Vientiane, Laos

There are over 6,000 Buddha images at Wat Si Saket, the oldest surviving temple in Vientiane, Laos's pleasantly relaxed capital along the Mekong River.

These novice monks came from different areas of Laos to live and study at Wat Si Saket monastery.

View from atop Patuxai or Victory Gate

Pha That Luang is the national symbol of Laos. This stupa is believed to house relics (body parts) of the Buddha.

Wat Ong Teu

Soccer game along the Mekong River, the natural border between Laos and Thailand...

Thailand and its fleeting cellphone towers lie just across the Mekong from Vientiane, the easy-going capital of Laos.



View in a restaurant in Naha. The islands of Okinawa in southern Japan are known for their tropical beaches and beautiful blue sea. Okinawa is also famous for the longevity of its residents. There are more centenarians (people over 100) here per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Naha monorail

Tropical fish at market

On Kokusai dori in Naha

There are over a dozen American military bases on the main island of Okinawa, which take up 18% of the land on the island. Most of the island's residents are opposed to the American military presence. This fence on Henoko Beach was built recently to demarcate the boundary of a base. This sign found near the fence reads, "This is Okinawan land. We don't need American bases."

Marië and I visited a local organic farmer who chatted with us for a bit. Shown are rows of his peppers.

Okinawa soba

At the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium...

Leaving Japan

Kyoto and Nara

Raindrops on the shinkansen (bullet train)

Giant Buddha at Todai-ji in Nara

Marië and deer

After a hike in the mountains outside the city, we descended down to a river with restaurants built up on the water. Some even sent soba noodles down a slide of cold river water to patrons of the restaurant.

At the entrance of every shinto shrine, there is water to wash your hands and mouth.

Wishes written on paper are hung on bamboo once a year for Tanabata, a Japanese star festival.

Two women ring bells in front of a shinto shrine.

At shrines, folks can make a small donation to receive omikuji, fortunes on small strips of paper. If the fortune is bad, one ties the paper up on a row of metal wires in hopes of leaving the bad luck behind.


Visiting Marië in Tokyo

The evening I arrived in Tokyo, Marië and her parents prepared a sumptuous feast of fresh fish. This was the first of many meals to sweep me off my feet.

At a train station...Toyko has the most extensive subway network in the world. There are a mind-boggling number of subway and train lines crisscrossing through the city and they travel very fast. Some of the lines are owned by the state, some are owned by the city and some are private. And, of course, stylish haircuts are everywhere.

In the shopping district of Ginza


Old barrels of sake

In Asakusa...I was very impressed with Toyko. Despite being one of the larger cities of the world, the streets are relatively quiet and there seems to be very little air pollution. Since everyone rides the trains, there's not an immense amount of traffic in most areas of the city. Coming up from the subway, you might feel like you're in a small town except that when you look up there are skyscrapers towering overhead. There are, of course, some exceptionally busy areas of the city, but in general, Tokyo feels neither noisy nor congested with cars. In Tokyo, I often felt like I had taken a trip through time into the Future. The way folks dressed, the immaculate condition of the streets and the efficiency of the trains all contributed to this feeling... (as well as having spent five months in India). And on top of this, I was amazed at how respectful and considerate the Japanese are. You don't hear their cell phone ringers and if speaking on their phones in public they put their hands over their mouth so as to minimize the disturbance to others. Once in a shoulder to shoulder crowd to enter a station, everyone politely waited their turn in line and I didn't even get bumped in the slightest way. I don't think I met a rude person in Japan. Sometimes, being in Japan made me feel like I come from a country of barbarians.

Many Japanese dress in extreme ways, taking fashion fads to the next level. From goth maids to 1950's greaser outfits, there's a bit of everything. Here an adult seems to be dressed as a child.

24-hour private karaoke room seen from the outside. Marië, Gabe and I rented a room here for a few hours and sang some classics while waited for morning so that we could catch the fish market at sunrise.

Fresh tuna at the Tsukiji Fish Market, the world's biggest seafood market...

Discarded boxes at market

Gabe, who happened to be on vacation with his family in Japan at the same time that I was there, enjoys hot miso soup before 7am. Adjacent to the fish market are several sushi restaurants that serve up some of the freshest fish in the world. We arrived as early as possible to avoid lines.

Sea urchin/uni

Marië took me to her uncle's beautiful vegetable garden outside Yokohama not far from the Tokyo metropolis. Above her father weeds the sweet potatoes. After helping in the garden, we soaked in a hot spring spa perched above a shopping mall that pipes its hot water from 1500 meters below the ground.

Marië and I took the train down the coast to the sleepy town of Yuguwara, where we stayed at a lovely hotel with hot springs on site. Pictured here is the amazing meal that was served in our room.