December 28, 2014

Arnab's Year in Cities, 2014

As the drums of Bosingak ushered in the new year in the heart of Seoul, my time in Korea came to an end. I spent the first third of the year wandering through lands both familiar (India and Thailand) and slightly less familiar (Philippines and Sri Lanka).

I abruptly shifted gears from the high density, historically rich societies of Asia to vast stretches of asphalt and wide open spaces where nature and burger outlets take the spotlight for the latter half of the year. I returned to North America after almost a decade away, gradually exploring the west coast of the United States bit by bit from my new home base of San Francisco.

Statistically speaking it was almost a mirror image of 2013, as I stayed overnight in 31 different cities or towns in 7 countries. I also made some interesting day trips which are unaccounted for on this list - stopping over to enjoy the company of some old friends and some delicious Hai Di Lao hotpot in Shanghai, exploring the ruins of Ayodhya, whale watching in Vancouver Island after taking a seaplane to Victoria, and entering Mexico by foot at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing.

The 2014 List

  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Manila, Philippines
  • El Nido, Philippines
  • Puerto Princesa, Philippines
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Kolkata, India
  • Varanasi, India
  • Jaipur, India
  • Jodhpur, India
  • Udaipur, India
  • New Delhi, India
  • Kaziranga, India
  • Shillong, India
  • Mumbai, India
  • Pune, India
  • Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Negombo, Sri Lanka
  • Dalhousie, Sri Lanka
  • Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Monterrey, USA
  • Houston, USA
  • Lake Tahoe, USA
  • San Diego, USA
  • Las Vegas, USA
  • Willits, USA
  • Chicago, USA
  • Years past


    You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be.
    ― Wayne W. Dyer


    I asked an ex-colleague in Korea if he was a sycophant after observing how his behaviour changed whenever he was taking orders from his boss. He did not know what the term meant. I explained that it was someone who continuously sucks up to the person that they want to impress.

    He considered my explanation for a moment and then replied "You…  you... you are cutie girls sycophants!".

    Radish and Hoe

    In Beijing, my colleague and I were returning to the office after lunch. A girl passed by in front of us. Her boyfriend, obediently carrying her purse, followed a few steps behind. She was not aesthetically pleasing, causing my non-judgmental eyes to widen. "Even she has a boyfriend!" I exclaimed. "Every radish has a hoe" explained my coworker, unperturbed by the whole affair.

    For every 100 girls born in China today there are around 120 baby boys born. It is estimated that there is a surplus of more than 33 million men in the mating market. With so many young men and so few women, the situation I encountered is not altogether unsurprising.

    A desire for a son is common in societies across the world. In Korea, sons are expected to carry on the family names - Kim, Park, and Lee. China is no different. This preference combined with limitations on how many babies can be popped out in major cities has led to a severe shortage of the gamete producers in recent decades. The sex ratio imbalance means prospective husbands must possess either higher and higher net worths or lower and lower standards if they wish to be betrothed, while aspiring wives have the pick of a rather unimpressive litter.