Saturday, June 11, 2011

World's Most Expensive City: Can You Spare A Yen?

Often vacationers wish they lived in the city that they are visiting. But it's no secret that it's one thing to visit a city and another to be a resident of one. One big difference is simply the cost of living.  Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the most expensive cities as ranked by ECM International, a global human resource firm. For comparison purposes the report shows the cost of a quick lunch, beer at a bar, kilogram of rice, a dozen eggs and movie theater ticket in each city. It should be noted that the report considers the price of food, basic goods and services but not housing, utilities or schooling.

No U.S. city even ranks in the top 30 mainly due a weakened U.S. currency. Outside of the top 30, the highest U.S. ranking belongs to New York City, New York at #44 (down from #28). The second most expensive city is Honolulu, Hawaii at #62 (down from #40).

The city ranked at the top? Here it is:

World's Most Expensive City 2011
No. 1: Tokyo
Quick lunch: $20.80
Beer at a bar: $10.56
Kilogram of rice: $9.80
Dozen eggs: $4.50
Movie theater ticket: $23.80
Although the consumer price index in the Tokyo area has been falling since 2009,according to data from Japan's statistics bureau, the city remains the world's most expensive. While housing costs are not included in this survey, ECA International estimates that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo stood at $4,352 in September.

Japan in fact has four cities ranked in the top 10 alone. Besides Tokyo: #3 Nagoya, #5 Yokohama and #9 Kobe.

Visit for the full report.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Shattered Expectations of 'Paris Syndrome'

(image credit: zenra/flickr)
An interesting report was published by about a psychiatric disorder called 'Paris Syndrome' that affects Japanese tourists after reality shatters their expectations upon visiting the city. After this culture shock a dozen or more Japanese tourists yearly want to go back home.

The report says the stress comes mostly from experiencing a bad-mannered taxi driver or a Parisian waiter who addresses a customer loudly that cannot speak fluent French. The Japanese culture is based on politeness with a society that is accommodating where the people rarely raise their voice. Being in Paris shatters their dreams. The experience becomes a nightmare causing a stressful breakdown.

The Japanese Embassy in Paris had to send four tourists back to Japan after going through the experience. Others had to be accompanied by a doctor or a nurse on the plane to assist them with getting over the shock. The embassy has a hotline available to Japanese people visiting Paris who suffer major culture shock.

The syndrome, diagnosed 20 years ago by a Japanese psychiatrist, can cause the hallucinations, feelings of persecution and anxiety. The disorder can be experienced by people from other visiting countries but the Japanese are the common people who fall victim. Another report indicates the same thing does not happen when visiting New York because the expectation there is vastly different as fast-paced and tough so visitors are psychologically prepared compared to romantic images of Paris.

(image credit: andreasnilsson1976/flickr)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The 25 Most Photographed Cities & Their Landmarks

Empire State Building
(all images from; credit: Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)
It was interesting to find out what researchers at Cornell found after analyzing over 35 million Flickr photos. Below is a ranking of the most photographed cities and the most photographed landmark within that city. Most of the usual suspects are here but some are rather surprising. Links to each attraction is included in the ranking below.

Visit for the full article. Tips are also featured from their photo editors for "breaking the mold" from the standard shots of each landmark. For example for number one ranked New York City, article reports that standard shot of the Empire State Building is a view from the street below. The tip: Broaden your perspective. By photographing an expected sight from an unexpected place can add a lot to your photo. Head 16 blocks north and up 70 floors to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in Rockefeller Center, where you'll get the best view of the Empire State Building -- along with a 360-degree panorama view of the city.

1) New York City, New York, USA (Empire State Building)
2) London, England (Trafalgar Square)
3) San Francisco, California, USA (Union Square)
4) Paris, France (Eiffel Tower)
5) Los Angeles, California, USA (Hollywood Walk of Fame)

Cloud Gate Sculpture (credit: Kramer/flickr)
6) Chicago, Illinois, USA (Cloud Gate Sculpture)
7) Washington, DC, USA (Lincoln Memorial)
8) Seattle, Washington, USA (Space Needle)
9) Rome, Italy (Colosseum)
10) Amsterdam, Netherlands (Dam Square)

Fenway Park (image: Jerry Driend/Getty)
11) Boston, Massachusetts (Fenway Park)
12) Barcelona, Spain (Sagrada Familia)
13) San Diego, California, USA (Balboa Park)
14) Berlin, Germany (Brandenburg Gate)
15) Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (Paris Las Vegas Hotel)

Duomo (image: Alycia Rockey)
16) Florence, Italy (Duomo - Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)
17) Toronto, Ontario, Canada (CN Tower)
18) Milan, Italy (Duomo di Milano)
19) Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Granville Island)
20) Madrid, Spain (Plaza Mayor)

Piazza San Marco (image: turinboy/flickr)
21) Venice, Italy (Piazza San Marco)
22) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (Independence Hall)
23) Austin, Texas, USA (Capitol Building)
24) Dublin, Ireland (O'Connell Street and The Spire of Dublin)
25) Portland, Oregon, USA (Pioneer Courthouse Square)

Pioneer Courthouse Square (image: Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hank's Haute Dogs: Chicago, Chorizo & More

Kakaako location (image credit: leyliagray/flickr)
When I first visited Hank's Haute Dogs in the Kakaako area of Honolulu to have the Chorizo Dog I was hooked. For me visiting Hank's is like a special event. At six or more dollars for one of the specialty dogs, it's a habit that can become expensive so I limit my visits. This weekend my appetite was for the Chicago Dog with all the classic toppings.

For first time visitors I recommend to start with the Chicago Dog ($4.95) topped with yellow mustard, raw onions, neon green relish; tomato, dill pickle, celery salt and hot peppers. You can have it with all the toppings or a combination. Otherwise my other favorites are the Chorizo ($5.50) grilled with brown mustard, grilled onion and cilantro; and the Andouille ($5.50) grilled, spicy with onions and Cajun spiced mustard. Each of these are delicious to the last bite. The only menu item I was disappointed with is the Fat Boy ($5.95). It's wrapped in bacon and deep fried which I found overcooked. I really love bacon so my expectations were really high.

Above: Chicago Dog. Below: Fresh Ginger Soda & Onion Rings.

On each day of the week Hank's offers an unusual dog not part of its everyday menu. The schedule is advertised as follows: Italian Beef Sandwich ($6.95) on Mondays; Alligator Andouille ($8.30) on Tuesdays; weekly specials such on Wednesdays; Buffalo Brat ($7.50) on Thursdays; Lobster Sausage ($10.50) on Fridays; Duck & Foie Gras Sausage ($9.50) on Saturdays; and the Kobe Dog ($8.50) on Sundays. All the dogs are made to order so expect a short wait depending on the crowd.

Add a side of onion rings dipped in panko batter ($3.75) or twice-cooked fries ($2.75-$3.95) with a root beer and it is a satisfying meal. For you vegetarians there is the No Dog ($3.75) comprised of avocado, tomato, onion, cucumber, Chinese parsley, spicy chipotle may and cheddar. Today I added a Fresh Ginger Soda ($3.25) from short list of tropical cocktails. It has that ginger 'bite' lacking from ginger ale soft drinks.

The eatery has free parking in the lot behind only Sundays and the limited street parking is metered. Visit the Kakaako location as the Waikiki location's menu is limited. The Kakaako location is open Mon-Fri 10am-4pm; Sat & Sun 11am-5pm. There is very limited seating inside and outside of Hank's. Otherwise grab your meal to go and head over to nearby Kakaako Waterfront Park. But hurry you definitely want to consume your meal while it's hot.

Visit for more information. Hank's Haute Dogs is featured in an episode of the Food Channel's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". Click HERE to view the segment.

Kakaako location interior (image credit: monajc/flickr)

Kakaako Makai Gateway Park: A Hangar for 800 Shirts

Upon leaving Kaakako Waterfront Park, I took a pause at the unusual display of hundreds of t-shirts flapping in the wind in the corridor called Kakaako Gateway Park. I learned it was an exhibit for Aloha Art Week in what the organizers hope becomes an annual exhibition. For 23 years, the same group has organized a similar event in Japan. The eventual sale of the shirts online benefits the recovery of Japan from March's earthquake and tsunami.

Also for families who want to make a day out of the area, the Hawaii Children's Discover Center (pictured below) is located steps from either either Kakaako parks. Strictly an interactive museum for the young or young at heart. 

The six-acre Kakaako Gateway Park serves two purposes ultimately. On what was formerly two city blocks of industrial buildings, it now is the entryway and extension to the Waterfront Park. As a flat and level lawn it is a contrast to the the rolling landscape of the waterfront park and is more flexible to host outdoor special events and exhibitions. 

Take a look at the park rules below. What are other objects that puncture the ground?

Kakaako Waterfront Park (Part 2): Points of Interest

See part one for the description and other information about Kakaako Waterfront Park and additional photographs.

Views of Diamond Head and Ala Moana Beach from Kakaako Waterfront Park


Ehime Maru Memorial

From the Ehime Maru Memorial inscription: At 1:43pm on February 9, 2001 about 10 miles south of Oahu, Hawaii, the Ehime Maru, the fishing training vessel of Ehime Prefectured Uwajima Fisheries High School in Japan sank after a collision with the U.S. Navy Submarine, USS Greeneville. Four students, two teachers and three crew members perished in the accident.

This memorial with nine links of the anchor chain and the actual anchor from the Ehime Maru, honors the nine precious lives lost and serves as a place where their souls are remembered. This Memorial encourages safety and peace on the seas throughout the world provides an educational experience for the youth, and seeks to develop and strengthen the friendship between Ehime Prefecture and Hawaii and the overall relationship between Japan and the United States.

Point Panic

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Victim Memorial
Dedicated to those tragically killed or injured by impaired driving or other violent crime and to their families and friends whose lives are forever changed (from the plaque that fronts the memorial). 

Kakaako Waterfront Park (Part 1): Promenade & Park

Note: This post is separated into two parts. Visit part two for additional photographs.

A craving for Hank's Haute Dogs lead to a Saturday afternoon at Kakaako Waterfront Park. With Hank's packed with an early lunch crowd, I drove to the park a couple of blocks away to enjoy the eatery's Chicago Dog. More about Hank's later. Surprisingly uncrowded, the park provided a quiet respite from busy Honolulu.

At over 30 acres, the park lacks a sandy beach and this probably explains the smaller weekend crowds compared to nearby Ala Moana Beach. Visiting the park today it's difficult to imagine that twenty years ago this site was a massive landfill. Officially opened in 1992, Kakaako Waterfront Park is a rolling landscape with a 20-foot wide promenade stretching along the entire length of the park's ocean side.

The park includes a community amphitheater where Daughtry played a concert last fall, the Ehime Maru Memorial and water access to Point Panic, a popular spot for surfers and board riders. A central mound provides an ideal photographic point and 360-degree panoramic view.

The completion of the Kakaako Makai Gateway Park along Ala Moana Boulevard serves as a proper entry to the waterfront park. There is a free parking lot and metered stalls along side streets.

The park is located between Downtown Honolulu and the Ala Moana/Waikiki area. Park hours is 6am-10pm daily. The Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), created by the State of Hawaii legislature in 1976 to revitalize urban areas of the state, manages the park. Visit to more info about the park, permit information and the HCDA. Click HERE for the park fact sheet.

See part 2 of this post for additional photographs.

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