Across the Krishnarajasagara

What a mouthful!  But South Indian names are actually quite easy to remember, because they are like German: long agglomerations of short words.

I have no idea what it looks like today.

But back in the day (the “day” being around 2005) the Brindavan Gardens were a world-class sight to behold: a massive city garden with dozens and dozens of powerful water fountains, and in the evening, everything lit with intense colored lights.

Anyway, built along the Krishnarajasagara Dam in South India:

The gardens had so many fountains, there are not enough pixels in most cameras to capture them all:

And where there were no fountains, there were man-made rivers decorated with intense flowers and exotic trees:

And even some spectacular buildings:

I visited the park a few years later, and sadly, it had fallen into a terrible state of disrepair – not worth visiting at all.  But a trip out there is still exciting, because there is a nearby village Bylakuppe with relocated refugees from Tibet – and in fact, it is the largest settlement of Tibet people outside of Tibet!

Bangalore Gothic

Back when I lived in Bangalore, what I think was an IT guy turned his passion into this livelihood and created Bangalore Walks, a program of guided historical walking tours of Bangalore.  I was one of his first customers.

On one of his walks, after showing us where Winston Churchill likely lived during his time in Bangalore, we stopped to look at this house:

It’s nothing fancy – there are hundreds of examples in Bangalore – but he brought our attention to the scalloped rooftoop.  According to him, this style of roof is only found in Bangalore – and it is an architectural style he’s dubbed Bangalore Gothic.

I haven’t taken any Bangalore Walks recently – and I hope they are still as good as back in the day – and you’ll actually find my name on the official website!

Gold in Delhi

This is a neighborhood in Delhi that is known for creation of gold jewelry:

I literally could not believe my ears when someone told me that some enterprising locals would actually pan for gold in the alley ways, hoping to find a few flakes that might have been discarded.

Well, I didn’t believe my ears, but it’s hard not to believe your eyes!

Watery Grave

When I first started visiting the incredible waterfalls of the Kaveri River in Karnataka, India, they were undeveloped.  Although every year many people died doing this, I knew someone who showed me the “safe route,” so I’d climb down the rock face to see some incredible sights, particularly during the Indian Monsoon:

They were also largely unvisited, because even the young IT engineers lacked the automobiles needed to easily reach this place.

I guess it is a good sign of development, because today the falls are quite developed, and it’s a common weekend day trip for the IT crowd. They don’t let you climb down onto the rock face anymore,

And the many restaurants and food stalls have encouraged the monkeys,

Jungle Mystery Number Three

Continuing the series, this is the Teman Negara, a jungle rainforest deep within peninsular Malaysia, and the location of a number of mysteries for me.

This is the Teman Negara, which I visited during a trip to Malaysia:

And this is an Anopheles mosquito. Not the one that BIT me, despite my efforts to keep myself smeared with a powerful mosquito repellant, but one just like the one I caught sucking the blood in broad daylight from my hand:

Now here comes the mystery. About a month after returning from my vacation, at around 12.30 PM in the afternoon and while at work, I quite suddenly felt like I was going to get the flu: my body became weak, and I could feel my temperature was rising. I went home.

About one hour later, I was in bed with a high fever and chills.  My fever was higher, my weakness was weaker, and my chills were chillier than anything I have ever experienced, either before then or since.

Now, I’m not totally stupid – I know that because I spent time trekking in an area with malaria, and there could be a chance that I could get a delayed infection, so I decided to closely monitor my temperature: if it started to rise or get worse, I’d go to the hospital immediately.

After almost two days the temperature went down almost as quickly as it originally climbed, and the chills and the weakness disappeared.

Did I have malaria and then recover?  I remember the old British colonials would use the expression “to have a touch of malaria” – did I have a touch of malaria?

It’s a mystery because I guess I will never know!

Jungle Mystery Number Two

Continuing the series, this is the Teman Negara, a jungle rainforest deep within peninsular Malaysia, and the location of a number of mysteries for me.

Unfortunately, I can’t actually show you Jungle Mystery Two – and that’s why it remains a mystery. While visiting the jungle, I got up quite early and took a walk. Two Chinese people were also walking, but they couldn’t speak English and I can’t speak Chinese, so we walked together in silence.

When we came to a jungle clearing, we saw two orange orangutans (looked like a mother and a smaller child) dangling from long vines.  Naturally I took many pictures – and so did my Chinese companions. Here is a picture of an orangutan I found on the Internet:

Now, here comes the mystery: according to scientists, there are no orangutans on peninsular Malaysia!  Apparently, all the orangutans are located on the island part of Malaysia, also known as Borneo.

Now, you would naively think I would pop out the photo I took and solve the Mystery – but sadly, no such chance. This was just before the advent of digital cameras, and during my vacation I lost several rolls of film, including the one of the animals I saw.

Now, I’ve heard that there are many exotic animals hidden deep within the jungle, such as jungle elephants that are almost never observed by humans. Does this mean there may be a population of orangutans hiding out in Peninsular Malaysia?  There are at least two Chinese people, somewhere in the world, who hopefully have the evidence!

Jungle Mystery Number One

This is the Teman Negara, a jungle rainforest deep within peninsular Malaysia, and the location of a number of mysteries for me.

The first Jungle Mystery is this: Teman Negara is not just a rainforest, it is a primary rainforest: the wettest and the hottest that they get.  It is also the world’s oldest rainforest, more than 100 million years old.

Now here comes the mystery: if the jungle is so wet and you can see the tremendous silt being carried in the river – and if the jungle is so old – then how can the jungle still be there?  Shouldn’t the rains have washed away all the mud and soil long, long ago?

Or does this perhaps mean the rate at which new soil is created (for example, from dying vegetation) exceeds the rate that silt is carried away in the river?

The amazing architecture of Swiss railway stations

It is not an exaggeration to say that many Swiss railway stations are truly mind blowing.

This is Bahnhof Enge from the outside:


And this is Bahnhof Enge from the inside:

Stunning buildings like these harken back to a different time, when a train station like Bahnhof Enge was not merely a train stop on a commuter line, but actually an important debarcation center in its own right.

Interesting, the architects for this train station were Otto and Werner Pfister – and if anyone has spent time shopping for furniture in Switzerland, those names should certainly be familiar!

Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert

No, it’s not these three:

For the record, that’s Kukla, Fran, and Ollie – the characters of a children’s television show, parts of which I saw in re-runs as a small child.

This is Vitus. He died around the year 300, so it makes sense this painting would seem a bit older than the others:

This is Wenceslaus – but for the record, I don’t know if he was a good king or if he looked out on the Feast of Steven:

This is Adalbert:

And in my next blog post, I’ll tell you about what these three saints have in common.

Hanuman was born here

This is Hanuman:

If you haven’t seen him before, Hanuman is often referred to as the “monkey god” for obvious reasons.  What’s more remarkable is that his historical origins are unclear – there are some ancient Hindu texts that first describe him, but historians are not quite sure when he was first described.

Anyway, during a visit to the UNESCO city of Hampi, I had the good fortune to gaze upon the Anjani Hills:

The historians can’t quite agree when and where Hanuman was first referenced, but most Hindu’s I know agree that this hill was his birthplace.  The white spot at the top is the Hanuman Temple.

How many people can you stuff into an autorickshaw?

Having lived many years in India, I thought I’ve seen it all: whole families of 6 people riding on a two-wheel scooter, chicken farmers sitting quietly in a bus on their way to town, with dozens of live chickens tied together and sitting quietly on their laps.

But this snap has to take the cake: I counted no less than 13 people packed into an autorickshaw.

I took this snap was somewhere in the Hassan district of the Indian state of Karnataka.

Jason Bourne Slept Here

Well, I don’t know if he did or he didn’t – and that’s what drives me crazy!

Everyone remembers the film version of the Robert Ludlum novel The Bourne Identity:

(Interesting aside: Believe it or not, I stood behind Matt Damon in France, at a cash machine (ATM), back when he was filming the JB movie.  I didn’t know him as Jason Bourne – but rather I recognized him as the actor in Good Will Hunting.)

Anyway, in one famous scene Jason Bourne is caught by the Swiss police, sleeping on a park bench in Zürich:

When the camera angle pans, you can see the park is on a hill overlooking the Zürich skyline along the Limmat River:

After moving to Switzerland I quickly learned of this park, called the Lindenhof.

Recently, I got curious, and decided to see if I could see if this scene was really photographed here.  Indeed, the Lindenhof is a park, and there are green park benches:

And looking from the other direction, the park really does look out over the Limmat River,

But sadly, that’s where it ends.  I read that no parts of this movie were filmed in Switzerland, and that the park scene was (I think) filmed in Romania.

However, it seems great pains were taken with special effects to make this park as Lindenhof like as possible.  I did not take any pictures of it, but when you see this final scene, and if you’ve been to the Lindenhof, then you’d easily think the scene was filmed here:

Is the umbrella sommellier in?

John Wick: “Is the sommellier in?

Receptionist: “I have never known him not to be.”

Like John Wick, I am a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will.  In the brilliant film John Wick 2, John consulted with the weapons sommellier while planning his party in Rome.

Similarly, I plan to return one day for a session with the sommellier of this place:

This is not one of the cheap stores in a cheap district that sells cheap Asian luggage. This is a 200-year-old upscale boutique in London that has walking sticks in glass cases that cost thousands of pounds (the walking sticks, not the cases), and umbrellas that cost much more.

The Dome of St. Peter’s

This is one of my all time favorite snaps, showing the magnificent Dome of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, but framed in the context of quite a mundane and architecturally uninspiring neighboorhood street:

Unbelievably, the Basilica of St. Peter is known as the largest church in the world. I find that a bit hard to believe – but that is what is says in Wikipedia.

The pubbing of London

I don’t know when it started.

I don’t know how it started.

But I do know that today London is covered with pubs that have very fancy exteriors.

I took this snap on my second visit to London:

But then I quickly realized that just about every pub had a pretty exterior, such as this one:

And this one:

At this point I stopped taking snaps of pubs. If they are all like this, I am sure there are coffee table books that can do a better job at capturing them than me!

The amazing Airbus A380

Capable of carrying over 800 passengers, the Airbus A380 is currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft.  And the amazing perk about my job is that I get to get up-close-and-personal with these jumbo jets.

Here’s a snap from driving on the tarmac in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX):

At the Tom Bradley International Gates (also known to us in the trade as TIBITS, Terminal 5), the A380’s are all parked side-by-side.  And here’s a snap of us driving in an automobile underneath the wing:

Looking out their window the flying public sees the busy crew on the “ramp” but has little idea of the overwhelming logistical complexity and challenges that a company like Swissport has to overcome to deliver a top service.

The amazing sidewalks of Hollywood

I know its a touristy thing to do, but I’ve always wanted to see the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard, which I recently got the chance to do.

On both sides of the street, extending for quite some length, are the famous “stars” – 2600 of them, to be precise:

They are arranged in repeating patterns of two: two stars facing left, then two stars facing right. I’m not sure how they decide to mix up the celebrities, but movie stars, musicians, movie directors, and other famous people are honored here.  In the snap above you can see some empty stars; the names are added after the celebrities are selected, but the stars are already built into the ground.

One one side of Hollywood Boulevard is Graumann’s Chinese Theatre,

And in the very tiny area in front, you can see the hand and footprints of the mega-stars:

This is downright scary!

The first time something happens, you don’t even think about it.

The second time something happens, you call it deja vu.

But the third time something happens, and when it is religious in nature, it isn’t just scary – it’s terrifying!

The first time it happened I had a rental car in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I got lost.  So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation system, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple. I never gave it a second thought.

The second time it happened I had a rental car in the Chevy Chase neighborhood near Washington DC area, and I got lost. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation system, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple. I immediately thought, deja vu!

The third time it happened I had a rental car in the Burbank area of Southern California, and I got lost. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation sysstem, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple.  I immediately thought: this isn’t just scary, this is now terrifying!

Now, I am not Mormon.  But is something trying to tell me, I should become one?

Seven Gates to Jerusalem

I used to live on Lake Thun, and this was the view from my apartment:

Shortly after I moved here I read a book that referred to the “seven gates of Jerusalem,” which were apparently seven majestic castles that were found around Lake Thun.

Here is one of the castles, in the town of Oberhofen am Thunersee:

However, I’ve never been able to find the original reference in the book I read – or any other reference to this term.

To make matters worse, as far as I can tell there are only five castles, not seven: Hünegg, Spiez, Thun, Oberhofen, and Schadau.

But the mystery is still an interesting one: who coined the connection between these medieval castles around a lake and a holy city in a desert thousands of kilometers away?