Monday, June 20, 2022

Havana restaurants on my itinerary

The travel agency deposited my check, so the Cuba trip is confirmed! I am so excited. Here are the restaurants they will be taking me to:

1. Cafe Laurent. Lonely Planet calls it a hidden gem. An unsigned fine dining restaurant inside an ugly 1950s apartment block.


2. Atelier. Stupendous wall art. Cuban food with French influence. Here is a CCTV interview from 2015:


3. Paladar Los Mercaderes. One of the most refined restaurants in Cuba.


4. Tierra. It's inside a huge art space that was once a cooking oil factory.


5. Cafe Ajiaco. This place looks fantastic. But as I'm researching this, I am realizing that most places do not have air conditioning. And I am not good with humidity. I am also going to be drinking a lot of rum-based cocktails.


6. Nazdarovie. Cuban-Soviet themed restaurant! We will be greeted by the owner, a Canadian lawyer, and he will give us a lecture on CROSS-BORDER INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES.


7. La Guarida. The final meal.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Top Gun Maverick

This is an excellent movie. The actors were filmed inside real flying F/A-18s. USA! USA!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Japan to allow exports of jets fighters and missiles to 12 countries

The countries are:

  1. India
  2. Australia
  3. Vietnam
  4. Thailand
  5. Indonesia
  6. Malaysia
  7. Philippines
  8. U.S.
  9. U.K.
  10. Germany
  11. France 
  12. Italy
And I had no idea about the existence of the Mitsubishi F-2!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Biden motorcade in Tokyo

H/t @rchen!

I love how they make the Americans affix Japanese plates to their vehicles.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Spectre movie review

The penultimate Bond!

Dave's review: To start with, Spectre is a great name for a film. Bringing back Ernst Stavro Blofeld was a stroke of genius. I wouldn't be a fan of the franchise recycling other iconic villains but in Blofeld's case, it was fun to see him being played by a top notch actor like Christoph Waltz. The first 30 minutes of the film were incredibly suspenseful as Bond goes off the grid to follow through on M's last wishes. I love the way all the Craig films both tie in to past films somehow and feature a personal stake for Bond. Monica Bellucci was alluring in her role and it was refreshing to see an older woman play a "Bond girl." The real star of this movie though was Lea Seydoux, who brings a fire that has been missing in most of 007's love interests. She and Craig have outstanding chemistry. And the ending, reminiscent of the end of Dr. No when Bond and Honey Ryder are guests at Dr. No's liar is both eerie and thrilling. The end of Spectre leaves you curious and excited for what comes next, which is in many ways the ultimate compliment bestowed on a film. 

TT's review: I watched Spectre over Christmas and thought it was meh. But I rewatched it last weekend (to jog my memory for this review) and ended up really liking it! It was by no means a cinematic masterpiece, but it was thoroughly entertaining. 

The casting of Lea Seydoux was inspired. Tying Blofeld's past with Bond's was fun, if a bit forced. The Mexico City scene really captured the essence of the city and Dia de los Muertos. The nods to the past-- the original Aston Martin, the Alpine clinic, Tangier-- were sentimental and made me realize Craig wasn't going to be around forever.

The only thing I didn't like was the whiny intro song by Sam Smith.

Dave's grade: A

TT's grade: A

Dave's reaction: It's a completely unmemorable Bond theme song. 

TT's reaction: Perhaps we agree that Seydoux is the best Bond love interest!


Vietnamese car nut interview

1 Like China, Vietnam’s economy has grown a lot within a short span of time. What was the state of car ownership like when you were a kid versus now?

When I was a kid, cars were a bit more of an upper class luxury or reserved for high ranking public officials. You had cars, yes, but most of them are Vietnam War-era leftovers with decades of DIY fixes on top of them that make them barely resemble the original car. Newer cars did exist at the time, mostly imported by either the really rich or the government. Toyota sedans the likes of the Camry or the Crown made up most of the new cars I saw in the streets at the time.

Nowadays, cars are quite common. It’s still a luxury most can’t afford but rising wages and improvements in living standards made cars more accessible to everyone. High end cars are also more common nowadays as well. When I was a kid, it’s an event to see a Mercedes, now you see one on every street corner. In big cities like Saigon, you eventually get desensitized to seeing exotics and supercars. Sure a Huracan or a Ghost would be cool for the first time, but you’ll be seeing that exact model about seven times a day. It gets to the point where an old Lada would turn more heads simply because it’s different.

2 The only Vietnamese car manufacturer I know of is VinFast. Is there bona fide domestic manufacturing? Is it mostly Japanese cars produced locally?

In all honesty, I would say we don’t have any bona fide domestic manufacturing operations going on. Even VinFast cars are assembled from imported parts with not much in the way of local production going on. Assembling CKD cars is a common thing in Vietnam though, as it helps reduce the prices significantly. Most Japanese cars are locally assembled but only for low- to mid-end models. Higher end cars like the Toyota Camry, Toyota Land Cruiser, anything Lexus or the Nissan Teana would be imported (yes, we consider them high end here).

3 What is the state of car culture in Vietnam?

It’s colorful despite cars being quite the inaccessible luxury to most. Cars are still mostly regarded as a status symbol but most owners consider their cars a family member and a friend and take good care of them. Car meets have recently became a thing over here which makes quite the perfect compliment to the yearly car shows. Motorsport is also developing here and we even have an F1 street course, though to my knowledge no races actually took place there due to Covid.

4 What cars have you owned?

I have been through a few cars, but I will admit I got commitment issues as I don’t keep them in my garage for long. In chronological order, I owned a 1989 Toyota Camry Alltrac, a 2007 Toyota Camry LE, a Lexus GS300, a Range Rover Evoque, a Mercedes S400L (W222), a Toyota Corolla 1.8 CVT, a Nissan Navara, a 2019 Toyota Camry 2.0 CVT, a 2022 Toyota Wigo, a 2017 Honda CRV and I’m currently looking for a new daily driver. The chip shortage is making the latter quite difficult, though, with most dealerships quoting 6+ months for the cars I inquired on.

5 What is the state of rural roads and traffic? Is it possible to enjoy a long drive in a sports car or GT car there?

Roads in rural areas vary in quality, but generally it would be wise to keep the sport cars and GT cars on main roads and highways. The worst case scenario, you need 4x4s to actually get places. You wouldn’t want to drive sport cars or GT cars out in the rural area anyways as they don’t sell high grade petrol out there.

6 What’s something about Vietnam that most people in the West do not realize?

I heard the opinion that Vietnam is a backwards communist/socialist state quite often from Westerners, but most don’t realize that the whole socialism thing kinda went out of fashion in the 1980s. Vietnam is a capitalist nation through and through, even if the ruling party keeps denying it and insisting we’ll try for true communism eventually. I think we all realized in the 70s and 80s that it just doesn’t work.

7 What are some popular cars there right now?

The most popular brand on the road is still Toyota. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Toyota is our national brand. With their history with our country, they earned the trust of consumers. The diverse range of offerings also helps them reach more audiences. If you are looking for a fleet solution? The Vios and Innova is a popular choice. An entry level city car? The Wigo is a very solid (albeit dated) option. If you find yourself in the upper class of society, the Camry, Land Cruiser, Land Cruiser Prado and Alphard are available to serve your needs.

Mitsubishi after years of trailing behind in terms of sales also became very popular in the last few years with their most popular model being the Xpander MPV, which has became the choice for ride sharing drivers. They also dabble in other market segments but with little success.

Kia and Hyundai cars are overall very popular too, with the K3, Morning (Picanto) and Accent being a popular choice for younger buyers. The newly introduced Kia Carnival has also became quite popular around here, surprisingly. Families don’t usually buy minivans in Vietnam.

Luxury cars have also became popular, with Mercedes leading the charge in terms of sales and brand recognition. Plenty of C, E and S Class around here. I’m also quite sure the G Wagon became some sort of a cult among celebrities and their fanclubs, especially the G63 AMG. I lost count of the amount of matte grey G63 AMGs around here.

Other popular cars I don’t have much to really say about would be the E46 and E90 series of the 3 series, Q7, Q5, Mazda 6, Mazda 3, Mazda CX-5, Ford Everest and the Ford Ranger.

8 Are scooters still prevalent? Are they going to go extinct as the economy continues to mature? What is the perception of scooters there?

Scooters are still very prevalent and I don’t see them going out of style any time soon. Our culture, way of life and infrastructure have been shaped around these two wheeled vehicles and it’s unlikely that they’ll go extinct as the economy matures. We’ll probably see a reduction in their numbers as more and more people get their first cars, but they are going to stay for a while.

Scooters are considered an essential here. Public transportation isn’t the best and as previously said cars are out of the price range for most. Scooters offers a fast, cheap and convenient mode of transportation for the average citizen from the cities to the rural villages which made them a fact of life all over Vietnam.

9 Are cars expensive to own in Vietnam? How are they taxed?

Cars are very expensive to own in Vietnam. Some cars cost double or even triple their MSRP abroad. For example, the Lexus LX570 carries a modest MSRP of 87k USD (source: Edmunds) while in Vietnam, you would be paying roughly 400k USD or more. Even basic cars like the Toyota Camry cost an extortionate amount. In the United States, the Camry would start at 26k USD. In Vietnam, even with all the tax incentives, you would be looking at 80k USD starting price.

Every car on our road is taxed multiple times. Firstly, if applicable, is the import tax. If your vehicle was made in an ASEAN nation, the import tax is 30%. For imports from other regions the import tax is 70 to 80%. After having applied the import tax, you also need to apply special consumption tax which goes up the bigger your engine is, starting at 15% for electric cars and 130% for cars with cylinder capacities from 5000 cm3 upwards. Once you are done with those two, you still need to pay VAT which is 10%. All of the taxes I listed do not even cover the registration fee which would be 10% of your car’s value. There are also a few more fixed fees but the amount is insignificant.

Once you get past the rather insane buying in cost, it’s very cheap to keep your vehicle on the road as fixed yearly fees are insignificant.

10 Why do you love cars?

I couldn’t actually explain this. I liked cars since I was a kid. I collected scale model cars, read car magazines and catalogues in my spare time and spent afternoons on the balcony trying to identify cars passing below in the street. Cars have always been a big part of my life and it’s likely to stay that way.

Friday, May 20, 2022

American walks around Suriname

YouTube suggested this during a bout of insomnia. This is basically me when I travel to a strange place.

Cuba trip research

Well, the trip planning is ramping up. I just purchased a Lonely Planet Cuba guide, looked up recommended vaccinations, and shopped for travel insurance.

Anthony Bourdain- Cuba from IUEP on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

World democracy index

Just look at Taiwan!



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Let's check out the VW XL1 in San Francisco this weekend/early next week

@thealso, a Northern Irish guy who drives weird cars all over the world, is driving a rare VW diesel-hybrid from New York to San Francisco to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's. He is currently somewhere between Indiana and Iowa. If you're interested in meeting up with him in San Francisco, let me know. Depending on when he arrives, I'm going to try to catch him.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Regular Car Reviews reviewed the TSX wagon

They like it! And they quoted Foucault.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sicilian train ferry

This is rad.

Facelifted Audi S8

The suspension is amazing. It's also cool that the car's body will rise 2.5" when the door opens for easy ingress/egress.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Central California Coast trip

I had to make a quick work trip down to San Luis Obispo this week. On the way back, I decided to take the scenic route-- Pacific Coast Highway. It was quite eventful.

I took Highway 101 down. It's semi-scenic, mixed in with farm land. When I got to my hotel, there were three '32 Roadsters parked in front of the lobby.


For dinner, I decided to check out nearby Avila Beach. You may recall that in the 1990s, Unocal destroyed the small coastal town with a massive oil spill. I went to Mersea, which was near the end of a pier. The meal was excellent. The old man sitting next to me at the bar hitting on the young bartender was not so excellent.



There is still a little bit of seafood processing done on the pier.



We have been watching Stanley Tucci's Italy food show on CNN and the scenery reminded me of Sicily.

The next morning, while I was checking out, I bumped into the owners of the three roadsters. I asked them what they thought of Plymouth Prowlers. They said that people are free to like whatever car they like, but a Prowler would not be invited to a '32 Roadster show. 

This red example does not have a single part from the original 1932 model car. It has 700+ horsepower. 75 fellow Roadster are expected at the hotel that day for a meetup.



Instead of driving back up 101, I took Pacific Coast Highway. I stopped to see these sea elephants near Hearst Castle. The California sea elephants were hunted to extinction. A few animals from Mexico showed up here in the 1990s and the population fortunately exploded. It was cool to watch them with a bunch of amazed European tourists.


Near Big Sur, I grabbed lunch. The seafood platter was all frozen and out of a bag, and expensive. The gas wasn't cheap either. I saw a Bentayga and couldn't imagine how much a fill up would cost. At least the view was nice.



There were a few construction zones where everyone had to stop for long periods of time, and this is what the roadside looked like.



It's looking likely that I'll be getting the Alfa this summer. So this may be my last road trip with the Acura. At 90,000 miles, it drives like new.


Once I got back to civilization in Carmel, I came upon a broken down 240Z Scarab. The clutch had gone kaput. I offered the driver a ride but a tow truck was already on its way. I had never heard of a Scarab before. They have V8s. It looked like this:



Friday, May 13, 2022

Two car chases in two weeks

The Bay Area is wild with crazy drivers. In the past two weeks, I was a "part" of two chases.

1. Two weeks go, this carjacked Porsche 911 Turbo was going over 100 mph and crashed and hit four cars. I was stuck right behind it just as over a dozen officers ran up to it.



2. Yesterday, I was at a red light when I saw a red minivan taxi about to rear end my car at a high speed, followed by five police cars. I decided to floor it and enter the interaction to avoid the hit. The chase continued and this was the result.


Matt Damon Superbowl crypto ad

This was from just three months ago. What a crock of shit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

1992 Microsoft Excel ad

 

Vijay Mallya's Bangalore mansion


Another way to capture rockets

There's more than one way to skin a cat. This company shoots smaller (than SpaceX) rockets into space and lets a helicopter catch it on the way down. It semi-successfully did this recently. The helicopter caught the rocket but had to let it fall into the ocean because it was making the helicopter too unstable.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Eating the Globe update

I've got three countries lined up.

1. Moldova: I ordered Moldovan honey online months ago but have yet to receive it.

2. Vanuatu: A Berkeley kava place serves kava from there. I'm going to try it out with Chris.

3. Eswatini: A friend is going to share some Eswatini strain marijuana with me. Thanks, friend!

If you Bay Area people know of any ultra exotic new restaurants, please let me know. I've eaten food from the following countries:

Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen

Europe: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Vatican City

North America: Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, USA

South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela

Oceania: Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga

Victory Day 2022 parade

Welp, I'll never see this parade in the same way again. I'm frankly surprised that Defense Minister Shoigu is still around. No aircraft were flown due to "weather". The Aurus Senat convertible looks...derivative.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Car ferry from Denmark to Iceland

I'm reading a Lonely Planet book about road trips. In the section about Iceland's Ring Road, it said you can bring your car by taking a ferry from Denmark! I had no idea. This ferry holds 800 cars and stops in the Faroe Islands along the way. This looks fantastic.




Max and Yuki race swamp cars

Florida men!

Mercedes EQS is a big boy



Friday, May 06, 2022

Who is in Miami for the race this weekend?

Follow @rchen on Instagram for some A1A content.

Hot school lunches in Japan

Our boy is going to be in kindergarten this fall. Every California school kid gets a free hot lunch at school, so I'll be interested to see how it compares with Japanese lunches.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

I'm going to Cuba!

Unless I end up going to Suriname on a whim, Cuba in November will be my first trip on a plane since February 2020. I am very excited about learning the culture, checking out Havana, and spotting weirdo cars. I'll post more as the date approaches and I do more research. I'll be on an official government-approved educational tour so everything is regimented and I'll have government minders with me almost the whole time.



335d spotting

You'll have to take my word for it. That's a 335d. 425 lb ft of torque!


Ben the Excursion owner is also collecting Saab diesel convertibles

I don't even know where to begin. You remember Ben and his taste for unusual cars.

Well, he shared with us one of his recent purchases, a Ford Excursion.

Here is his report...

Hi!

 

So…. Yeah, I bought an Excursion in the UK, it’s a big beast but I do like them big boned!

 

Bert is a 2004 6.0 TD Limited with 157k on clock. Been in the UK since 2005. I don’t have much history but he is super clean, little corrosion on the rocker panels. However the driveline has been forgotten about in routine servicing so having to rebuild the front axle in the UK is not an easy task. Parts alone from the US have cost over $1000 with Tax and Delivery, plus I still need more! All started after first trip home lost the front brakes, seems the previous day they did some work to them but bent the hose and it was then rubbing on the tyre, eek. Vice Grips to the rescue and continued on my way at a little slower speed but still made it 150+ miles home.

 

Plan is to hoon about in on the school run for a few weeks when fixed then put Bert on a boat back to the US as he is worth more there at the moment and have a road trip to find a junk yard Mustang that my son wants to rebuild and use Roadkill style, while Bert is on sale but could be used to tow etc. He has been attending the https://under17-carclub.co.uk/ here in the UK for a year and has been enjoying that but wants a RWD car that he has revived or resurrected to use on the days and as it has to be manual he is on the hunt for a pre-70’s Mustang or equivalent then get it back to the UK.

 

Also seem to be collecting Black Saab 9-3 Diesel Cabrios at the moment as got 3 so far and maybe another on the way! Plus still have the Disco3, 110 Defender and Volvo V70 D5 (aka La Cucaracha) and a few others.




Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Russia Victory Day parade rehearsal

I want to see this sh*t.

Early 90s Honda Accords

Today, I saw not one, but two Accord coupes on the freeway.


This is my favorite generation Accord. Probably due to a strong case of nostalgia. Motorweek was not thrilled with it when it was introduced.


Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Ukraine arresting traitors

Ford Excursion in the UK

One of this blog's AVID readers from the UK owns an Excursion. What?

Let's see if we can get more details from him. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Overlanding Ford Excursion

I am not a big fan of the gigantic Excursion, but this actually looked good. I wonder what kind of mileage it gets.