Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Eaten Alive By Little Fish in Hong Kong

September 6th, 2010 at 2:22 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yes. It’s true. We (our feet, actually) were eaten alive by hundreds of voracious little fish.

Fortunately the effects were temporary.

Fish nibbling on my foot, presumably removing only dead skin

Fish nibbling on my foot, presumably removing only dead skin

One of our last days in Hong Kong in July was spent taking a trip up to Victoria Peak – the highest point of Hong Kong island.

The Peak Galleria Shopping Centre, atop Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island

The Peak Galleria Shopping Centre, atop Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island

Located at the top of the Peak is the Peak Galleria Shopping Centre (pictured above), where we found ourselves confronted and intrigued by the sign below.

Advertisement we saw in the mall for the Wonderfish Spa

Advertisement we saw in the mall for the Wonderfish Spa

We made our way to the advertised Wonderfish! Spa tucked away on an upper floor of the Peak Galleria mall, and committed to the 20-minute treatment (which cost about US$20 per person).

We put our belongings in a basket which was stashed away in cubby holes in full sight, then had our feet washed, and then were seated on the edge of large square tiled “tub”, filled with about 18 inches of water and hundreds of small (2-3 inches long) fish. We were directed to slowly put our feet in the water.

As soon as our feet touched water, the small fish swarmed all over them, creating an odd tickling/scratching sensation that at first was a bit discomforting, but soon became quite entertaining – both from a sensation of touch as well as visually.

Here’s the video of our experience:

I had a small waterproof camera with me, which helped in capturing some of the above clips, in case you wonder.

The fish are related to carp, and legend has it that a farmer in Turkey discovered the foot fetish properties of these fish by accident some thousand(s) of years ago.

They are apparently strongly attracted to dead skin, and that’s what they focus on as they munch their way over your feet, although I can’t help but wonder what happens after they have consumed all the dead skin there is to be had.

We found 20 minutes to be just about long enough. Our feet felt refreshed and tingly after the treatment. And we had a good time with the whole experience.

However, I found that my feet, ankles, and lower calf, where the fish had dined, were still extra sensitive to excessive heat for several days afterwards. Linda did not have a similar issue.

It was a really entertaining and fascinating experience, but not one that either Linda or I have any need to experience again anytime soon. Once was probably sufficient.

The Wonderfish! Spa web site has ample details on the process.

 

Traveling To Hong Kong, First Class

July 16th, 2010 at 10:07 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The Traveling Richters are well traveled, and thanks to many years’ accumulation of frequent flyer miles and various elite status memberships with certain airlines, we usually manage to upgrade our flights to first class on U.S. domestic routes as well as to/from Bonaire, our home in the Caribbean. That said, we have never traveled trans-ocean in international first class. Until now.

On our current trip to Hong Kong and Macau, Linda and I had the privilege (thanks to 125,000 American AAdvantage miles per ticket) to fly international first class across the Pacific. Oh my. What a difference that is from cattle economy class!

On the Cathay Pacific 747 we flew on from San Francisco to Hong Kong last weekend, the first class cabin has nine seats and two dedicated cabin attendants who made us feel very loved (thank you Geri and Patrick!).

Flight time was nearly 13 hours, with a 5:30pm departure (our flight was about three hours late), and a roughly 10pm arrival (one day later due to crossing the International Date Line). That’s a pretty long flight, and the seats in first class were perfect to accommodate the flight time.

Linda in her first class pod on Cathay Pacific, with champagne and newspaper in hand

Linda in her first class pod on Cathay Pacific, with champagne and newspaper in hand

Each seat is basically a pod that offers a number of amenities, including the ability to create a flat bed long enough for even my 6’3” body. There’s also a bench opposite the main seat where a travel companion can join you for a meal (or they can sit, a bit snugly, next to you). Of course, there’s also a 17” LCD display, and dozens of on demand program options.

Jake reading his newspaper in his pod

Jake reading his newspaper in his pod

To further make your flight as comfortable as possible, the airline provides a complimentary set of pajamas, custom made by designer/retailer Shanghai Tang, and cabin staff will make your “bed” for you with a comfortable mattress pad, pillows, and even a snuggle-worthy duvet. The only thing they didn’t have were slippers in my size (13 US).

Nap time for Jake, fully reclined, in Shanghai Tang designed jammies

Nap time for Jake, fully reclined, in Shanghai Tang designed jammies

Add to all that a couple of multi-course meals and a snack service, along with a very nice wine list, and you have a recipe for a wonderful and relaxing travel experience. The only minor complaint we had was that the asparagus was mushy – that’s pretty bearable considering everything else.

Dinner for two on Cathay Pacific

Dinner for two on Cathay Pacific

Salmon and caviar for our appetizer in first class on Cathay Pacific

Salmon and caviar for our appetizer in first class on Cathay Pacific

The only real negative we see now is that we are spoiled and will be hard pressed to fly mere coach class. Sadly, even a large supply of frequent flyer miles will run out at some point. But, if you have the miles to spend (or the money), spoil yourself with international first class on a great service-oriented airline like Cathay Pacific.

 

A New Antarctica Article

March 22nd, 2010 at 12:02 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I was asked by Lindblad Expeditions if I could write an article for their blog about our trip on the National Geographic Explorer. I immediately agreed, and only realized later how challenging an effort it was – we just saw and experienced so many wonderful “firsts” on our trip. After a third attempt I finally came up with as good a summary as I possibly could without writing a book.

You can find it at
http://www.expeditions.com/blog/index.asp?Display=336.

 

Another Source of Antarctic Expedition Updates

February 18th, 2010 at 1:52 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

For those interested in the word from the naturalists here aboard the National Geographic Explorer, one of the things that is done every day is the writing and submission of a “Daily Expedition Report”. These are in turn published on the Lindblad Expeditions web site.

The reports from the National Geographic Explorer are a couple of days behind, but have a lot of great information.

You can find them here.

 

We’re Getting Almost Famous!

February 17th, 2010 at 3:16 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

So maybe not really famous, but Lindblad Expeditions, the folks who operate the National Geographic Explorer from which we’re presently enjoying our three week exploration of Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic, just posted a news item on their site about The Traveling Richters.

You can see their post here.

And our fellow blogger/traveler, Andrew Evans, also just tweeted about us on Twitter.

 

Antarctic Impressions

February 17th, 2010 at 2:56 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

In all the writing I’m doing, I realized yesterday that most of the writing has been Antarctic “facts”, like the history of the Antarctic continent, the behavior of penguins, and ecological factors. I think I have been remiss in sharing my impressions of Antarctica and our journey so far, which has involved two days on the open sea, and another three and a half off the Antarctic Peninsula.

You may have heard this before, but let me state it for the record: Antarctica is unbelievably real and heart-achingly beautiful.

The land is covered by a glacier, icebergs float in the water, and a penguin porpoises in the foreground

The land is covered by a glacier, icebergs float in the water, and a penguin porpoises in the foreground

For example, yesterday evening, after returning to the National Geographic Explorer from several hours on land at Cuverville Island, home to one of the largest colonies of Gentoo penguins, all I could do is sigh, wistfully, as I stood our on the balcony of our stateroom, looking at the vista in the bay in which the ship was anchored.

A lone Gentoo penguin leaps out of the water with icebergs in the background

A lone Gentoo penguin leaps out of the water with icebergs in the background

Glacial ice forms these amazing blue-green icebergs

Glacial ice forms these amazing blue-green icebergs

In my immediate view was land covered with eons old glacial ice. I also saw a number of ice bergs of varying size formed from calving glaciers, almost shining blue from the purity of the ice. In the water were countless Gentoo penguins, porpoising out of the water in a sort of carefree exuberance.

A group of Gentoo penguins porpoising from the water on their way back to the colony

A group of Gentoo penguins porpoising from the water on their way back to the colony

I could not tear myself away from the view, and just waited for yet another group of penguins to play their aquatic game of leap frog merely dozens of feet away. And I kept sighing, and mumbling to myself about how stunningly beautiful it all was.

A group of penguins on an iceberg as we leave Cuverville Island

A group of penguins on an iceberg as we leave Cuverville Island

However, our ship ultimately did have to leave the bay, and thus our view changed, with icebergs and glaciers slowly getting smaller in the distance. A humpback whale surfaced about 400 yards behind us in the ship’s wake, occasionally blowing out mists of air propelled moisture. But even the whale got smaller as we kept on course. And still I kept sighing.

We see a humpback whale from our balcony as its flukes come out of the water to propel it to the deep

We see a humpback whale from our balcony as its flukes come out of the water to propel it to the deep

Dinner was a the time to recap our day and guess at what new things we would experience and encounter the following day. But as it turned out we didn’t even have to wait that long.

After our meal, Bas and I went up to the bridge to get log readings for his science project. The bridge was mostly dark with two crew on duty. It was after sunset, but there was a beautiful soft ambient glow emanating from the overcast heavens above, reflecting on relatively calm ocean waters below.

As I watched the seas ahead of us, two dark shapes appeared, bobbing above and under the water. I watched for a minute or two as they got closer and found they were seals of some sort, frolicking about, even at night.

Another sigh. Nature’s beauty and serendipity just wouldn’t go away. Nor did I want it to.

And then several more, larger but more distant, shapes appeared ahead of the ship. We finally got close enough to determine they were humpback whales. I stood rapt, just watching as their huge but sleek bodies emerged out of the ocean. First the back of the head, then a blow of moisture which quickly dissipated, then the stunted dorsal fin on the curved back that is the trademark of a humpback whale, and then it would disappear entirely below the frigid water, only to repeat it all over again a minute later – sometimes close and sometimes far from where it last dove underwater.

As we passed the whales, Bas and I rushed to port to catch one last glimpse of our leviathan companions, and were rewarded with seeing one of the whales surface, and then bring its tail completely out of the water to give itself the extra push it needed to descend deep into the depths. Almost as if it was waving good bye to us.

Sigh.

Every day so far has been filled with wonder, excitement, and appreciation for the privilege of being able to visit Antarctica before it change much further.

And we can’t even imagine what the following day may hold, as plans are fluid, and opportunities are seized as they appear. And here we are, ready for more of nature’s beauty.