Benjiming visits Singapore and Indonesia in 2016!

In April, my sweetie (Cherie) and I are taking a 2-week trip to Southeast Asia! This will be the deepest south I’ve ever been in Asia and I couldn’t be more excited. First, we’ll visit Singapore which was said to be a crown jewel in the British empire in its hay-day; there’s bound to be many similarities with Hong Kong I’d wager. With the peaceful coexistence of three major ethnic groups – Malaysian, Indian and Chinese, this city state will undoubtedly provide us with amazing food, brilliant architecture, and world-class hospitality.

From Singapore we travel to Jakarta, Indonesia where Cherie grew up. This will be the first majority-Muslim country for me to visit and I’m very curious about the stories from its past and present. Once we’ve visited Cherie’s parents’ house, and drunk our fill of avocado smoothies, we’ll venture out to the special region of Yokyakarta. Known as the ‘cradle of civilization’ to the Javanese, this is where multiple UNESCO world heritage sites are located, including Prambanan and Borobudur Temples.

BaliFinally, we’ll spend the last 1/3 of our trip in Bali, an island well-known for its beautiful landscapes and spirituality. Tripadvisor rated it best island of Asia in 2016. We’ll go rafting, ride elephants, and play with monkeys. And finish off the trip with a surprise… stay tuned! 🙂

Here’s our general itinerary and some of the things we’re hoping to get to. If you have recommendations for us, please let me know.

UPDATE: We have already completed the trip. It was amazing!

April 29th – May 1: Fly from Boston to Dubai to Singapore.

May 1 – 3: Visit Cherie’s family in Singapore and go sightseeing.

May 3 – 5: Visit Jakarta and see where Cherie grew up.

May 5 – 7: Swing by Yokyakarta to visit ancient temples and explore local villages.

May 7 – 12: Bali!  Beaches, wildlife, and glorious food.

May 12 – May 13: Return to Singapore and prepare for our flight back to Boston.

With flight out there taking about 24 hours, we are definitely trying to squeeze in as much as possible. I cannot wait to experience Southeast Asia for the first time!

Cutting the cord: Making the switch to Internet-Only

Cutting the Cord

This past summer my roommate and I made the switch from over-priced cable (in this case it was RCN) to Over-the-Air (OTA) television and Apple TV. Our major concerns were related to a potential lack of programming, specifically live sports and show-specific channels like AMC. You might be thinking: How did you survive without a DVR service and ESPN!?! Well, we figured we’d try out this simpler way of entertaining ourselves in the evening hours by cutting the cord and trusting our ingenuity. And you know what…? We realized that this experiment was totally worth it. Continue reading Cutting the cord: Making the switch to Internet-Only

The Timberman Triathlon – Swimming with the Fishies

Ben at Timberman 2015

Last week on August 15, 2015, I competed in one of the biggest physical challenges of my life, the Timberman Triathlon! And although it was my first endurance race ever, it was surprisingly quick. A lot happened: from my “swimming with the fishies” moment to the chain derailment/near car collision, to having the BEST fan base there! Let’s start with the swim…

This post starts at 4:45am.

Before the crack of dawn I was woken up by the sound of crickets and snores from the other room. I had my gear in two bags on the couch. One bag contained this morning’s swimming stuff and the other had biking/running gear. After waking Cherie up and getting my things in the car, we set out to Ellacoya state park. The sun wasn’t even up yet… but I was getting ready to race a 0.3 mile swim, 15 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

Continue reading The Timberman Triathlon – Swimming with the Fishies

My First Sprint Triathlon Experience

Timberman TriathlonOn August 15th, 2015 I’ll dive head first into the Timberman Triathlon in Gilfid, New Hampshah! Although this is a “sprint” triathlon I anticipate a competitive event: 0.3 mile swim, 15 mile bike ride, and a 5K. I think the triathlon was created for those who have difficulty concentrating on one thing at a time… 🙂

It’s now mid-July and I have been training through a left-leg nerve issue. My chiropractor/therapist suggests I keep training up to a point where the nerve behind my knee starts being symptomatic. Luckily I’ve been able to do 0.3 mile swims and 15 mile bike rides recently in Laconia NH and Somerville MA, respectively. But the next couple weeks of training are crucial. Continue reading My First Sprint Triathlon Experience

Asia’s Busiest Airport at a Glance

beijing check-in terminals
Beijing airport, busiest in Asia!

For the second year in a row, Beijing Capital International Airport ranked number two in the list of the world’s busiest airports, handling 83.7 million passengers last year and securing its position as the airport with the highest level of flight activity in Asia. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport remains on top with 94.4 million travellers due to it being a major port for domestic flights and a popular connection to destinations in Europe and South America.

Beijing Capital International Airport charges ahead of Tokyo-Haneda (68.9 million) and London Heathrow (72.3 million), UK’s busiest airport and third busiest in Europe overall. Europe’s busy airports list also consists of London’s Gatwick Airport as it continues to expand in various areas from parking options to possibly building a second runway in the near future. Continue reading Asia’s Busiest Airport at a Glance

Mt. Aso and Fukuoka – The Final Leg

Mt. Aso from Aso City
Mt. Aso from Aso City

After a nice relaxing visit at the Omata’s we had one last big stop on our list – hike an active volcano. Mt. Aso, or Aso San, is known for being a temperamental hot spot that has been smoking for years. At its peak, Nakadake crater, there are about 8 inner craters and a small lake of boiling hot, blue water. The crater is off limits but there are zones outside the most toxic spot with a cable car taking visitors to its edge. Unluckily for us, Nakadake was misbehaving as recently as March, causing the closest safe zone (1 KM around the crater) to be closed off. That, combined with super foggy conditions, made our visit to Aso a somewhat disappointing one.

But before leaving the town of Aso however, we got a chance to ride a classical scenic train that wraps around the southern valley of the mountain. Between the quaint towns of Tateno and Takamori, this hour-long “tour” gave us a glimpse at the communities that live so close to this active volcano. Continue reading Mt. Aso and Fukuoka – The Final Leg

Onsen and Hells in Oita

Me and the Sea Hell
Me at the Sea Hell

The Omatas welcomed us into their home as guests and showed us the most amazing hospitality. Having known Jun and Rika for years in China, and also tutored their kids, I had always promised I would visit their neck of the woods in South-Western Japan. Since this was an opportunity to do that I made sure that our itinerary included a visit to Oita and Beppu, the hot springs capital of Japan.

Across Beppu you’ll find white plumes of steam rising from cracks in the Earth. On our only full day together, Jun and Rika brought us to various jigoku or “hells” in Japanese. These hells were far too hot to swim in but we’re beautiful occurrences in nature. The sea hell was blue and the bloody hell was red. Other hells were different colors, including a white one. Continue reading Onsen and Hells in Oita

72 KM on a Ma Ma Chai in 2 Days in Japan

Shimanami Kaido Bike Path
Shimanami Kaido Bike Path

72 kilometers by bike, in 10 hours. This was the middle point of our journey through Japan. Actually, Jake and I had planned on more hiking and biking than we actually did, but this ride was almost more than we had bargained for!

The bike path starts in Hiroshima prefecture, spanning 6 tiny islands and massive suspension bridges, ending in Imabari city on the island of Shikoku. In order to do it all, we rented 2 bikes for 2 days and stayed at a hot spring beach hostel. Covered by orange and lemon groves, Innoshima was probably the most remote of our entire trip. And we sampled the oranges too as we rode through the little towns nestled in these islands. (See a pic below for the entire route.)

With heavy packs on our backs, we still managed to locate the hostel on day one and get a well-deserved hot spring bath to soothe our aching muscles. I honestly don’t know if we could have finished cycling the other 3 islands the next day if we didn’t have that chance for some deep relaxation. Continue reading 72 KM on a Ma Ma Chai in 2 Days in Japan

That Guilty Feeling in Hiroshima

A-Bomb Dome in Spring
A-Bomb Dome in Spring

We all have learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki at some point in History class. But nothing prepares you for what we were about to experience in this city. As I got off the train in downtown Hiroshima I was a little overcome with sorrow. I had never felt a sense of national guilt before. It must be similar to how Germans recall World War II. And you only know what that’s like when you ’round the corner….. and see it – the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This singular structure, with rubble and bricks left in tact, is a visceral reminder of the devastation the Japanese people suffered at the end of World War II. It represents how hundreds of thousands of lives were changed in an instant. The museum, which was packed on a Tuesday, is raw and very emotional. Tattered clothes, melted skin, fused panes of glass, and stories from survivors made the experience all the more heartbreaking. Continue reading That Guilty Feeling in Hiroshima

The White Heron of Himeji

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Himeji Castle and Jake

Himeji Castle, or the white heron, was first built in the 1500s. It has survived 48 transfers of power (both peaceful and not) as well as a bombing by America. Somehow this amazing structure managed to survive after two duds hit it in World War II. (A footnote a British couple made sure to bring to my attention…)

The morning after we arrived from Yamazaki, we lined up to get tickets to visit the white heron. Since we were there early we were given a special ticket. We would be 2 of the first thousand people to visit the main keep that day! This made the visit so much more worth it and I suggest all who go to Himeji to line up by 8am to seize this rare opportunity. To be honest, the main keep alone was worth the price of admission.  Continue reading The White Heron of Himeji