TagUnited States

Not your typical “sign your life away” kind of waiver

I stumbled upon this when I was rummaging through some of my things.  It’s a waiver for visiting the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea.  It pretty much says that my safety is not guaranteed if the North decides to attack.

The United Nations Command, the United States of America, and the Republic of Korea cannot guarantee the safety of visitors and may not be held accountable in the event of a hostile enemy act.

There’s even a section about not interacting with the soldiers on the other side too.

Fraternization, including speaking, making gestures or associating with personnel from the Korea People’s Army/Chinese People’s Volunteers (KPA/CPV) side, is strictly prohibited

Anyway, the full text is here for people who are curious

VisitorDeclaration

A Week in Oahu

Just spent a week on the island of Oahu in Hawaii with a high school friend who used to go to school here, so I had a pretty good tour guide!  Along the way, we met up with some friends and just hung out with them.

Fun fact: Hawaii is not part of North America, but rather Oceania.  Already on the flight in, Hawaii already looks beautiful.

On the North Shore of the island, sea turtles sometimes just chill out on shore.  They are endangered because people wanted to eat them and use their shells for superstitious medicine.  It is illegal to touch them and there is a fine for it if caught.

Here’s a picture of our nice rental car – a BMW 535i.  Notice how there isn’t a front license plate (not legal)

Parts of Oahu’s coastline has lots of these oddly shaped rocks (possibly some volcanic rock?)

There’s also cool rock formations like this one at Laie Point.  We saw people here fishing, and jumping into the water from the cliff side – looks dangerous, but super fun.

For hikes, not many people know about the Puu O Mahuka State Monument, where there is a semi-hidden path that leads to a really good view of Waimea.

There’s also the Pillbox Hike near Lanikai beach, which is a bit more touristy, but the view up there is really nice too.

Another well-known hike is the Diamond Head hike, which starts at the base of a crater all the way up to the top edge of it.  From there, there is a good view of Waikiki and the surrounding area.

Another hike, called the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail is another hike to see Oahu’s natural beauty.  At some parts of the hike, the mountain blocks the wind completely, so on a hot day, there is no breeze for cooling down, which makes this hike a little less enjoyable.

For a night view of Honolulu, we headed up to Roundtop Drive

This is the best food in Hawaii.  It’s called Poke.  It’s essentially raw fish with spices on it – absolutely delicious when it is fresh.  The ones here are from a place called Fresh Catch.

Of course, there is also Pearl Harbor, the site where the Japanese attacked the United States in 1942.

The USS Arizona Memorial is built on a sunken battleship, the USS Arizona.  Even now, pockets of oil still bubble to the surface.

At the Polynesian Cultural Center, people can learn about the Polynesians and experience their culture through stuff like dance performances.  Too bad I couldn’t get a picture of their actual theater performance, where they did crazy tricks with sticks lit on fire.

There is the stereotypical Luau, which is a buffet with a dinner performance (with more fire involved).  There’s good food like kalua pig, poke, salmon, chicken, etc.

One thing that really surprised me about Hawaii is the amount of wild chickens everywhere.  I even got woken up in the morning by a rooster’s call in the morning.

Other things to do in Hawaii that I recommend:

  • Trying garlic shrimp from a food truck (like Fumi’s)
  • Drinking out of a coconut (really stereotypical, but I’ve always wanted to try this!)
  • Drinking an Otai (coconut and mango drink)

Things that I do not recommend:

  • Driving too fast.  Police are EVERYWHERE and it is impossible to get away with breaking traffic rules.  I learned this the hard way.

Link to photo album: here

Washington DC

So here it is, the capital of the United States of America.

First stop, Lincoln Memorial.

“In this temple as in the harts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln” is enshrined forever”. Powerful words. His two most famous speeches are also written on the inside walls in his remembrance. “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”

Directly in front of the monument, is the reflecting pool.  Too bad there was construction at the time, otherwise it’d looks way nicer.

On the south side of the memorial, there is the Korean War Memorial.

This phrase beside it is probably one of the most well said quotes.

Freedom is definitely not free.

On the north side of Lincoln Memorial, there is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The names etched into the memorial are everyone who was killed or missing in action.

This is where politics happens. The Capitol, where Obama pwns his political opponents and passes bills through congress.

Next stop, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Definitely lots of interesting things here!

To show off the history of aviation, naturally there is a model of the Wright Brother’s plane.

Eventually, we built fixed wing aircraft.

Fast forward a few decades, and there is a lunar lander.

In the present day, we are now blowing people up from afar using Predator drones…

Too bad there wasn’t enough time to visit other museums in the Smithsonian. Would have liked to see the natural history exhibits too. But at least I got to briefly see the Smithsonian Castle.

We then took a nice and relaxing boat tour on the Potomac River.

Of course there’s also the Washington Monument.

Then there is the White House, where the boss aka Barack Obama lives. There’s even three guys on the roof to see if there’s anything out of the ordinary.

Then while leaving the city, the tour bus driver had the great idea of driving into the Pentagon parking lot.

And here is a nice picture of sun rays passing through clouds that I managed to capture while we were on the road to the next destination.

We spent the night in Atlantic City, where those interested got the chance to visit the casinos and “try” to win money. I on the other hand, was pretty tired. I pretty much went to sleep right away when we got to the hotel. Needed some good rest for the trip to Philadelphia the next day.

New York City: Part II

Throughout the first day, we had boarded the tour bus early in the morning and pretty much toured around NYC with very little sleep.  Now that we got a good night’s sleep, we were quite energized for our second day of the tour.

The first destination for the day was Rockefeller Center. This is the place where a giant Christmas tree is placed during the holiday season. The front of it, by the fountain with the statue of Prometheus, would also be a giant ice rink. During the summer, an outdoor restaurant takes its place.

There is also an observation deck at the top known as the “Top of the Rock” that we didn’t go to. They advertise that from up there, people can see an unobstructed view of the whole city.

The inside looks quite nice too!

I guess the designers of Rockefeller Center really like mythological characters because apart from the fountain with Prometheus, there’s also a statue of Atlas.

Beside Rockefeller Center is Radio City Music Hall, an entertainment venue that, for a time, was a really popular tourist destination. It is said that the hydraulics used for their stage were so advanced for its time, that the US Navy used the same hydraulics when constructing aircraft carriers during WWII.

Also beside Rockefeller Center is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I always thought everything in NYC was really modern, so I didn’t expect such historical architecture.

It happened to be a Sunday that day, so the inside was filled with people attending church.

Our next destination in the afternoon was the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. That place was so interesting for me that it would make this post super long, so I think I’ll save it for a separate post.

New York City: Part I

We signed up for this Asian tour group that took us around a few cities in the USA, and our first stop was New York City.  This was a lot different than our usual self-directed trips.

The tour bus left at around 5 in the morning from Montreal and by the time we got to the Big Apple it was about 2pm.  At first I thought it would suck a lot being cramped in a tour bus for eight hours, but it really wasn’t that bad since I pretty much slept the whole time.

As the tour bus drove along, lo and behold, there was a ton of those yellow cabs on the road.  I guess what people say about NYC cabs is true.

The tour bus dropped us off at the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and from there we walked around the city on our own.  Man, NYC is busy.  Reminded me of Hong Kong.  The temperature that day was at about 35 degrees Celsius, hardly a good temperature for walking around.  Apparently, we happened to be right in the middle of a heat wave.

Eventually, we hit Times Square.

And also found some other interesting places.  I found it strange that there was a recruiting station right in the middle of Times Square.  And also, I had no idea somebody actually created a shrimp company named after the one in the movie Forrest Gump.

We also ran into where David Letterman does his show.  Not exactly the best late night talk show host, but I would have gone to check that out if I had time.

We walked all the way to the entrance of Central Park.  If it felt nicer outside, I think we would have taken the time to walk around inside the park too.

After resting for a bit, the walking continued.  As we walked on the sidewalk, we’d pass by these grates in the ground with hot air coming out of them.  Occasionally, we’d hear a subway pass by.  Must be the subway system’s ventilation.  That led us to see what the NYC metro was all about.  Not exactly the most beautiful metro, but it works for the millions of people who use it everyday.

One thing I noticed about NYC is that there are ads everywhere.  Wherever there’s space, someone will always pay money to put up an ad.

The next destination was the famous Empire State Building. Not sure why it’s so famous other than that it’s tall and that King Kong climbed to the top of it in the movie.

Somewhat nearby was Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks and New York Rangers play.

By then, it was almost time to go, so we walked back to the wax museum where the tour bus would pick us up again.  That ended the first day of our NYC tour.

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