Ben Returns to Asia (for a quick visit)

2015 is the year I returned to Asia for a brief visit. After leaving China in 2013, and getting myself fairly settled in the Boston area, I felt the need to reconnect with my Asian roots! Although I’ve loved being home and getting re-acclimated, a piece of my previous life was missing… the unexpected adventures, the quirky misunderstandings, and the unbelievable cuisine that you find anywhere in East Asia. So, from April 8-22 I ventured back into the wild – this time it was Japan.

My cousin Jake and I have always talked about backpacking and cycling parts of Japan and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Today I start a series of posts about this trip through Japan from the foot of Mt. Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. (I’ll get to how badass this place is soon). We’ve taken wrong turns (and very right turns!) across this majestic land, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the friendliness and generosity of the Japanese people. They are without a doubt the masters of hospitality.

In the following posts I’ll take you on a journey across this mysterious and majestic archipelago – where the sun rises first every morning and the stars sparkle brightly every night. We started in Tokyo where the neon lights, funky costumes, and glorious Edo past is still visible. Then we’ll walk among the artifacts of previous realms in Kyoto and dance with deer in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara. After that, we’ll visit Japan’s oldest surviving castle in Himeji where the “white heron” was finished being renovated only 2 weeks before we got there! We’ll sip on fine whiskies at the Yamazaki distillery before taking the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Hiroshima. We’ll step upon ground once too radiated by an atomic bomb for anyone to visit and see the horror of those times through the Peace museum. Not far from there we voyage to Miyajima to visit the most frequently photographed landmark – the great floating Torri. And that’s just the first half of our trip!

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Cousins trek across Japan 2015
Cousins trek across Japan 2015

The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket List

Welcome to my list of the major festivals and holidays celebrated across Northeast Asia- Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mongolia. This will be a continuously updated list as I keep exploring new and interesting festivals that have evolved in the East Asian cultural sphere, also known as Sinosphere (including Vietnam) because they are all historically influenced by Chinese culture.*

Consider adding some of these to your bucket list and I’m sure you’ll never regret the effort to cover them all!

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NOTE: Celebrating some of these festivals usually requires physically being in the country. If travelling that far is impossible, see if you can get to your local Chinatown or East Asian neighborhood on the date of the festival.


Chinese New Year (Spring Festival 春节, Seollal in Korea, ) is celebrated across the world by Chinese diaspora. In 2014 it will be celebrated on January 31 and the final day occurring on February 15- see the Lantern Festival below. This is the most exciting festival I’ve ever experienced. It feels like American 4th of July but more dangerous! Get a more detailed overview on this amazing festival here.

Continue reading The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket List

(Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

Jumping off the Tower
Jumping off the Tower

Yesterday I finished my work early to visit Macau with a colleague turning 36. Taking me by surprise was that he felt it was time to try nose diving off the tallest bungy platform in the world. Dropping over 750 feet (233m) in just a few seconds costs thrill-seakersHK$2,500 or about $320 each time. Although it looked like an experience of a lifetime, I decided to just cheer him on from the observatory desk. Actually, my thrill for the day was at the Galaxy Resort and Casino which is just a bridge hop over to Taipa from Macau. Continue reading (Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

China is celebrating its 2000-year old Dragon Boat festival on June 10-13. This year I wanted to get a closer look at a popular location for the boat races rather than revisit the cushy Macau version. (Enjoy a complete overview of Duan Wu Jie from my 2011 post) This time we visited Shun Feng Lake in Bruce Lee’s hometown – Shunde.

Shunde  (Shwun-duh) is home to one of the most well-known dragon boat competitions in Southern China. Check out the Chinese version of the Shun De Boat Club’s website for the latest information on this competition throughout the year (  Every June teams from around Guangdong province get together at this lake to compete in a 500-meter sprint.  For a closer look, check out my pics from this year’s event below:


Although it was a little cloudy, that didn’t keep these smaller teams from competing in an event that has been around for over 20 centuries! [*] Continue reading Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

Ben @ the peak of Hengshan

It’s New Year time in China once again and this time I’ve decided to do something a little different. For the Year of the Snake my girlfriend and I are spending 3 days in a quiet, snowy mountain town in Hunan province called “Heng Shan”. It’s one of the 5 “sacred mountains” of China, although this could just be a marketing ploy by the locals… Anyhow, it’s importance to Taoists and Buddhists goes back all the way to 25AD, so there must be something desirable up there! Continue reading Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

Acupuncture Locations in America

Find an Acupuncturist!

Acupuncture is surprisingly everywhere in the US. You’ll find as many clinics offering acupuncture as you’ll find Asian food markets! But with that comes the difficulty of finding the right service provider. So, take down a few addresses and phone numbers. Contact them and enquire about pricing.

Remember to go into this with an open mind. Before the feeling that this is “too expensive for me” creeps in, just allow yourself to start having the conversation with an acupuncturist. You will probably learn something new today!

The map to the right will help you find your closest Acupuncturist. Just keep clicking in the area of your city or town to eventually find it! If you are good with Google, you could substitute “usa” with “[your town]” to search faster.

Good luck!

The Shantou Beef Restaurant Experience

Last year, summer 2011, I visited a seaside city in Southern China called Shantou. It is one of the original Special Economic Zones of China, just like Zhuhai, and it has a unique culture of its own. They are a special kind of Cantonese people who speak “Chaoshan hua”. (A shared dialect between Chaozhou and Shantou ) Most are ethically Han but refer to themselves as Chaoshan people. Their women are known to be “the best wives in China” because they take care of their husbands so well. AND they offer some of the most delicious cuisine too.  So, what should you eat when you go to Shantou or Chaozhou? … BEEF.

While I was in Shantou, my hosts took us to a buffet-style restaurant famous for its Beef Balls. (You’ll hear many Shantou people ask “Do you like beef ball?”) The following photos show the entire spread of meaty goodness available at the buffet, which is meant to be cooked in mini hotpots in front of each person.

Tip! When gathering your dipping sauces be careful not to mistake the MSG for sugar… Don’t worry! At least this restaurant lets you choose whether or not to put in the Wizard!

Shantou BEEF Restaurant

Chaozhou was also amazing city to visit due to its history. Take a look at some of the places we visited below. The first one is a bridge made from boats latched together. It’s very old! Another one is me on an old street which is lined with gates through the center of the old city.

Chaozhou Boat Bridge


Chaozhou Ancient Street

The Eastern part of Guangdong is truly different from the Pearl River Delta (PRD) area. I highly suggest a visit because money and pollution can get a little boring after a while… am I right?

Getting Wet in Zhuhai, China

The rains are coming again. After a dry winter and a super humid spring with sweaty walls, it is time for mother nature to let her hair down again with torrential downpours. Here is a sample of that from my previous apartment on the Jinan University campus.

Warning: These photos are rather Armageddony!
(Click images to zoom in)

Rainy Season in Zhuhai

Understanding the World of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is definitely a global phenomenon, which allows me to add CNY to my ongoing series of “Understanding the World of…” articles! Since most Westerners living in towns with a population of at least a few thousand have a Chinese restaurant, I should be able to assume most readers have a passing knowledge of the Chinese Zodiac and the Lunar New Year. If you are pretty sure you know close to nothing about this ancient festival, then go ahead and read this entire post. Otherwise, feel free to skip to parts that interest you or could help you answer tough questions from friends about China. So, let’s get started! Continue reading Understanding the World of Chinese New Year

Ben’s Dragon Year 2012

The Chinese New Year 2012 holidays have finished but I’ve had a great time visiting friends in both Taiwanand Wuhan. (I’ve posted photos in my Photo Album on QQ.) I was told that Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong province ID holders are allowed to visit Taiwan without a tour group now. So, if you are from one of these places, take advantage of your new freedom soon!

And, by the way, Wuhan is hiding most of China’s beautiful women (and handsome men) from the rest of the country!  

 图片   图片 (Alishan, Taiwan)                                                          (Wuhan, Hubei)

Continue reading Ben’s Dragon Year 2012