Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd series

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd.  Needham writes about crime in Asia . Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Macau.  Samuel Tay is a steady Hong King detective who like DCI Banks in England may be thought to be long in the tooth, but his doggedness and human appeal gets him to solve the nasty crimes that others can’t.  Jack Shepherd is lawyer/fixer who seems to get mixed up with less than sterling clients despite his reluctance to stay law abiding.  Both  series are replete with curious characters, numerous bad guys and sleazy neighbourhoods. However the author keeps the plots rolling and ensures that the readers interest remains high.  Recommended if you wish a change form US or British based detective stories. Needham is good with his location descriptions and will take you on a bit of a travel guide to Asia.

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22.2018

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22. 2018. This was a pleasant and very enjoyable tour of parts of Ireland.  The weather was fantastic – blue skies and warm.

A complete trip description is on my wife’s blog . This is my short form.

Dublin was a hoot and we would like more time there. 

We went to Galway – which is the cultural center of Ireland – lots of music in the streets .

Great lunch in a cozy pub!

Then to the Coast – the cliffs of Moher .  We followed the WAW. Wild Atlantic Way – Highly recommend it

Limerick – which is cool and included a Medieval concert/banquet in a castle!

Quick stop in Adare. Very pretty 

Then off to Kerry . The Ring of Kerry is a do not miss  drive)   Great lunch with a view


Lovely country


Next Killarney.  

This is a pretty town – which for us includes a jaunty ride with great tales from our driver.

And another castle

Had to stop at Blarney – I was struck dumb after the stone kiss. My wife did not see much improvement however.


Waterford ( remember the crystal? ) was next – Needed deep pockets for this stuff.

Much happier.


Last stop in Ireland – Tramore

which included a song and drinks at Aggies pub, (300 year old mudwalled)

Great singer Richie Roberts

Local brew Beamish – like Guiness.

Then catch the ferry to Wales from Rosslare, Irish Ferries is surprisingly good – good food too!

We ended up in Cardiff– which is very scenic, compared to the devastation of Western Wales from English industrialization. 

Liked Cardiff castle. 


That evening a Welsh dinner and concert at the Millenium Hall. Fantastic.


Next day Bath my maternal  grandfather’s home. I have always liked this town.

Roman Baths

Georgian terraces

Of course Stonehenge – with its hordes of tourists – still pretty neat.

One of the pesky tourists spoiling the shot.

And we end up on London.  Whether we are there for a few days, a week or longer,  we just can not get enough of London. The Brits do tradition so well.

That evening we had a Thames cruise- recommend it


Lots of poking around still to do.

You do not go on this tour  for the cuisine.  If you seek out the fresh fish special (not deep fried) its usually superb. The full Irish breakfast can get tedious.  The Irish are so friendly, social and hospitable that it makes the trip. The Guinness is always fresh – damn fine. The country views are outstanding, and the cities are so walk-able and interesting.  If you have not been – bucket list item for sure.




Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny.

Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny. 2015. ISBN 9781448181575. A sympathetic story about one man’s journey from working family man to eventually become head of one of the largest criminal favella syndicates in Rio. You read about the crushing poverty of the favella residents, the smothering corruption of the Brazilian public sector and the harsh justice dealt out by the warring criminal gangs/police. Contrast that with the very few criminal Dons like Nem who see their role as protectors of the poor, when the state does nothing. Its a strong light shone on Rio’s dark underbelly that its politicians just hope would go away.

Travels. Michael Crichton.

English: American author and speaker Michael C...

Travels. Michael Crichton. 1988. The author of many famous science related thrillers and movies like Jurassic Park, Crichton pens a concise story behind his life. He  covers his time as a medicals student and why he quite after getting his degree.  It certainly seems that he  was a very efficient writer, publishing The Andromeda Strain while still in med school ! He  details his background  and physical and mental journeys through many different experiences.  I was surprised at his dedication to research, his eclectic interests and playful nature toward everything ( Ie a very open mind) .  A real bonus is the appended speech he was to give at Cal Tech on Science and Mysticism. It is a very coherent analysis which presents the material in an open fashion and is well worth the read.

South! The story of Shackeltons last expedition 1914-1917. Sir Earnest Shackelton

Flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich I...

South! The story of Shackeltons last expedition 1914-1917. Sir Earnest Shackelton.

I have read parts of this book, watched a few documentaries,  heard lectures on Shackelton and seen many of the points of land he talks about while cruising the Antarctic. Yet the book still takes you well beyond all that. It is an inspiring story about will, leadership, skill and perseverance that would resonate with many of today’s leaders.  This issue includes the three parts of the voyage; the trapping of the Endurance and Shackelton’s heroic seamanship and struggles to  get to South Georgia in a very small sailboat and the rescue of the men on Elephant Island, the men left ashore when the Aurora is cast adrift and their work/travails at establishing supply depots across the shelf, and the voyage and rescue of the Aurora and its crew. Plus the appendices contain records of the meteorologic , geological and ice studies carried a out as well as a good analysis of the whaling activities in the areas.  Through it all the author maintains a laconic, non boastful accomplished style, sadly lacking in much of today’s self aggrandizing press.  I highly recommend this book.

The Sky Below. A true story of summits, space, and speed. Scott Parazynski cw Susan Flory

English: STS-120 mission specialist Scott Para...

The Sky Below. Scott Parazynski cw Susan Flory.  2017.   The author is a medical doctor, mountaineer, astronaut and free diver.  He grew up living around the world and became very adaptable. His life story is thrilling, historic, and encouraging.  Its also an easy read. There are similarities to books written by other mountaineers, who are also driven black and white people.   A good four hour flight book.

The Taste of Conquest. The rise and fall of the three great cities of spice. Michael Krondl.

Cover of "The Taste of Conquest: The Rise...

Cover via Amazon

The Taste of Conquest. The rise and fall of the three great cities of spice. Michael Krondl. 2007 ISBN 9780345509826.  While travelling in Portugal I read this book. Fascinating,  as it delves in the roles of Venice, Lisbon and then Amsterdam and their successive monopolies in the spice trade .  Each city had a different approach in gaining their monopolies and how they “ruled” their Indian/Indonesian sources/possessions.  So much of the gold and ornate buildings in these cities was based on spice trading ( Pepper, salt, chili, cinnamon, then coffee and sugar) . The source countries and people did not fare well under the dominion of these successive traders.  The pursuit of spice is what drove the Portuguese to sail around Africa and into the Indies.  The author does a good job of illustrating  their particular drives and business approaches. Clearly written

The Road to Little Dribbling. More notes from a small island. Bill Bryson

English: Bill Bryson in 2005. Bill Bryson Amer...

The Road to Little Dribbling. More notes from a small island. Bill Bryson . 2015. ISBN 9781473508071.  Twenty years after writing Notes From a Small Island, Bryson revisits the UK to look at some of the places he did not touch on in the first book . In his concise,  deprecating , descriptive style he again pens a thoroughly enjoyable book. He paints such clear pictures of his love for the UK  (including pubs, tea and biscuits,) while hitting you with a guffaw inducing comment on the dismal lack of manners, service, taste and planning evident in so much of of the country. A wonderful gift for the readers you know and one to yourself  when you have a moment just to savor a well written book. Enjoy.

Outposts. Journeys to the surviving relics of the British Empire. Simon Winchester

Cover of "Outposts: Journeys to the Survi...

Outposts.  Journeys to the surviving relics of the British Empire. Simon Winchester.  1985, 2003. ISBN 9780061978326.

Older but still a useful look at the remnants of the British Empire.  Some hilarious exploits and some that just seemed damned foolish.  Fairly kind to the inhabitants. I learned lots about  ports like Gibraltar, St Helena, Diego Garcia,  And more , Some I had been to (Falklands)  but most I won’t.   Thanks Ean Jackson for tipping me off to this!



How Asia Works. Success and failure in the world’s most dynamic region. Joe Studwell.

English: Member nations of the Asia-Pacific Ec...

How Asia Works. Success and failure in the world’s most dynamic region. Joe Studwell.2013. ISBN 9780802193476.  An all encompassing, insightful book.  The structure is simple . Compare the NE Asian successes ( Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China ),  to the SE Asian disasters ( Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India) ignore unique nation states like Hong Kong, Singapore,  then extract behaviors that seem to lead to economic powerhouse countries.   Then discuss each country a little more deeply to unpack their individual  successes, failures and on-going weaknesses.  Along the way  blow holes in the prevailing World Bank and IDB ” economic wisdom” .  The  author has little regard for most economists and after reading the book I am inclined to agree.  He does indicate that economic history is a useful pursuit in this analysis.   I saw many of his observations “operating” in our recent Asia /Africa trip.  Even though this is well before the Chinese stock market meltdown, much of his analysis indicated the inevitability of it.  The text is easy to read, well organized and will consume you.  No wonder Bill gates endorsed it.