Review: Looking Back Photo Exhibit Reception @ the Tibet House Friday, Jan. 15

Event: Tibet House presented “Looking Back” a photo exhibit of Tibet by legendary photographer Jaroslav Poncar.

Jaroslav Poncar chats with Spirikal

Jaroslav Poncar chats with Spirikal

Spirikal’s bottom line:  It was a wonderful reception, learning about photographer Jaroslav Poncar’s perilous journey to capture the breath-taking Tibetan landscapes and sacred temples. We learned with great sadness that many of these monestaries and monuments featured in the exhibit are no more.

One of my favorite photos. It was his first picture he took of Tibet.

One of my favorite photos, which is one of the first he took when he arrived in Tibet.

Review: This was a new experience because I had never been to the Tibet House before. It’s the most unassuming place you could imagine because it looked tiny from the outside.

The Tardis effect. The place is much bigger on the inside.

The Tardis effect. The place is much bigger on the inside.

In fact, I almost walked right past it; however, once upstairs, I realized the Tibet House occupies the entire second floor with an amazing gallery space filled with paintings and books in the first hall, and then the narrow corridor led me to a large room with Poncar’s work lining the walls.


As far as the hospitality goes, I was glad to see that they offered guests a spread of snacks and white wine, although I don’t particularly fancy Californian Chardonnay. Oh well, I grabbed a glass and mingled with event-goers.


The crowd was a mixed bunch. Of course, you had the spriritual, aged-hippies, but there were several artists, entrepreneurs and a lot of young professionals who love art.


Interestingly, many of the guests turned up because they were on the mailing list, and the Tibet House frequently hosts events open to the public, including meditation services. A bit beyond me, but what ever floats your boat I suppose.

Poncar's Soviet-era camera

Poncar’s Soviet-era camera

Poncar is an amazing photographer. Originally from the former Czechoslovakia, he came to India, Nepal and finally Tibet armed with a Soviet-made camera.


The journey was a difficult one, and he overcame enormous setbacks to capture these images.


There were some powerful images of Tibetan life few people are allowed to see because of the Beijing government which sadly has destroyed many of the monestaries and temples featured in the photos, as part of its campaign to erradicate ‘anti-party’ elements. If you want to see his full collection on Tibet, click here.


As the reception came to an end, I headed out for some sushi around the corner with some new chums and another glass of wine, with the images of Tibet still swimming in my head. I’ll definitely come back soon.




Review: New York Times Travel Show @ The Jacob Javits Center Jan 9, 2016

Event: The 2016 NYT annual travel show & expo at the Jacob Javits Center, New York

Italy - one glass of wine at a time

Italy – one glass of wine at a time with these ladies. The Roman Guy Wine & Culinary tours – this looks cool!

Spirikal’s bottom line.  A lovely, yet exhausting afternoon going from booth to booth and scoping out the hottest tourist destinations and sampling delicious food from the cooking demonstrations. This one expo worth trekking to on a Saturday afternoon.

The Costa Rica team strikes a pose

The Costa Rica team strikes a pose

Review: Happily the 7 train was working that weekend, and I’d have the chance to see the new station. When I arrived at the end of the line, however, I was miffed that I still had to exit the station and walk to the Javits Center. I don’t why there wasn’t an entrance to the building, but oh well, that’s the MTA for you.

Sunning ourselves in Anguilla

Sunning ourselves in Anguilla, British West Indies

The place was incredibly crowded, and it took a few minutes to get my bearings. After a few agonizing minutes waiting to print out my pass, I joined my two friends who were snapping up brochures and getting the scoop on deals for an upcoming trip.

Toronto, with a slightly phallic looking octupus

What is that, seriously? Ripley’s Aquarium Canada, with a slightly phallic looking sharkheaded-octopus

The expo center is divided by region such as Asia, the Carribbean, Africa, Europe, South and Central America and the United States. All the food tastings and lectures were located in the back, and like last year, the cruises and airlines took the front center.

Tropical beauty at Kaua'i booth

Tropical beauty at Kaua’i booth

There were exceptions because Taiwan was located well away from the rest of Asia, and the Peoples’ Republic of China was all the way in back by the European section.

I also ran into some old friends from the Basque Country Tourism. How about a little food tasting, people? Everyone knows the Basque cuisine is among the best in Europe!!


The Basque culinary & culture pride!


Welcome to Malaysia!

Welcome to Malaysia!

Throughout the convention, travel agents and writers were busy networking and hobnobbing with the visitors.

From Tanzania. This is the best outfit by far!

Safari in Tanzania? This is the best outfit by far!

As far as the buzz went, the travel booths that put a lot of time and effort in their planning got the most attention, whether they were giving away goodies, signing people for raffles or putting on shows.

From Okinawa with love!

From Okinawa with love!

Among the most animated booths was Japan, including a delegation from Okinawa. There is something inherently pleasant about the Okinawan personality, which I discovered at another event at the Japan Society.

Okay, got all my stamps. What did I win?

Okay, got all my stamps. What did I win?

Every visitor got a hanko or stamp on a card. Visit all four sections, and you got to enter their raffle. Of course, I won nothing.

The ANA section at the Japan booth

The ANA section at the Japan booth


Accessible Japan with IACE Travel

Japan even offered a special tour option for the disabled. Goes to show how the Japanese think of everyone.

The South Korea booth seemed a bit more buzzing than last year, but interestingly some of the tours they offered also included cities in Japan. Not enough going on in their neck of the woods?

My award for the cutest guy smile

My vote for the cutest guy smile, @ South Korea table

Canada set about educating the American audience as if declaring, “Okay, this is Canada! Not the U.S.!”

"OK, before we start. Canada is not the US. Any questions?"

“OK, before we start. Canada is not the U.S. Any questions?”

Indonesia also got my vote for the most enthusiatic team on the planet, the ridiculously adorable gals posed for photos with the attendees.

Aren't they cute!

Aren’t they cute!

Antigua, Bahamas and much of the West Indies offered guests chairs to lounge about it with breath-taking backdrops of the Carribbean beaches. I could have gone their already.

A cupcake and lovely smile from Antigua

A cupcake and lovely smile from Antigua

There were loads of free goodies including cupcakes from the Antingua and Taiwan serving bubble tea, which wasn’t really my cup of tea. Get it?

Spirikal discovers he doesn't like bubble tea

“Not my cuppa tea”  Spirikal discovers he doesn’t like bubble tea.

The chewy, gelatinous balls with a cold, type-two-dibetes-sweet liquid didn’t agree with my palette unfortunately. Nevertheless, the booth gets serious for the amount of effort and entertainment, which including the Taiwanese dance troop I had seen perform at other events.

Taiwan represent!

Taiwan represent!

Dance with me!

Dance with me!

There were, however, some stands like poor old Sri Lanka that stood empty. Probably should have put more money it. If you’re going to generate interest, then you’ve make an effort. Apparently no one gave them the memo.

Sri Lanka: Where did everybody go?

Sri Lanka: Where did everybody go?

For some places, their presence at the convention is growing. Cuba, which only had had one table last year, had three different tour booths touting cigars and rum.

Fancy Cuban cigars, rum or healthcare?

Fancy Cuban cigars, rum or, er healthcare? Marazul Travel Tour

Interestly, to capitalize on America’s expensive but limited health care system, the Cuban tourist agencies where passing out health tour brochures to the everyone. So if you’re looking for quality but inexpensive medical care, then Cuba might be worth a second glance.

One of my colleagues said that healthcare might be its best growing industry following the lift on travel restrictions for Americans. Remember that you must join a tour like Marazul in order to travel to Cuba. So don’t get all Rick Steeves just yet.

Although France wasn’t there, it’s outer departments were such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. If you’re planning to go to either these places, Norwegian Airlines is offering one way tickets startings at $79.

Un peu de paradis en Guadeloupe!

Un peu de paradis en Guadeloupe!

India had several kinds of agents and promoters including Air India and even a cultural, culinary and volunteer that offers the aged Western hoppie, a different type of experience for tourists. Note that flight costs are not included in the latter’s package.

Incredible India - incredibly it took forever to get that guy to smile

Give us a smile, big man? Team India strikes a pose.

The cooking demonstrations in the back included: Chef Riccardo Orfino from Eataly doing his paccheri with clams and broccoli rabe pesto. It was good, but need a bit more chili. Anyway, I got the recipe so I’ll follow up with some cookery, but that’s for another story.


Team Eataly with Chef Riccardo Orfino – Gosh he’s handsome, little bastard.


Fresh tomatos stuffed with herbes and garlic. Fantastic!

Healthy travel demo. Fresh tomatos stuffed with herbes and garlic. Fantastic!


Spirikal meets the beautiful Cynthia Sass.

Spirikal meets one of the food writers.


"My macaroni is this biiiiig!"

“My macaroni is this biiiiig!” Riccardo Orfino



Review: One Step Beyond @ the Natural History Museum. Friday Jan 8, 2016

Event: One Step Beyond Dance Party @ the Natural History Museum (AMNH)  Fri. Jan 8, 2015 9pm-1am with DJ sets from Neon IndianAirbird and XXXChange.

Packed house. The event sold out

Packed house. The event sold out.

Spirikal’s bottom line: In short, a spectacular time with a variety of music in wonderful surroundings. I didn’t think I’d stay the whole time, but in the end, it was too good to leave.


Review: Because everyone I asked seemed to be busy, I headed alone to the Natural History Museum to check out Airbird, Neon Indian and XXXChange. For some reason, I never got or accidently deleted my confirmation E-mail – next time I’ll print it out! – so I instead showed my credit card record. Phew, that worked!

Meeting new faces

Meeting new faces

There wasn’t going on, and the music consisted of remixes of Rollingstones – which is good, but I was in the mood to hear some house. When Airbird took over, it seemed to be heading in a weird experimental direction, but to my delight he started kickin’ out some old house classic, including Stardust – which made the music sound better. Then, it was pure house. Thank god.


The lighting was truly spectacular.

Last up, Neon Indian, was interesting, but I have to confess his set wasn’t exactly my thing, but everyone kept dancing. The place was packed and the event sold out, but no real mayhem. Everyone was just having a good time.

Airbird with Neon Indian

Airbird with Neon Indian

My only negatives were relatively minor. In order to drink, you had to buy tickets at one of the kioscs next to the bar, which only two out of four were frickin’ working. Beer was $6ish and red /white wine $8.75. Needless to say that this caused a lot of traffic.

The guys in charge of the lighting

The guys in charge of the lighting

Moreover, the coatcheck was a royal pain because we queued for more than 20 min before we got to purchase our coat ticket which was another $3 – I suddenly realized why there was no additional fee on the original $25. They simply made it up with drink revenue and the vestiaire. Total damage 38 ( for three wine tickets and coatcheck). The red wine was good, but I’d have preferred a voddy cranberry or a dry sauvignon blanc.

Another irritation was a group of hapless millenial chicks in the middle of dance floor on their @$&%ing phones. In the middle of the best house moments, there they were – glued on Facebook interrupted by the occasional selfie. Best time ever! I suddenly appreciated why Mister Sundays summer dance parties strickly prohibit cellphone usage on the dancefloor. With one click, the girls descended back in the emoji abyss. I had to move away from the depressing scene.

In spite of the minor gripes, I’ll definitely go back.

One Step Beyond returns Friday,Feb. 5.



Memories of 2015

Having said ‘adieu’ to 2015 and survived my first week of 2016, I pause for a bit of reflection and wonder what I have accomplished so far with WhereNYC, a project that began six months ago.

After toying around with various ideas for months, I settled on creating a personal blog format, where I’d give more than just a list of events because there are tons of sites that already do this. I coined the term, “Metronaut” or an urban socialite who wants to explore the city.

Although it hasn’t yet exactly gone to plan, I look it as a work-in-progress, where there’s always room for improvement. I’ve gotten a bit of a following, but I hope to get more on board this year. Writing, however, has never been my strong point, having to write almost every day has forced me to confront my darkest fears.

Otafuku Okinomiyaki Talk & Tasting with Chef Morimoto @ The Japan Society

Otafuku Okinomiyaki Talk & Tasting with Chef Morimoto @ The Japan Society Jan. 2015

I can’t thank my friends and family enough for giving me the courage to put myself out there and share what I know. Any time I find a new group or organization that puts on cool stuff, I add it to the metronaut list.

Spirikal, l'ambassadeur

Spirikal, l’ambassadeur

A special shout out to my family and friends: Kaori, Rohit, my mother, Ian, Terry, Hideki, Julien, Tenzin, Michelle, Anna, Alexandra, Zo, Sonya, and Dira and anyone else I heartlessly forgot to mention. You’ve all given me tons of inspiration and support, which I’ll never forget. And of course to my readers, I send my deepest gratitude.

Edible Escape, 2014

Edible Escape, 2014

Writing this event blog has given many rewards. I’ve gotten to see so much of the city. Places that were once unfamiliar to me now have become my frequent destinations. No matter how exhausted I felt from my job or evening classes, getting out into the city was a real tonic.

Art reception at the Germain Consulate

Art reception at the Germain Consulate

I’ve gone to countless receptions, expos, meet-and-greets, shows,  tasting events and launch parties, meeting new people from different walks of life.

out of scale with the Taiwanese ambassador at the TPECC.

Out of scale with the Taiwanese ambassador at the TPECC.

Of course, these events brought me in contact with different cultures, languages, cuisines and some great booze.

with Ariane Daguin from D'Artagnan at the Best of France fest at Times Square

with Ariane Daguin from D’Artagnan at the Best of France fest at Times Square

The places I’ve discovered or I should say ‘detected’ know no bounds, social class or ethnicity. Every event, reception or meet-up has taught me something new.

The more variety of things I chose to see, brought new experiences, people and new ideas.

Some were informative, cultural and literary.


And there was some great dancing as well.

Rinsed Halloween Bash 2015, now that was fun!

Rinsed Halloween Bash 2015, now that was fun!

And somehow at these events, we socialize and sometimes become friends. However long or brief, meaningful or not, being around people gives me energy. The biggest thrill for me is just seeing everyone enjoy themselves.

Is this not the cutest couple you've seen?

Is this not the cutest couple you’ve seen?

And how about these lovely gals?

Girls'night out with wine, cheese and art.

Girls’night out with wine, cheese and art.

Being a blogger with a ridiculous pen name like Spirikal has its perks with getting the occasional press pass , although the NY Times still needs convincing of my creditials. Give it time I say.

with Julien @ The French Cheese Board

with Julien from the French Cheese Board

It did however come with some negatives. Certain events weren’t that great, albeit horribly planned while some of my friends have disappeared entirely. Nevertheless, my duty to my blog requires me to go anything that might be promising. Sometimes it didn’t work out. But with every experience, good or bad, I try to make the most of it or it’ll be time to move on to other things.

Some events were painfully lame and it showed.

Some events were too painful, even with the smiles.

But there were good ones.

Pretty in pink at the DMochelle Breast Cancer Awareness and fashion show

Pretty in pink @ the DMochelle event

Running a new and virtually unknown blog also had its drawbacks. While many of the organizers and event-goers have been generally very kind and helpful for my reviews, certain remain unmoved even suspicious of my intentions when I introduce myself. The strangest was the Harney & Sons anniversary party in SoHo when I asked the store workers if I could take some snaps of the beverages for the blog. Commodious was definitely not the word I’d have used to describe them.

Running a blog’s actually a lot more complicated than I had imagined because it’s so much more than writing. You’ve got to make it accessible by adding links, photos and organize the events’ details. Plus, using WordPress has become more of pain in the backside than beneficial because I find myself limited.

The appearance skins from WordPress are also constricted and often full of flaws. Take the calendar for example. Why the hell can’t I adjust the times for events that run after midnight? The calendar simply refuses to publish them unless the activity finish time is 11:30pm. Do we all sleep before midnight or risk turning into pumpkins afterward?

The pic's format changes depending on the phone or computer you're using.

The pic’s format changes depending on the phone or computer you’re using like this example of the Fantasia Fantasy Show.

Formatting on WordPress is also problematic because the photos appear differently on the mobile and website editions. On the computer, the photo is twisted on its side or cut off. What will the readers think if they see the featured image of just a girl’s panties? Perverted? Perhaps so, but simply ridiculous that the formatted image is so distorted. Some of the pics; however, I’ve no explanation other than sheer nudity.

Different device, different compatibilty

I’ve noticed on my Facebook page, the events appear out of order depending on the device you use, which I discovered when a friend showed me the jumbled events on the WhereNYC Facebook Page when she used her Samsung Galaxy  . So reviews I wrote back in September are mixed in with things I posted just a couple weeks ago. Why?

Social Media is an onging learning experience.

I admit that I’m not as young as I ought to be, but apart from Facebook, I’d rarely used anything else.  I’m not even sure what some of the social media sites are for – like Reddit for example. I know people read it, but I’ve no idea who nor why.

Meeting Madhur Jaffrey at the Greene Space

Meeting Madhur Jaffrey at the Greene Space

Through trial and error, I’ve gotten a bit savvier and a bit bolder on how I share. Now every preview or review I write for WhereNYC, gets transported to Google +, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Facebook, and more recently Pocket – the latter still a mystery to me!

with Fabrice Jaumon at the Bilingual Education Fair, Hunter College

with Fabrice Jaumon at the Bilingual Education Fair, Hunter College

I’ve gone through the Internet rites of passage encountering my very first troll on Reddit. The NYC fashionista subgroup on the same site also banned me after I posted a review of the Heaven & Earth swim wear fashion show @ the Empire Hotel. Was it something I wrote that irked the Nurse Ratched leader?  It seems everyone has rules, however pointless.

My writing has improved, but I still have yet to find my groove. Many rightfully say that my reviews are too long and wordy, but I never seem to have time to write a short article. “It’s a work-in-progress,” I say.

There were of course events that I chose not to write about simply because I didn’t have the time nor the energy to do so, and didn’t have enough pictures to warrant real interest beyond my own. The Savoring Gotham book launch party was great, but I was only there because of a special invite.

with Garett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery at the Savoring Gotham launch party at Oxford University Press

with Garett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery at the  at Oxford University Press

The other was the 934 Conference at the French Consulate. The discussion was interesting, but the consulate omitted the usual cocktail reception because of security concerns, following the deadly attacks on Paris in November.

French Consul Bertrand Lortholary pauses while reflecting on the Nov. 13th massacre in Paris.

A solemn moment. French Consul Bertrand Lortholary reflects on the Nov. 13th massacre in Paris.

For my new year resolution, I will make this website even better and find new adventures to share with you.  Stay tuned on my for more reviews and my first updates for 2016. Don’t forget to check my calendar for upcoming stuff. January is looking fantastic.

Thanks and god bless.