After weaving through a maze of cobblestone streets, I finally arrived at Harajuku Gyoza Lou, a restaurant recommended to me by a friend. I strolled past the queue, and took my spot in the waiting game amongst locals, expats, and travelers all eager to enter this tiny 6×6 meter restaurant. A gush of steam and smoke forced its way out the wooden doors as I walked in. It was an open kitchen, in the middle of all the patrons. Guests were escorted to bar-style seats that made a square around the island kitchen. I witnessed a factory-like production line of Gyozas run by 3 chefs; 200 to 300 Gyozas were served to patrons each minute, along with mugs of Kirin beer. I checked the time; 4:30pm, such an odd hour for a restaurant to be completely packed. Seated next to me was an Austrian professional ballet dancer in his 50s. He told me to order the garlic Gyozas. I ordered 6 pieces, and a beer. He laughed, and said, “That’s it?” Within minutes of gobbling down these mouth-watering Gyozas, I found myself ordering another 6, and then another… Exactly a week later, after making a road trip through central Japan, I found myself back at this restaurant in Tokyo, ordering yet another 18 Gyozas, and almost missing my flight back to Bangkok as a result. It was worth all the hassle.
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Greece: A Deserted Bus Stop

I’m waiting at an abandoned bus stop and I remember thinking to myself, how did I get here? We were in northern Greece, in a small town. We had missed our ferry to Dubrovnik, Croatia via Bari, Italy the night before. I remember it clearly; it was the Euro Cup 2012, and the Germany-Greece match was on, and I was in Greece. A series of unfortunate circumstances led us to waving our overnight ferry goodbye from the other side, as it took voyage. The next morning we went to the bus terminal to find a way out of this town as soon as possible. The lady told us we had to catch the bus mid-journey, as it was not departing from this location. She hailed us a taxi, and gave him some instructions in Greek. The next thing I knew, we were dropped off at an abandoned bus stop in the middle of nowhere, I mean literally… nowhere. We were told that anytime between now and the next few hours a bus would drive by, and we would have to hail it down, and get on it. So here I am, waiting and desperately hoping that the lady at the bus stop was right. Read More …

Paris: In Between Old Books

It was by chance that I walked along rue de la Bûcherie. I crossed the river and I noticed a store with a large sign that read “Shakespeare and Company.” Being an avid book reader, this book store sounded familiar to me. It was in one of the top 10 lists of “must sees” so I walked it, giddy like a little kid in a candy store. The smell of old books hit me like a ton of bricks, but is a good way…the kind that knocks the wind out of you. I ran my hands through the books and encyclopedias dating back to the 17th century. I walked through the maze of books, up the staircase, and followed the music. It was a familiar sound, and the closer the I got to it, I recognized it was that of a Piano. I could hear a girl singing an Adele song. I reached the Piano room. Twenty strangers were seated on floors, leaning on bookshelves, and listening intently. The pianist was belting out “Someone like you,” with her eyes closed, and her fingers dancing between black and white notes. At the end of the song, there was a second of silence until the room broke out into an enormous applause. In that silent second, twenty strangers were strangers no more. We were bonded by the emotion, a special moment… in between old books. Read More …