Review – Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan, published 2014

On its surface, Crazy Rich Asians is a sordid story of dysfunction and social positioning within mega-wealthy sorta-nobility Chinese families originating in Singapore. It’s full of flashy outfits and the shocking shopping trips that put them in the characters wardrobes; over-the-top square footage and fully-furnished living arrangements in a part of the world known for nearly inhumane density and some of the highest real estate prices in the world; petty gossip like only those with too much time and money on their hands can engage in; oh, and wonderful, wonderful sounding food. For those reasons, it’s an entertaining read.

But just below the surface (not too far, mind you… these issues are philosophically auxiliary as far as I can tell, not intentionally contemplative like a work of classic literature) lie a series of family-planning and wealth-planning puzzles for the observant reader to consider. In no particular order, and with very minor spoilers, these puzzles are explored more below.

The first puzzle has to do with identity. When one of the main characters finds out that the early story of their family’s history is a fabrication, they are thrown into psychological turmoil and shock, their sense of self seemingly obliterated in a moments revelation. It begs the question “Who are you?” One answer is, you are your history, a series of factual contexts and accumulated decisions made up to any point in time at which you exist. Another answer is, you are whatever you believe you are– if you can convince yourself you are, than you are. This question is important for a few reasons. The first is that the way our brains function on a psychological level may require us to have certain beliefs about ourselves to maintain psychological integrity and thus enable us for other modes of action in the external world. We may be able to “constantly reinvent ourselves”, but only within a narrow band of experience or possibility, beyond that we are driven at a hardware level into anxiety and distress. Another reason this question is important is because it sheds light on how arbitrary our identities can be. If we can operate quite competently and confidently with a certain view of ourselves and our role in the world, even if this viewpoint is built on falsehoods, it suggests that what is important in terms of forming an identity is consistency of story, not accuracy. If someone can convince you you are the rightful king, maybe you are. If you come from a noble family but you’re told you’re a lout, maybe you will be. Where does one find “self” in all of this?

Related to this puzzle is parental relationships and the question, “Do you really want to know everything about your parents?” Each one of us is born into a world our parents have already been living for some time. We don’t know all the choices and ideas they had prior to our arrival and often we receive a filtered list of such information sporadically throughout our lives. We don’t have the ability to query our parents’ true thinking at any given moment and without becoming paranoid and running background checks or doing some sleuthing on them, we’re mostly in a position to accept what they tell us about themselves unless we receive some kind of alarmingly contradictory information that would lead us to question it. Similar to finding out your life might have been a lie, do we want to know who our parents really are? We presume they share the good about themselves with us, do we really want to hear about more of their foibles?

The second puzzle is about intergenerational wealth building. The narrative focuses on Singaporean Chinese families of stupendous wealth. Most of this wealth seems to be owned and controlled by surviving matriarchs whose heyday was the 1930s and 1940s (Gen1). The descendants (Gen2) and their children (Gen 3) appear to be idlers. Sure, some of them have “jobs” and other preoccupations, but none of them have to work and none seem to be contributing anything productive to the family wealth, which appears to be managed professionally by outsiders.

Why don’t rich families prepare future generations to manage their wealth responsibly? When the matriarch dies, what will keep the professional managers loyal, and what will give the surviving descendants the ability to manage these obligations without undue risk? Money is clearly important to these families, as they could give it away or have less of it but they don’t. But there doesn’t appear to be a meaningful attempt to teach the succeeding generations how to contribute to its growth and management.

Related to this is the question of what is the value of fantastic wealth? Although they think of themselves quite highly, the families depicted don’t seem to be better at much of anything that doesn’t involve buying things. In terms of character they have the same flaws and struggles as everyone else. If this wealth can’t make you a better person, or, put another way, you don’t use it to enable greater self-actualization, of what use is it? Ironically, wealth in this story is depicted as not creating conditions by which those who possess it can elevate themselves, but simultaneously it explores the ways wealth changes a person in terms of tastes and behaviors. Here we see not how a person’s values change, but the ways in which their ability to express those values do. If you don’t use it to become a better version of yourself, and you don’t learn how to manage and control it, what logical benefits does wealth offer you?

The final puzzle of the story is the puzzle of permanent capital. As none of the major characters and their families seem to contribute to the generation of their wealth, and none seem capable of doing so, where the wealth comes from and how it manages to persist, especially as it is being consumed at such enormous rates, is a bit of a mystery. Of course, in this story we can only see the families whose wealth has persisted across multiple generations despite all of the above-mentioned conditions and despite the changes in social and economic circumstances over decades. What we can not see are the families whose wealth ran aground over this period, because they won’t factor into a narrative about those who have great wealth except as a tale of warning which never seems to be told. It is amateurish and perhaps speaks to the intelligence or values of the intended reader but the author never provides even a small hint as to where the wealth comes from (oh sure, some new money families introduced here and there are the Such and Suchs of plastics, or the So and Sos of tech).

Though friends with government officials and even extant royalty, the primary families are disclaimed as not being of purely aristocratic extraction or otherwise connected directly to a government-based wealth extraction mechanism. But from where else could such voluminous and seemingly interminable wealth emanate from, especially without influence or concern of the family? If such a source exists in the market (a contradiction in terms at the very least), how is it undiscovered by other market participants and thus immune to competitive factors? How is it financed?

In studying great exceptions there is an honest temptation to find some kind of exploitable rule. But I think it’s ultimately a fool’s errand, because you’re essentially looking at a highly improbable stack of luck and trying to figure out how to emulate something that is amazing that it even exists at all.

Review – Before The Dawn

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors

by Nicholas Wade, published 2006

Evolution and history are not two distinct processes, with one following another like the change between royal dynasties. Rather, evolution and history overlap, with the historical period being overlaid on a still continuing process of evolutionary change. (pg. 272)

Something I always used to wonder about when reading history was the recurring theme of barbarian invasions of “civilized” societies striking from the frontiers. Why were there separate civilized and barbarian populations? And where did all these barbarians keep coming from, given that the explanation invariably given for their invasion was that they themselves were being invaded/pressured by other barbarians on their frontier? (Was it barbarians all the way down?) I purchased Wade’s “Before the Dawn” to try to better understand the debate about “race” — which is one chapter of twelve in the book — and ended up with a much better understanding of this perennial personal historical quandary, the book having offered a framework for understanding early human history and migration patterns and the way evolution played the keyboard simultaneously.

The most descriptive word that comes to mind when I think of this book is “sweeping”, which is both its strength and its weakness. This is very much a strategic book examining large trends that took place over vast geographic expanses and long periods of time, rather than a tactical examination of the various microphenomena involved, although there’s some of that, too. Concerning itself with the evolutionary changes which led to the splitting of the human and chimpanzee genetic lines 5 million years ago, and then the ensuing genetic changes and speciation of the pre-modern human genetic lines between 5 million and 50,000 years ago and then finally sorting out the geographic expansion and social and likely genetic transformation of modern human beings from 50,000 years ago to the present, the author surveys key findings and scientific developments since Darwin’s writings that have helped to piece together the early history of humanity. And while it’s supposed to be an introduction written for the knowledgeable layman, Wade nonetheless covers so much ground, so many academic controversies, so many studies and theories and oddly-named regions and eras and behavioral developments — the world’s scientific community seems to have an unresolved dilemma when it comes to naming things — that it is sometimes hard to keep up and remain focused on the broad narrative of which these items are a part.

The book has 12 chapters, simply named, which serve as essential themes explored:

  1. Genetics & Genesis
  2. Metamorphosis
  3. First Words
  4. Eden
  5. Exodus
  6. Stasis
  7. Settlement
  8. Sociality
  9. Race
  10. Language
  11. History
  12. Evolution

It’s a testament to either the astounding volume of detail in this book, or the limits of my own cognitive abilities, or both, that having just finished this book last night after picking it up just over a week ago, I couldn’t reliably tell you which parts of the story fit in each section, so I won’t bother trying to summarize it all here. Instead, I thought I’d mention just a few pieces that I found especially interesting.

First, the “out of Africa” moment. I didn’t realize that this was not one moment, with one group of people. It happened many times with many different groups of people who, according to the historical record, went many different ways from there, some traveling around the coasts and then into the interior of Asia (and eventually outlying islands and over the land bridge to North America and South America), others migrating through Southern and Northern Europe. Wade argues that they were strong mariners due to the navigation and spread throughout the south Pacific archipelago, but why weren’t they navigating the coasts of North Africa and the Mediterranean and transiting out of Africa directly into Southern Europe? Meanwhile, numerous other pre-modern humans such as the Neanderthals (Europe) and Homo erectus (Asia) had already left Africa thousands of years before and fully populated the regions they were migrating into. But there was little discussion or exploration of how these other human species managed this, or why they might’ve been the firsts. Geologic history plays an important role here as well, and the multiple ice ages which occurred during these migration waves not only may have been drivers of evolutionary change which then led to social and migratory change, but they also dictated where various migrations could reasonably be achieved and increased the chance of tension and conflict between previous inhabitants and new arrivals in environs experiencing increased ecological scarcity.

Another important idea in the book, which for the present appears to be a hypothesis with a disputed body of evidence behind it, is that we might be able to peer deeper and more accurately into the historical record by means of the interplay between language and genetic diversification. The idea seems to be that every time a distinct genetic population splits off from an existing group, they tend to modify their language as well. Understanding where and how various language splits occurred might allow scientists to pinpoint new genetic branch timelines and vice versa, all the way back to the “original mother tongue” of the first “out of Africans”. One extremely speculative hope is that this original human language might even be reasonably reconstructed. Proto-Esperanto?

A third item I wanted to highlight isn’t interesting so much as it is entertaining, what I consider to be a bit of comical proledom. In a discussion of the relationship between last names and shared genealogy in Britain, Wade states,

Commoners acquired surnames between AD 1250 and 1350, apparently for the convenience of feudal record keepers who needed to differentiate between tenant farmers with the same first names. The surnames were not highly original. They tended to be a person’s profession (Smith, Butcher), or a patronymic (Johnson, Peterson), or derived from some landscape feature (Hill, Bush).

He goes on to give an example where it turned out that two Brits with the same last name, one a CEO and one an academic, actually did have a shared lineage originating to a common ancestor in a particular region of Northern England/Southern Scotland of whose geography the surname was descriptive, and who lived in that area according to official records. I got a chortle out of the way the elites of yore chose to humanize and differentiate amongst their tax cattle simply to aid their own tax farming, and that they didn’t bother to come up with anything more illustrious than tacking on terminology for slight changes in elevation on the land the peasants originated from, etc. It’s also interesting to think of how many people today have “commoner” last names (which group of ancestors, then, was reproductively more successful, the commoner or the elite?!) and how the market economy has allowed the sons of so many peasants to accumulate so much wealth!

A fourth item worth mentioning is the issue of “race”. It appears from this reading that “race” is a real and scientific phenomenon, though the implications of race are not well-know and are likely far different from what both “supporters” and “critics” of the concept currently think they can extrapolate from it. I’d like to learn more about race, and I think there will be more race-related scientific discoveries in the near future as this area of genetics is more thoroughly explored, but I would say I have less confidence in current race debates and their conclusions than I might have going into this book.

I’ll probably keep this one on the shelf and come back to some of the questions raised as I explore more books on the subject of genetics and evolution, pre-modern history, archaeology, economic history, etc. But I was less engaged with this book than I had hoped to be and I do hope there is a better organized, updated treatment of the subject I can read and discuss with my children in the future.

POS and cash in Hong Kong

This is just a quick observation. Most of the small eateries we went to in Hong Kong did not have an electronic POS cash register. They used a simple locked drawer, if that, with a cashier who hand tallied the receipt and then collected payment and distributed change.

Often they’d have wads of cash for making change very close to the door where seemingly anyone could make a grab and go. I’m surprised to infer that must not happen often.

You need to have decently intelligent people you can trust to do fairly menial work accurately and honestly each time. I also wonder how they reconcile their receipts for tax reporting purposes?

In the US, even small businesses and startup food locations have electronic cash registers. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone operating a business this way. It is another good example of the contrasts I saw between the overhead costs of doing business in the US versus here in Southeast Asia. While there’s certainly a wide variety of clientele and no one is running a fancy steakhouse without electronic POS, it is nonetheless fascinating how little customers expect from small scale operations in terms of aesthetic design, seating comfort and cashiering services.

The best US bank for travel in Asia? Citibank.

I opened a Citibank account when I moved to New York back in 2004. It seemed like a good option for ATM access in the city, but I came to regret my choice when I moved to Dallas and then back to California. Citi was not everywhere and was often difficult to come by– luckily I was never a big cash user, preferring to use my credit card for monthly cash management. Still, it was inconvenient and I often thought of switching to BofA or another major branch when I enviously spied these locations much closer to home and work whenever I went.

In fact, today I do most of my banking with Chase. Their bank branch expansion has been nothing short of explosive over the last few years and they’re now everywhere. In addition, they seem to have the most advanced ATMs which can read and deposit checks directly with OCR technology and an app that can also handle check deposits under $2000. I realize other banks (such as Capital One) offer similar technologies and I think maybe Citi and BofA have ATMs that are as capable now as well but my point is that Chase seems to offer the best overall package, domestically.

However, in the three Asian cities we’ve visited, Citibank has been hands down the best option.

Now, I keep a decent balance with Citi so I get their Citigold service. This means I am entitled to ATM fee reimbursement at non-Citi ATMs and I get their best forex exchange rate with no forex fees. When we traveled to South America three years ago, I pulled cash from local ATMs (I don’t remember spotting a Citi there, maybe in Santiago or BA but I don’t remember) and never had to go to a money exchange like Travelex. The rest of the time I just ran my debit card when it was an option and I got the same benefit– pay for the meal, ticket, whatever, at the best exchange rate with no fees.

In the three cities we’ve visited so far, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore, I’ve found a Citi ATM within two or three blocks of our AirBNB as well as around the city while walking. Even better, in Hong Kong and Singapore I found Citi ATMs in the baggage claim area of the terminals so I had cash for cabs, airport trams, etc. immediately upon arrival. I probably could’ve found one in Taipei as well but didn’t bother checking as we were being picked up by relatives and I planned to exchange money with them.

My Citi MasterCard debit card has been accepted anywhere the merchant offers credit card payment services, which has been just about everywhere but local food stands and some cabs.

I haven’t seen one other major US bank ATM or branch office here– no Chase, no BofA, no Wells Fargo. However, there are a TON of local/regional banks, it is actually amazing how unconsolidated the banks in Asia appear to be even with dominant local giants such as Standard Chartered and HSBC. This is something I read about in “[amazon text=Asian Godfathers&asin=0802143911]” by Joe Studwell. Asia in general is kind of overbanked because every crony capitalist wants his own bank to play financial games with his holding companies.

As I don’t have any substantial BitCoin holdings I didn’t explore how using BitCoin might work out here but my suspicion right now is that it doesn’t make it any easier or cheaper.

For a “globalized” world such as the one we live in, with so many people traveling for work and pleasure, isn’t it amazing we don’t have one, market derived currency of choice?

The Asia AirBNB host profile

Here’s a quick observation that may or may not be generalizable.

All three of our AirBNB hosts have been women. One appears to be somewhat artistic or design oriented (based on her clothing and reading materials on her shelves) but the other two appear to be masters-level students or graduates with professional careers in finance or banking.

All three, obviously, speak English and have fairly well traveled, “international” attitudes about culture and values by looking at various objects and keep sakes in their apartments. They all have TVs with satellite type cable service. They all have very modern, Ikea-like living spaces (could be selection bias on our part though).

The last two hosts have had copies of novels from the “50 shades” series on their bookshelves, along with serious business and philosophical matter likely for school.

They’re all been young, likely early to mid 30s.

By way of comparison, in South America we stayed at a hostel run by a business, a hostel run by a middle-aged couple, a BNB run by a middle aged couple, an apartment run by a late middle aged man and an apartment owned by a young man whose family are the investors. I believe the last two in Argentina were AirBNB and we mightve made the rest of the arrangements directly via the enterprises’ websites.

And we are going to stay at a young man’s AirBNB here in Singapore but found out last minute that his building owner wouldn’t renew his permission letter letting him run the AirBNB legally.

Dressing For Travel Success

Packing for this trip seemed challenging. Southeast Asia has a subtropical climate with high average temperatures and high humidity. We knew we were likely to be uncomfortable with long sleeves and pants.

However, we also knew it might rain, and that being in short sleeves and shorts might be uncomfortable in wet weather.

From the standpoint of footwear, neither of us had anything we thought would be great to walk around in a ton, or that wouldn’t look funny with shorts. For example, we both have sandals, but would those be comfortable to traipse around in for hours in big cities? But they’d work well with shorts.

Finally we wanted to have a few light cover options in case it turned out to be cooler, and also something we could dress ourselves up slightly with in case we wanted to go somewhere more civilized than a street vendor.

Despite our best efforts, I think my packing, anyway, was a failure. The critical failure has been footwear. I brought a new (brand new) pair of Sperry leather laced moccasin style shoes in brown and a black pair of leather loafer Eccos in black. My thinking was the Sperry’s would be comfortable to walk in and would have a measure of wetproof if it rained. The Eccos I thought could be useful on light walking days or times we wanted to dress up more.

The Eccos turn out to not be a great fit. They are maybe a half size too big for me which I never noticed back home because I wear them casually and don’t walk distance in them. That extra room allowed my feet to move around quite a bit and in the humid conditions in Taipei I developed a blister on my heel about ten minutes after we started walking. I haven’t worn them since as it has rained most of the time we were in Taipei and all of the time we’ve been here in HK, plus I don’t want another blister. So that was completely wasted space and a misfire from a packing standpoint.

The Sperry’s are an interesting story. I began to break them in on dog walks for three weeks before our trip. The first few days were rough, I developed blisters from the stiff leather and my soft feet which have mostly been inside socks and well worn dress shoes since last summer. But after a week my feet had toughened up, the leather broke in slightly and they became comfortable to dog walk in and I began developing confidence they’d be good for the trip.

For the first few days in Taipei this was the case, and they were surprisingly comfortable to wear on the 13h flight over. But once it rained, the shoes became water logged after sloshing around the streets for several hours. I figured a Sperry product would be water proof or highly water resistant but that just wasn’t the case with these moccasins. The interior sole got damp and when the exterior leather dried it stiffened up considerably. I then began developing blisters on my toes as the newly stiffened leather rubbed against my feet.

Too much detail? I haven’t even started.

Here in HK it has rained both days. Our first day here we went on a walking tour around 2pm and we were out in the rain for three hours. My shoes got totally water logged and restiffened again. Today they were still not fully dry and it rained again. In several places my feet didn’t even bother blistering, they just rubbed raw and it became painful to walk, but a quick stop for bandaids at 7-11 got me through the rest of the day. But man, coming down from the top of Hong Kong island back to our apartment 1/3 of the way up was pretty brutal!

As for clothing, the shorts and t-shirts have been okay for the temperature and humidity but I think we’ve looked very grubby and casual, not like respectful visitors. Eating out at even mildly casual+ places has been a little uncomfortable because we look like people who just wandered in off he street. I’ve used one of my pullovers ONCE and it wasnt really necessary then. The pullover hoody I haven’t used at all. My rain jacket zipup has worked well for repelling rain, but it’s also worked well to trap the heat around my body so I sweat more. Not ideal.

I haven’t figured out what the solution to any of this might be in the future. Mesh synthetic cross trainers would also get waterlogged, but they might be easier to walk miles in especially with socks. An even more light weight rain shell might have been an improvement. I’d probably bring only one pair of shoes and plan to look and feel grubby. Maybe a really light pair of pants to dress it up a little without feeling uncomfortable.

But t-shirts are going to look kind of overly casual no matter what else you wear.

I think the real tough part is being out walking around so much of the day, particularly in the rain.

The No-TV Travel Approach

When I used to travel overseas with my family, I’d often turn the TV on at the hotel while taking a break. Typically the English language TV would be CNN for that region, or the BBC. The rest of the TV would be in the local language and I usually wasn’t interested in watching it even out of curiosity. Having no mobile phone or wifi internet service, I got a uniquely local entertainment sensation when watching the TV.

On this trip, despite having a TV with cable at each of our AirBNBs so far, we have not turned on the TV and likely will not. We have been avidly using wifi, in our place and about town when available.

The lack of British-voiced media personalities discussing “world news” and the easy accessibility of websites, email and other data I’d follow back home has contributed to a unique sense of place and a different kind of culture shock, or lack thereof.

Why Do We Travel? 2

I still don’t know the answer but I think I’m slowly getting closer. But I had this thought and I think it’s relevant.

On our walking tour yesterday afternoon we met a couple from Chicago who had recently gotten married. The wife is ethnically Chinese and is a medical resident. The husband was ethnically Indian and works for PwC as a consultant in the healthcare industry. They had come to this part of the world on their honeymoon. It sounds like they were married in India and went to Hong Kong and now Taipei on their honeymoon. A Taiwanese friend who was in the wedding party was accompanying them on the tour (and helped my wife buy me an umbrella when it started to rain, apparently Western tourists sometimes pay different prices, an interesting form of price discrimination).

The husband described his 8 years so far in the consulting world as not terribly enjoyable. His routine is to leave home on a plane on Monday morning and come back Thursday evening. He is compensated well, but doesn’t find the work satisfying.

Now, if he essentially travels for a living, why does he travel on his honeymoon?

Here is another question: he and his wife are clearly highly intelligent and well educated people, how come with all his intelligence he can’t figure out a way to earn an income he’s satisfied with, in a manner that he enjoys and finds fulfilling?

This is not a criticism by the way! I am not about to claim I’ve necessarily figured that out myself, if it even can be figured out. I have a feeling there’s a flaw in the premise of the question itself.

I’ve never met a consultant who likes his work. So why do they do it? And why do I always meet them when I’m traveling?

What The Taipeiese Do With Bagels

Breakfast is not a well developed concept in Taipei. If breakfast is eaten at all, it is typically something savory and for many involves takeout of potstickers, bao and soymilk congee.

We arrived early to Good Cho’s on a Saturday morning, 730am. Due to jet lag we had been up since 5am. They didn’t open until 9am. So we walked around the neighborhood, grabbed fresh guava from a street market and sat and blogged in the plaza outside a tall building by Taipei 101 before returning still 10 minutes early. Eventually we got inside and found ourselves in an artsy, creative space unlike most we’ve encountered so far.

The menu was simple and, as we’ve found to be the case at many restaurants with a more Western approach to decor and service, the prices were significantly higher and came with a mandatory 10% service charge.

While there is some sticker shock going from a 165NTD (about $5.50) breakfast for two like this morning’s take away from the soymilk shop and stepping up to a 770NTD meal for two (about $20), it’s still cheap when you put it into comparison with breakfast at home, where an entre and coffee plus tax and tip can easily cost $15+ per person. Which is why we don’t eat out that much, besides the fact that we think we make better food than what we can find at most eateries.

So this is what the creative restauranteurs in Taipei do with their bagels. And it was a great bagel, with a tasty black coffee.

Why Do We Travel?

Why do we travel?

Meeting other travelers, it’s often the first thing you ask, and are asked in return.

In many cases, travel fulfills that common desire to investigate whether the grass is greener, what some term “wanderlust” but which is really no more glorious than being convinced despite the evidence that if you just search a bit further and farther you’ll eventually find a place that is significantly better for you than where you are, if it isn’t perfection itself.

For others it is to gain a new perspective on people, places, history or culture. What is the food like and why do people make it like that? How are people dressed and what makes that customary or comfortable? How do people behave toward one another in their community and why? How do they get around and where do they go? Sometimes these become notches on the travel belt– “Oh I’ve been there, here and over there… I’m very worldly and can appreciate others in a way you’d only dream of if that was the kind of thing you yearned for for some reason.” The really psychotic ones almost make it like a race, “I’ve been traveling for X months and I’ve seen Y places, I’m way ahead of you on the quest to see it all and make myself comparatively more enlightened.”

We’ve only been at this for a few days on this trip but already we’ve been asked several times, and we’ve asked several times as well. This would include ourselves, I’ve been wondering, why are we traveling, and to these places in particular?

One gentleman we met on tour yesterday has been traveling, on his own, throughout southeast Asia for the better part of a year and change. He’s middle aged and a friendly fellow but the fact that he is alone and doing this relatively late in life makes you wonder if he’s looking for something, or simply lost. Why did he come here?

On our second tour last night we met several more travelers, all younger, female and apparently traveling on their own. They were each on an itinerary similar to ours– several weeks to a month total, visiting major developed economy cities, college educated (world travel doesn’t seem to be for the uneducated these days, which seems strange) and each seemed to have some personal heritage, identity or family connection to the region. But again, in the short time we met I couldn’t tell, why were they here?

It isn’t enough to simply ask the question. It is too philosophical and most people will reply with something shallow and obnoxious “to eat the food” or “to learn more about history”.

So, why do we travel? And why did we travel here?

I’m still formulating my thoughts on this, but I will attempt a response in the near future.

In the meantime, here is a picture of a handmade candle we found at a local designer mall. The young saleswoman told me it was called the “melting baby head”. I almost bought one but I think a picture will suffice and I didn’t feel like lugging it around the rest of the trip.