Chillin’ in Shillin.

China is a fascinating country, and I’d say also a mostly untapped country in terms of tourism for the average non-Chinese: it’s full of world-class tourist attractions, but most outside the country have never heard of them, let alone visited them. Oh, of course, it’s also a huge country, so it can be visited time and time again, and there’ll always be something still left for you to see and marvel at. Nice.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on these here cyber-pages that the Chinese tend to ‘stew in their own juices’. By that I mean their domestic tourism industry doesn’t orientate itself to foreigners much at all. Of course there are the obvious tourist traps here which are widely promoted abroad – like the Great Wall of China and the larger cities – but, ironically, those places don’t really need any promo – the whole world knows full well about them already; it’s the not-so obvious spots that could do with promoting. However, in the meantime, there’s a good upshot to this lopsided tourism situation: for a foreigner, the less obvious spots are all the more exciting to discover – as you’re normally the first person among your friends and colleagues, or maybe the whole city you live in (whole country?:), to have ever visited them. Well, with the exception of Austrian bikers.

I say that tourism isn’t geared towards foreigners. That doesn’t mean to say it isn’t well developed in other ways. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all of the smaller, lesser-known-to-foreigners places in the country are classified into five categories and described in minute detail, here. The top category (four As, or five As, I didn’t quite work out) is full of must-see places, and I was pleasantly surprised once more to find out that there are more than 50 spots in the top category (AAAAA). That’s a lot of must-sees. Means only one thing: must get back here again and again.

On my recent trip to the Yunnan province I made a start in crossing off some of the places on the AAAAA list as visited. Well, got to start some time, and some where.

One of these was Shilin, aka, the Stone Forest, near Kunming (Shilin means literally ‘stone forest’). And thank you I Heart China. The place was simply awesome…



Read on: Ancient aqueous rocks pushed to the earth’s surface…

Austrian plate – in Yunnan State.

On my recent travels I came across a van with Austrian plates in the parking lot of the hotel I was staying at. So what, right? Thing is, the hotel was in the city of Lijiang in the Yunnan Province of the People’s Republic of China, here!



Maybe this isn’t quite so mind-blowing as, say, a couple of German Merc jeeps in Australia, but all the same – not what you’d expect.

The van was accompanying bikers from Austria, who were real interesting guys – motorbiking right round the globe! We had a good long friendly chinwag, so here’s a plug for their thing: site, blog. Why not?

Turned out they know all about KL, having been our customers for years! Big thanks!

But what, you might be thinking, brought me to such a distant and remote neck of the global woods?

Read on: business matters as always…

Kamchatka-2015: Pauzhetka – where the electricity is free.

There’s a small remote village in Kamchatka called Pauzhetka – to the far south of the peninsula. It’s so small and remote, Google Maps shows, er, nothing, where in fact lies this settlement. It just didn’t get round to it I guess.

Perhaps that’s understandable: the village (situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and Kurile Lake) is surrounded on all sides by volcanoes. Pauzhetka is so unremarkable, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page dedicated to it. (Hmmm, maybe one just needs writing then; maybe even a grandiose Wiki affair with photos, facts and figures, history and other details? Well why not? Any volunteers? Internet enthusiasts to the rescue of online Pauzhetka!)

We were told that the name Pauzhetka comes from the former name – Pauzha – of a local river. I wonder, was that the Itelmen name? Well, anyway, that river is now called Pauzhetka too. Just so no one confuses the two.

I like how Pauzhetka sounds. I imagine a ‘pause’ when thinking of this place. As if life is put on pauze when folks come here, as it’s so out of the normal rhythm of life and the world. Something like that anyway.

Pauzhetka is just one of many interesting-sounding names on Kamchatka. Others include: the Goreliy (burnt) volcano, the Dvugorbaya (twin-peaked) volcano, and the Falshiviy (false), and Zhirovoy (fatty) streams!

// Sure, pioneers often gave bizarre names to the peaks, valleys, bays and other places they discovered. For example, in South Africa there’s a False Bay, which has a most interesting tale behind it. However, today’s post is about Kamchatkan names only.

There are more odd names, particularly of volcanoes. Examples: Mutniy (muddy), Beliy (white), Ploskiy (flat), Shish (the ‘bird‘:), Ostriy (sharp), and Spokoyniy (calm).

But now – back to the main topic: Pauzhetka. What else is there to Pauzhetka? Three main things (besides volcanism plain and simple):

– A geothermal power plant;
– Fruit and veg;
– Much natural beauty.

The geothermal power plant produces not only gigawatts of free-of-charge thermal electricity for Kamchatkans, but also lots and lots of boiling water for the valley below (also free), which the locals naturally put to good use with pleasure.

The hot water might also have a hand in making the fruit and vegetables grown in the many greenhouses in and around the village as tasty as we discovered them to be. And not only the obvious tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes, but also watermelons! Some even claim that pineapples and papayas are grown, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of any such exotic fruit – they must be tucked away deep inside the greenhouse jungle.

Here’s the view of the Pauzhetka area from one of the mountains next to it (the village itself isn’t visible, just like on Google:).


Read on: not only a beautiful place, but very tasty too one too!…

JFK Reloaded.

Most US airports are catastrophically crummy when it comes to connections. So, when planning multi-leg air journeys, if you ever get the opportunity to not have a connection in the country – take it; even if that means using the in-flight services of your most hateful airline!

But out of all American airports, one in particular is so awful… well, you just feel embarrassed for the country for accommodating such an abomination. Yes folks, this airport is so appallingly atrocious that it needs to be avoided at all costs. As a frequent business traveler I established a strict embargo on using it several years ago already, and if you too travel the world up in the air quite a lot, I recommend you do the same.

At least, that’s the situation as I know (knew?) it. But then along comes D.Z. singing its praises after a recent positive experience there (why he was embargo-busting in the first place I’ve yet to find out:). Must say, his arguments seem convincing. So I’ll now pass the reins over to him, and let you decide for yourself…:


Location: On board the Moscow to New York Delta flight (DL467), September, 2015. 

News: From December 1, 2015 Delta Airlines will be stopping its flights to Russia, for reasons known only to itself. However, I think Aeroflot and other airlines will be fully aware of the reasons, and understand, share and support them.

‘Delta’… the airline with traditionally unobtrusive air service. But this time… 

…One of the toilets at the front is ‘reserved for pilots only’. To one side of it there’s a trolley blocking the aisle; to the other there’s a flight attendant installed telling all-comers not to go further – ‘it’s for the pilots, and there are some safety rules’ or some such. When pressed, she remarks: ‘Use the other toilet!’. Ok! So the whole of business class gets in the endless line for the loo on the other side!

So what shall I do now? 

Terminator Genisys – watched! Mad Max 4 – watched a month earlier. Emails all sorted, Kaspersky Daily blogpost ready for publication.

But then, suddenly, somewhere between Norway and Iceland I notice the onboard Wi-Fi! $14.95 for an hour, $27.95 for the flight, $45.95 for the day. Ok. Credit card inserted, PIN entered, logged in. Let’s see how fast this baby goes…


Woh! No sooner do I press ‘enter’ – I’m fully connected to the WWW! EH??!!

Read on: Will Eugene drop his embargo already?…

Kamchatka-2015 – If you can walk with bears…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, and you find yourself on the bank of Kurile Lake and are told to ‘go check out the sand bank’ by your guides, make sure you agree and get yourself over there! For what you’ll get is a heady cocktail of adrenaline, delight and emotions. Why? Because… of all the bears. And not just a handful, but a whole big pack of them…


Read on: the place is packed full of grizzlies…

Kamchatka-2015 – Kurile Lake: Sock-eye salmon and beady-eye bears.

They say that the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon – several million of them – comes to spawn in Kurile Lake. And, having been there, I can believe it: it’s packed full of fish, lots visible to the naked eye, splashing about frantically. Not quite as packed as the lakes in Alaska (you can’t see through the fish there’s so many there), but all the same – impressive.

Kurile Lake – rather, the land surrounding it – is also big on… bears: big, as in, the largest population of brown bears in the world – around 5000 of them, if my memory serves me well. At least – it was 5000 several years back. Now it’s probably a lot higher as they’re propagating at a turbo-charged rate of late. I remember the norm for a family unit of bears being mummy bear plus just one or two cubs. These days there are normally three if not four cubs! So it looks like everything in the bears’ reproduction department is doing just fine :).


Read on: how many bears can you see in the next pic?…

Rage and F1 in Japan.

I get to Japan a lot on business.

Normally the airport procedures you have to go through to get from airplane seat to airport exit, luggage in hand, are quick and efficient. But just sometimes, it seems, things don’t run quite so smoothly: just recently we landed in Osaka and the line for passport control lasted two hours! Just look at the crowds of disgruntled travelers. This is just… unacceptable! I mean, Japan, come ON. Is it really that difficult to put more staff on? Hello?

Read on: Things only got more unusual…

Kamchatka-2015 – Ilynsky – the Kempinski of the volcanoes.

Next up on An-Kam-2015Ilynsky.

This is one grandiose volcano. There’s no arguing about it.

And the bigger – the better. Or so it seems at first… (more on the downside below). Anyway, we decided almost impulsively to get ourselves to its peak, for the views from up there are sure to be amazing – weather permitting.

Here’s what it looks like from the window of a helicopter, and also from the shore of Kurile Lake:



Read on: we FINALLY MADE IT!…

Top-100 Series: Europe.

You’ll probably already know about a lot of the man-made wonders and beauties on this continent – the cradle of western civilization – for it does have them in spades. However, it also has plenty to see in the natural-historical-phenomena department too, some of which you may not be aware of. Until now!

Curiously, practically all European natural-historical marvels are situated on or by the coast or on islands. Deep into its territory there’s practically no ‘top’-worthy stuff. But that doesn’t matter, for Europe has plenty of both coastline and islands :-). All righty. Off we go!…


28. Volcanic Iceland.

One of the most volcanically active places on the planet. Volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, plus the glaciers and harsh northern climate you’d expect from a country with the word ‘ice’ in its title. I was there just this summer. It was out of this world. Even gives Kamchatka a run for its money. Only saw a small part of it though. Must get back and explore the rest…



Read on: cliffs, islands, volcanoes, bays …

Kamchatka-2015: Ksudach – the Countach of the volcanoes.

The Ksudach volcano is one of the most unusual and breathtakingly beautiful places on our planet – I assure you. And since I’m lucky enough to have been practically everywhere on the planet, my assurances can be trusted, I do hope :).

All righty, what we got here?…

Basically, a colossal (7km – SEVEN KILOMETERS – in diameter!), almost perfectly round caldera of a very old volcano, which on maps looks like a crater on the moon. Inside the caldera there’s a cone of a new volcano (whose mouth is approx. one kilometer across); there are also two lakes, hot springs on a sandy beach, scrubby slopes on one side, gray-yellow volcanic slag on the other, and a sheer drop down to one side of the main lake. In all, the most out-of-this-world and unusual and heart-stirring and spine-tingling and goosebumps-giving sight you could ever possibly behold, at least on this planet.



Read on: Stunning, moving, crazy, astounding…