Category Archives: Best of

Best of 2017 (in photos)

Previous years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  2012201320142015, and 2016.

The Best Of 2017

Saddle Mountain

This year was spent pretty evenly split between South Korea and the US, though I did little traveling other than that. I was able to get to beautiful places like the redwoods and the coast and Seoraksan and Mt. St. helens.

This was a year of enjoying friends and family and local nature. Next year, perhaps, will be a  bit more adventurous.  (I also need to get a better camera–currently using my 2013 phone and it isn’t exactly killing it on the photo front.)

January 2017


January – One reason I love Seoul is for it’s habit of constantly rewards aimless wanders with the unexpected. On this snowy winter day, nahid and I found a giant trash pile on top of a mountain (next to an exercise area and a path to the peak, naturally). What’s the story here? Who knows!

February 2017

feb 17

February – Despite visiting quite a few temples (& working at Hwagyesa for a year) and frequently going to Insadong, I was late to discover Jogyesa. Which was pretty dumb of me. It’s got a lot going for it and is great to wander through during all four seasons.

March 2017

mar 17

March – In March I came back to the US. Korea is of course known for  벚꽃 (beotkkot, cherry blossom) but spring in Portland is no slouch either. This walk on the Willamette, with my sister and brother, was very reminiscent of visiting Yeoido in Seoul only with a fraction of the crowds.

April 2017

april 17 2

may 17 6April – A double picture month! The first one was taken on the Long Beach peninsula in Washington, where we did our best to recreate a photo from the summer of 1995.

I had to include that. But the trio of tents was a celebration of another anniversary–my 30th birthday hike with Craig and Garrett along Lake Chelan. We hoped to recreate that with another decent hike but logistically couldn’t. Instead we camped between the redwoods and the beach, which wasn’t too bad a compromise.

May 2017


May – Already summer in Korea, I took several long walks.  This picture is from a long walk with my friend Luka, where we began at Olympic Park and then walked 20k along the river.

June 2017

june 17 2

JuneHwaseong Fortress is not all there is in Suwon, but it’s always been my favorite part of it. This time I went to meet my friend Praveen. We walked around the fortress walls before eating Indian and then heading to his place for a board game.

July 2017

july 17 s1

July I have been to Seoraksan many times and it’s long been my favorite place in Korea. This trip, with Nahid, Praveen, John and Alison (the latter three who had never been before) was during the soggy monsoon season. Very wet, yes, but the fewest people I’ve ever seen there as well.

August 2017

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August– Back in Portland just in time for the Soapbox derby. You can’t help but like the creative DIY that leads to entries like the Catbus.

September 2017

sep 17

September – Staying on Tabor,  I snapped this view of the reservoir on a walk with my brother. We met my sister at Quarterworld after and played some epic Mario Kart.

October 2017

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October – Sauvie Island is a gloomy place in the mist and I like that these scattered pumpkins have a ghostly feel to them.

November 2017

nov 17

November – Sure, it’s just a traffic cone in an over-ambitious mud puddle. But a) I was on my way to hang with friends Craig and Martina at Orycon and b) this part of the month is that perfect liminal state between fall and winter.

December 2017

Dec 17

December – Walking to meet my sister and mom at the Portland Night Market, I was able to get this shot of the wintry sunset.




Best of 2016 in pictures

Just like last year, I spent almost the entire year in South Korea, with a short trip to Japan constituting my only traveling. (And other than a trip to Seoraksan in the spring, I haven’t even traveled around Korea much this year; my weekends are filled with writing, playing RPGs, and writing.)

If 2015 got me back on my feet, 2016 sat me down at the table and fattened me up. It’s been a great year of urban wanders and veggie cooking. I’m still trying to figure out what’s in store for 2017, but it seems like it should have a bit more travels.

Anyway, here’s a picture from each month for the year.

January 2016


January – The Frozen Wasteland of Yeoido

January – Yeoido gets quite a few visitors for the fall leaves, a lot more for the spring cherry blossoms, and even more in summer time for riverside picnics. Winter is, by contrast, empty and silent. Which is perfect for stark, chilly winter strolls.

February 2016


February – Ice Turtle

February – For Sollal (Lunar New Year) I went on a writer’s retreat at a little area outside Seoul called Petite France. Petit France is kind of an underwhelming mini-theme park (with no rides) dedicated to The Little Prince.

After the conference, Nahid and I wandered around the area and climbed a small hill, where we discovered this frozen turtle fountain which was just above an ice festival.

March 2016


March – Best Cake Ever!

March – Continuing the tradition of a birthday hike, a small group of friends took a quick jaunt up Namsan. Once there we ate some incredible Cookie Cream Pumpkin Spice cake from Plant before heading back into Itaewon and HBC for some live music. Good birthday!

April 2016


April – Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

April – This spring went by quicker than ever, but a visit down to a friend in Suwon meant a day of walking around the fortress walls followed by an immense feast of Indian food and a round of Game of Thrones the board game. You can’t really see in this picture, but the trees were just bursting with blossoms. I’ve been to Suwon several times but this was the most beautiful of all.

May 2016


May – Seoraksan’s Buddha

May saw my only trip out of Seoul, a return to my favorite part of Korea. We hiked up to Ulsanbawi, which was everything you could ask for: foggy, stark, dramatic, and squirrel-infested. But it was this friendly Buddha on the way up that really encapsulates the Korean mountainside.

June 2016


June – Cozy vegan restaurant nestled in Insadong

June – With the dearth of vegan restaurants in Seoul, the discovery of Ose Gye Hyang was a beacon in the wilderness. It’s not a Loving Hut, but it’s owned by the vegetarian food company Vegifood that supplied Loving Huts with their supplies. I’ve been back a few times and for my money it’s the best vegan place in Seoul. (Plant is awesome but doesn’t really do Korean food).

July 2016


July – Abandoned Bball Court in Children’s Grand Court.

July was hot as balls, and yet Nahid and I spent the weekends wandering far from the safe confines of aircon. One day led us, loaded with books and portable water coloring kits, (respectively) to Seoul Children’s Grand Park we spent a sweaty few hours wandering around and listening to the chorus of cicadas before sitting down to read and paint (respectively.) The discovery of this post-apocalyptic basketball court was just a bonus on our way out.

August 2016


August- Toyoma Restored Castle

July – I’ve blogged about my disappointment with my big summertime trip to Japan, but the more time that goes by, the better the trip gets in retrospect. I guess that’s how it always works. Anyway, wandering around Toyoma was great practice in exploring a place I had no expectations of.

September 2016


September – Mini Hike in the hills behind Insadong

September – Insadong keeps on popping up as my favorite place, month after month and year after year. It must be my favorite part of Korea, or at least one of them. This little hike is just an amendment to the proper one but the views from here are pretty cool.

October 2016


October – Olympic Park and Lotte Tower

October was hot and autumn never really arrived. On the night before Halloween, I took Nahid to Olympic Park where I read “Shadows Over Innsmouth” to her as it slowly got darker and colder. Spooky! The Lotte Tower is doomed to collapse in ruin and tragedy, but for now it looks pretty cool.

November 2016


November – Forest Temple

November – Fall went by oh-so-quickly this year, though I got out looking for leaves every weekend. This photo from a hill behind my house is one of my favorite views of Seoul.

December 2016


December – Yeoinaru Station

December traditionally is kind of let-down in this series, but this picture was taken while we were filming a Cyberpunk short film that I wrote. A great entry for one of my best Decembers yet.

Past years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  201220132014 and 2015.

Best of 2015 in Pictures

I’ve been doing this for a while now: 2009, 2010, 2011,  20122013 and 2014 . Unlike the last couple vagabondy years, this year I spent entirely in one country (with a one weekend in Japan visa run exception). While this year didn’t have visits to Everest or the Grand Canyon, overall it was nice to get back into a groove and start saving some money again.

2015 will be characterized for me by my job at the Talking Club, by the friends I made with the Scifi Meetup group, and by weekends spent teaching English at the Buddhist temple. I juiced fresh veggies and cooked a thousand stir-fries and drank a thousand thousand smoothies and my weight in hazelnut coffee. It’s a year that got me back on my feet.

January 2015

January 2015January – I almost took a terrible job outside of Seoul but I’m so glad I didn’t. It made for a financially precarious time for a while but also gave me time for long city wanders, such as this one up to Namsan. I was listening to Animal Farm on audiobook and now this mountain and that story are forever linked in my mind.

February 2015

February 2015February was the one time I escaped Korea this year.  I went back to Fukuoka where I spent a lovely weekend full of walking and seeing new sights. This picture was taken in a small canal town about half-an-hour out of the city. It was early in the morning and raining hard and few people were around.  These hardy souls didn’t seem to mind at all though.

March 2015

March 2015Birthday hike with some of my coolest friends. They didn’t even mind when I zigged instead of zagged and we missed the place we were looking for. Not only was it a good hike, with hummus for a snack, but after we played board games and ate some fun vegan food. Good birthday!

April 2015


This hike, along Bukhansan’s Dullegil, was in early spring with the blossoms raining down along with the rain, which was also quite good at raining down. For whatever reason, I quickly entered a natural high on this hike and stayed that way for all 7 hours. It was just too nice walking up and down the mountains in the soft spring mist.

May 2015

May 2015

May weekends I walked an hour to Yeouido Island and played basketball until my legs stopped working and then walked home. This view of the 63 building was along the way. I like the juxtaposition of a field of towers with the immensely tall building.

June 2015

June 2015

In June I went to a sheep cafe! ‘Nuff said.

July 2015

July 2015City wanders in Seoul often reward with unexpected art. This wall in Sincheon is equal parts random and sweet.

August 2015

August 2015In August I took time off from the temple and went down to  Gyangju. What a nice city! Burial mounds and observatories and temples and lakes and this Unesco World Heritage Temple, Bulguksa. It was hot as blazes but a place I’d like to go back to.

September 2015


In September I went back to Insadong as part of a year long project to write a walking tour to the area. This view of the moon over the giraffes was pretty cool.

October 2015

October 2015Halloween at Everland. What more could you want?

November 2015

November 2015It was a long autumn filled with plentiful leaves but these Suyu bongo trucks really strike my fancy.

December 2015


Not a lot of pictures this month, but the first snow was pretty great. As much as I love snow, it’s almost better to see how cranky my students get. These kids don’t love snow because it’s too cold and they come bundled up to class in ski jackets and scarves and mittens.

The Best of 2014

I’ve been doing this for  2009, 2010, 2011,  2012 and 2013. How does 2014 stack up? While not without blips, it had some of the highest highs (literally).. When I look back on this year though, however, I will remember another amazing year on the road.

2014 will be characterized for me by the hospitality of so many people who took me in, cooked vegan dinners, showed me around their home towns, and just were genuinely nice. It’s a year that I’m very grateful to have had.

January 2014

Life of Pai

Life of Pai

Pai is one of my very very favorite places in the world. For me, it’s nearly a perfect town–filled with vegan cafes, surrounded by nature ( waterfalls, gorges, and hot springs) and moving at an easy pace of life. If I could move there tomorrow, I just might.

February 2014

Back to Kuala Lumpur

Back to Kuala Lumpur

February was a great month for me. I saw Ayutthaya and Sukkothai, spent some time on the resort island of Langkawi, and rediscovered Bangkok. The return to KL, where I stayed at my home away from home Agosto Inn, though, is what I’ll remember the most. KL is my favorite city in Asia and it remains a great place to wander for hours.

March 2014

The High Himalaya

The High Himalaya

The hardest hike of my life, but so incredible. 3 weeks in the Himalaya, with highlights including Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Ri, and thousands of Yak sightings.

April 2014

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

While not quite as low-tech as Burma, the Kathmandu convention does experience several power cuts a day.  It’s also great to walk out to the posh Yak & Yeti hotel, where international businessmen give the stink eye to the scroungy backpackers who trek in one weekend a year. I was lucky enough here to work with Nic Pretty Ink, who designed and delivered an Ent tattoo in less than ideal working conditions.

May 2014

The tea plantations of Bali

The tea plantations of Bali

Though I didn’t really enjoy Indonesia, there are a lot of beautiful places there. I didn’t really have a camera during this time, only a 1 megapixel phone camera. So this picture does not do the reality justice. Another thing I do love about Bali is the preponderance of Hindu temples everywhere. They’re beautiful and unlike other temples I’ve seen.

June 2014

The almighty Trolltunga

The almighty Trolltunga

My first weekend in Norway was close to midsummer. My friends and I drove to the west coast in one of the most beautiful road trips I’ve ever been on. After some stealth camping on the side of the road, we got up, mountain biked to a hiking trail, hiked to a cliff, climbed a via ferrata up the rock wall, and then made our way to the Troll tongue (long one of the places in the world I most wanted to see). Just an average weekend for the hardy Norwegians, but for me truly one of the best experiences of my life.

July 2014

Rocking at Roskilde

Rocking at Roskilde

I’ve raved about the festival already, but it was a chance conversation with a Canadian and a Dane at about 13,000 feet up in Nepal that brought me there. Not only did I see bands like the Rolling Stones, Jack White, Stevie Wonder, Outcast, and Les Claypool, but I made so many awesome new friends.

August 2014

The Streets of Stockholm

The Streets of Stockholm

Of course, I shouldn’t have even been there. My plan was to go to the UK, Ireland, and France. I even had flight tickets and places to stay.  UK Immigration had other plans though and to be honest more time in Denmark and a chance to meet with friends in Sweden was a pretty awesome backup plan.

September 2014

Autumn in Portland

Autumn in Portland

I had just been back in Portland last summer, but lacking a proper autumn for years made the pumpkin crazy time so nice. Portland is so walkable and always changing and though I don’t get to NE that much, I do enjoy that area quite a lot.

October 2014

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

A grand road trip has to culminate with the Grand Canyon right? Though I saw Zion and Vegas and the redwoods and Lassen and Shasta, the Grand Canyon was damn impressive. I wasn’t really expecting it to be so vast and incredible and I’m so lucky to have finally seen it.

November 2014

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm

A good deal of my time in the States was spent at my mom’s place in Southern Oregon, where we cooked, baked, played games, and went on lots of walks. This day, a hike with Storm the Wonderdog, was one of the best as we had chickpea salad sandwiches and dill pickle chips plus the day was so clear and beautiful.

December 2014

Olympic Park in Winter

Olympic Park in Winter

December should have been my first month on a 9 month contract in China, but I had to call an audible and ended up back in Seoul. Catching up with old friends and realizing that Seoul is sort of a second home to me–plus finally getting a real winter after years in SE Asia–made December a great month.

The Best of 2013

Though 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 were all great, 2013 was probably the best yet.  It began with one of the Great Hikes in New Zealand, and ends in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In between, one full year of backpacking, with eleven countries and most of South East Asia are accounted for.  Even more so than previous years, it was quite difficult to choose just one photo per month.  But them’s the rules, and so without further ado:

January 2013

Cruising the Milford Sound

Cruising the Milford Sound

The beginning of the month was spent touring New Zealand’s South Island.  A cruise through the Milford Sound on a cloudless day was equal parts good luck and beautiful views.

February 2013

Sunrise at Bagan

Sunrise at Bagan

February saw us traveling around Malaysia and visiting Burma.  There were far too many great moments, but sunrise in Bagan is hard to top.  Our night bus got us to town by 5 am, and a small, beleaguered horse brought us to the temples just in time to get see the sun rise.

March 2013

Happy Holi!

Happy Holi!

March was the second time I unknowingly landed in Kathmandu for Holi.  What is there to say about Kathmadu, other than it’s the maddest, greatest city we saw the entire year.

April 2013

Just a Normal Day on the Annapurna Circuit

Just a Normal Day on the Annapurna Circuit

April saw our trek through the Himalayas, where we were treated to legendary views, legendary climbs, and legendary blisters.

May 2013

Chilling at the Taj

Chilling at the Taj

When your month includes a visit to probably the most famous building in the world, it’s pretty much what you gots to go with.

June 2013

Southern Oregon Swimming

Southern Oregon Swimming

The transition from India to Orange County and Southern Oregon was a strange one, to say the least.  But spending my days swimming in the river with my family quickly became the norm–and a welcome one it was!

July 2013

Hiking Hood

Hiking Hood

Summer in Oregon is a pretty special time, and while Hood doesn’t compare to the Himalayas, I will always cherish the Cascades.  This picture was taken while hiking with a friend from Korea, after which we stopped at Los Gorditos for grubbing burritos.

August 2013

Camping at Mt. Shasta

Camping at Mt. Shasta

I returned to Thailand in August, but before that I got to go camping with my brother and mother at Mt. Shasta.  The town of Shasta was really cool, and our campsight was really spectacular.  We had a grand old time walking, swimming, playing card games, and cooking on the camp fire.

September 2013

Swimming in Laos

Swimming in Laos

September was so much fun.  It began in Southern Thailand, where we met a friend from Korea and hung out on various beaches.  Then my sister showed up and we cruised up to Laos, which quickly became very dear to all of us.  The day we biked to the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vienne and jumped from the tree for a few hours was the best of an already good couple of weeks.

October 2013

Sapa views

Sapa views

We spent most of October rushing down Vietnam.  While so much of the trip was gorgeous, Sapa was the highlight for both of us.  This was the view from our 8 dollar a night guesthouse.

November 2013

Mexican Thanksgiving

Mexican Thanksgiving

By the end of November, we rented a place in expat heaven.   It was easy to procure microbrews and stuff for an excellent vegan Mexican Thanksgiving.

December 2013

Fighting Cthulhu on Christmas

Fighting Cthulhu on Christmas

Yeah, I love board games.  So when Christmas day included a trip to the zoo, homemade palak tofu, rajma masala, chana kaddu, chapati, burmese tomato salad, that was all pretty great.  When post-dinner digestion featured vegan peanut butter chocolate pies (with oreo crust) and Cthulhu carols and a rousing game of Elder Scrolls…well, you do the math.

10 Songs for the Season

No matter what you celebrate, December is a good time to hang out with your family, do something nostalgic, play boardgames, go on walks, cook and bake and eat, and write run-on sentences apparently.

With that in mind, we’ve each come up with our Five Favorite Holiday Songs.  Enjoy!

Rachel’s list

5. Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)

Any song that includes a maggot/faggot rhyme is all right by me.

4.Adeste Fideles/O Come, All Ye Faithful (Andrea Bocelli)

One of my favourite traditional carols sung by one of my favourite classical singers. ‘Nuff said.

3.Carol of the Bells (The Nylons)

The Nylons’ whole Christmas album is pretty fantastic, but I think this one lends itself particularly well to The Nylons’ mad a capella skills.

2.Mary’s Boy Child (Boney M)

Why do I love Boney M?


That’s why.

1.Do They Know it’s Christmas (Bandaid)

I remember hearing ‘And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time,’ as a kid and being quite perplexed as to why that was something to be sad about, and I still haven’t quite figured it out. So the lyrics are a bit shite, but it’s kind of a classic. Plus, young Bono and Sting rock out so hard in the video.

Ahimsa’s list.

Looking at it now, it seems like all my favorites are from movies and specials that I watched while growing up with the family. For me, Christmas is quite a nostalgic event, but I think it was even while growing up, which doesn’t really make sense but is true.

5. Fish Men (Cthulhu Carol)

All the Cthulhu Carols are great, but this one is even more clever than the rest, and the video really puts it over the top.  The Cthulhu carols are a great indication of how the solstice/xmas/etc has become something everyone can celebrate in their own way.

4. The Closing of the Year

Okay, I still maintain that Toys is an underrated movie. Even its detractors, and there are many, usually admit that this is a sweet ass song.

3. Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Scrooged is probably my favorite holiday movie, and this end is perfect. It’s a catchy song too, and one with a message that, while a little bossy, is non-holiday specific and quite nice.

2. Holly Jolly Christmas

Rudolph was pretty formative for me, and a few songs could have ended up here (ahem, Silver and Gold for instance.) With Burl Ives, the voice of the holidays, this song is one that everyone can get behind. Even Bumbles.

1. Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)

Yeah, the religious themes are way over the top and his manky tree gets suspiciously better at the end.  Don’t care; this is far and away my favorite song of the season.

Yeti Reads: Our Ten Favorite Books of 2013

Because so much of this year has been spent traveling, we’ve had plenty of 28 hour bus and train rides that is obviously best spent reading.  And read we did.

Rachel read over 90 and I read 105 books.  We’ve each culled them down to a top five, just for you.  Note that few, if any, of these books came out in 2013; they’re just the books we read this year.

Top Five Reads of 2013 : Rachel

1. Nine Lives by William Dalrymple. Over the year, I read about five Dalrymple books and seriously considered giving every single one of them a spot on this list. He’s that good. Nine Lives won purely because it gives the broadest, most complex view of the very broad, very complex subcontinent.

2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Patrick Rothfuss has a smashing beard and a couple of equally smashing books. It’s all about magic, dragons, and demons, but the writing is awesome enough to make up for it.

3. Perdido St. Station by China Mieville. I just noticed that Perdido St. Station only has 3.96 stars on Goodreads, which pretty much just tells me that the word is a stupid, stupid place. Mieville is an intimidatingly good writer, and this is an engaging, satisfying read. Oh, and unlike Ahimsa (below), I most certainly do want to be a Mieville fanboy. Or girl.

4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. When we left New Zealand almost a year ago, my lovely mother gave us an On the Road key-chain, so I thought I’d better actually read the book. It’s a bit mad and a lot rambly, but is so completely itself that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

5. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. Oh my golly Ghosh, this book’s great. (Honestly, I can’t really remember exactly why I loved this book so much, so I just made a lame pun instead. Cool? Cool.)

Top Five Reads of 2013 : Ahimsa

Mine are in no particular order.

Unlondon by China Mieville.  It’s not that I want to be a Mieville fanboy, it’s just that he’s so damn good.  This endlessly inventive urban fantasy/YA is so head and shoulders above the competition that it’s not even fair.

The Croning by Laird Barron.  Spooky, subtle horror that actually gave me nightmares.  Barron is a craftsman who chooses each word with methodological precision, and the plot spans over 1000 years and features the scariest fairy tale character you’ll ever encounter.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.  Utopian/dystopian fiction from the 70’s slightly reminiscent of Ken Kesey and a whole host of other influences.  A classic and one with a lot of resonance.; I can’t forget a lot of the scenes in this book.

Burmese Days by George Orwell.  No secret that he’s a good writer, but is as readable as anything he had written, with memorable characters and a inexorable doom lurking a tragic Greek.

Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.  After some well-publicized delays, Lynch is back and his books are up there with Martin, Rothfuss, and Abraham as the best ongoing series in spec fic. Great writing, truly memorable characters, and an immersive world are some of the highlights in this Republic.