First impressions of Japan (April 1996)
One good thing about being a foreigner is that nobody ever--ever--hassles me asking for directions. Actually, being a foreigner ("gaijin") in Japan isn't that bad so far....
A trip to South Korea (May 1996)
My host for the weekend was a friend from elementary school, Jung-whan (John) Choi. John is just finishing an advanced degree in mechanical engineering, and will soon be starting work at Hyundai motors designing cars with more efficient emissions systems. After spending a few days in Seoul, I have come to the conclusion that John's job is perhaps the most necessary job in South Korea...
Climbing Mount Fuji (August 1996)
There is an old Japanese saying, "He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man. He who climbs it twice is a fool." Although I have no doubt about the latter sentence, the validity of the first is definitely questionable.
Malaysia, Italy, and France (October 1996)
My journey started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but not on purpose....I wanted to take the opportunity to explore a little of the city, so I hopped in a taxi, which was very cheap, and told him to take me to see something interesting. He took me to Chinatown, and I still don't know if he was kidding or not...
A Trip to South Africa (January 1997)
In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president in South Africa's first open election in a very long time. The regime of apartheid has ended, but South Africa's real trials are just beginning. Since 1994, crime has skyrocketed, unemployment is way up, and morale is way down...there are still two very separate and unequal South Africas.
Thailand -- the Rainy Season (September 1997)
When I announced that I was planning to take a one-week vacation in Thailand by myself, everyone's reaction was the same.... I stand today as testament to the fact that a single man can go to Thailand and not do anything illicit or immoral, despite the best efforts of a certain taxi driver. But we'll get to that later.
To the Equator! Singapore and Indonesia (January 1998)
Sailaja and I, depressed by the cold and snow of Tokyo, decided to vacation in the warmth of the South Pacific. Actually, I should say in the heat of the South Pacific, since the average high temperature for our trip was about 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees F). Singapore is one degree north of the equator, and Bali is eight degrees south, so we brought only T-shirts and shorts. I left my winter jacket at home. And shivered all the way to Tokyo's Narita airport. (Forgot about that part of the trip.)