Saturday, January 31, 2009

Canada - Over / Under rated?

Surprisingly, unlike my previous trip, this one did not suffer from 'the unexpected and unforeseen' symptoms. Instead, we arrived to another diagnosis that there are two types of tourism spot in Canada, one that is overly rated and another that is underly rated. 

In this informational era, one has no other options beside to trust those oftenly-biased reviewers who rate a particular attraction a five star. At the same time, one has absolutely no clue about what kind of person who bad-mouth that flawless restaurants. So, this post is dedicated to those places which I think fall under those categories: overrated/underrated?

Underrated. These chicken wings are ......... awesome. Located in Buffalo, NY (Elmo's Bar & Restaurant), this is the best chicken wing I've ever eaten in my life. Sounds like an exaggeration but believe me, I'm not. Try the original flavor, and the honey mustard, and the bbq sauce. Ah, just try everything. 

The overrated Bonsecours market. Listed as one of the top 10 'Must See' attractions in Montreal, this market really has nothing much to offer beside several restaurants and boutiques. Advise: unless you happen to run into it, there is really no urgency to visit this place (especially in a day like that day - biting cold weather with temperature showing -34 F). 

If you do not run into China Town in Montreal, pleaseee, run into it. Because.... you just can't afford not to! This mouth-watering picture was taken at Kam-Fung restaurant located in the underrated China Town. Frankly, China Town was not in our schedule at the first place (because of the bad review), but strangely and luckily, we ran into it and never regreted it since. 

Overrated CN Tower, for three reasons. First, it is no longer the tallest tower in the world. Second, there are hundreds of great restaurants in Toronto where you can put the $30CAD entrance fee to a better use. Third, even if you decide to get closer and take a picture, the tower is still too tall for your camera to fit in. Friendly advise: rule it out from your plan and go somewhere else. Eventually, you'll find a beautiful spot with CN tower on the background. 

Well, no review (from a sane mind) actually suggests Niagara Falls (or Canada for what it matters) during winter. But, whatever. Take note, Niagara Falls in winter is overrated! Now I share with you this insider tip: It is best enjoyed in summer. 

Overall, those are my picks for both the overrated and underrated places in Toronto & Montreal. If you're smart enough, then you may already aware at this point that my reviews are not biased-free. For a food-lover like me, skyscrapers may not excite me as much as a bowl of siu-may, steaming, with prawn protruded elegantly over the top. So, in closing, just like the old adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", reviews are also in the mercy of the writer.   

For more pictures, click here

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tears to Heal a Numb Heart

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS. 

Many of you may not be familiar with that short excerpt of pre-inauguration prayer by Gene Robinson since it did not make the headline for, partly, it paled in comparison to Obama's inauguration speech (and also ballroom dance), but also because HBO omitted the prayer from its broadcast. 

I regret HBO's decision because I think that particular section is powerful and indeed, very true; that is what the world needs now. A heart that is sensitive enough to the suffering and injustices around us. A shattered and broken heart. 

Unfortunately, in a time when peace, hope and a gentle hand are needed, too often our heart is numb and oblivious. When the headline shows catastrophic disaster killing hundres of innocents, do we see our brothers and sisters there? Do we even feel anything?

St Francis from Asisi once boldly prayed, 
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair,hope; "

I believe that the prayer was delivered out of deep sense of compassion and care for others. Before we have the audacity to actually pray for God to make us 'an instrument of (his) peace', maybe we need to take a step back, evaluate and ask God for His heart. A heart that is compassionate enough to emphatize with others' grief, and out of love, weep together. Please God, bless us with tears. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter Break Trip - The Unforeseen & Unexpected

In a trip, unforeseen and unexpected problems - despite a scrupulous preparation - are the sweet, precious and unforgettable memories which we will laugh over later on as we reminisce with our children or grandchildren. My recent Bahamas and Florida trip were particularly blessed with this kind of situation. The six months in advance preparation (not forgetting the late night to early morning meeting) did nothing to prevent us from the unpredictable and undesirable forces of nature. In this trip, we believe that there is a story behind every picture. So, I'll let the pictures speak on my behalf. 


The index finger represents our first night and the very start of our problem. I did not dress up for the picture, but that was truly my sleep wear for the night. All of our luggage (eight of us) were delayed (Thanks to United Airlines), so we were left with nothing to wear and had to buy all survival tools to go through that night. All of those outfits were brand new, notice that Tony and me were wearing Armani Exchange while Winda and Riza Billabong. Yes, weren't we a snob?

In the cruise (before it departed), we started out with joy and excitement - wide smile, nice breeze, wonderful view. Everyone was looking forward for a nice evening in the cruise. However, four hours after this picture was taken, four out of ten personnel went down. Bogel, Riza, Winda and me were having sea-sick; smile was wiped away and shortly after the unappetizing dinner, we lied in our bed hopelessly, surrendered to the power of the sea. 

Greyhound was never (ever) in our schedule and this was definitely the biggest blow. Arrived at Port Miami after the cruise, we couldn't wait to drive to Orlando. Unfortunately, for some reasons, we could not get our booked car and had to find alternative if we still wanted to go to Orlando (Thanks to Enterprise). Apparently, Greyhound was our best resort (this was after long hours of all of us calling every rental car in Miami). However, nice team work guys, and Greyhound was not so bad after all. We ended up sleeping like little pigs.

It was Lia's birthday and that was not the problem that I am referring to. I want to draw your attention to the venue - the apartment that we originally planned to spend our entire five nights. Upon arriving at the apartment, I was bombarded with many grunts and disappointments - how dirty and stink the apartment was. So, despite our exhaustion, a small meeting was arranged to decide whether moving to a better accommodation was necessary. The answer was obvious, so we were (again) getting a little bit busy calling all available hotels in the vicinity. Thanks to Holiday Inn Express we were able to enjoy a nice sleep for the next three days. 


Well, unfortunately, I have to stop my series of misfortunes here. Those are the big major situations that we faced, that we clearly never anticipated. I call them "The Unforeseen and Unexpected". Not to say that there was no other problems beside those because there were tons, but those were the worth-mentioning . Again, I am glad those problems existed because they added various colour to the trip and, in some unique ways, showed me that no problem is too devastating when friends are around. 

* for more 'happy' pictures, visit my picasa a week from now, pictures are still being compiled and sorted. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Power of Language

Pick the appropriate word and see the outcome shifts to your advantage, that's the power of language. In a video entitled 'The Persuader', one guy has taken the use of language to its greatest capacity. Frank Luntz, the man behind the terms: war on terror, climate change, and tax relief, shows how humans, most of the time, think not with their head but with their heart. And yes, men are included.  

It is frightening to see how easily people shifted their opposition to war at a simple modification of the term 'war in Iraq' to 'war on terror'. How people flock to support environment cause after the term 'global warming' was changed to 'climate change'. How the positive tone of 'tax relief' gained much wider support than the term 'tax cut'. 

This fact leads me to think if there were things that would have easily gone to the other direction had we mastered the art of language. Maybe if we had used the word 'baby execution' instead of 'abortion', this issue would not have been this heated. Maybe the word 'rescue plan' would have worked better than 'bail-out plan'. And maybe the US citizens would have been more favorable to immigrants had we used the word 'visitor' insted of 'alien'. 

Those examples are far from perfect but the point being is sometimes it only takes a simple cautiously well-thought word to shift people's perception. Now you know why 'organic food' and 'designer clothing' attract such crowd. It's not rocket-science.