Want to Visit North Korea? Just Walk Around a Table in the DMZ

You read stories in travel media where people visit every country in one or two years, before they turn 21 or spending only $1,000. This is not something I strive to do. It’s quality over quantity.

Case in point, I have no desire to spend 3 days and 4 nights in Pyongyang just for bragging rights. I doubt they have a lively culinary scene or vibrant nightlife. On the other hand, one minute in, and one minute out — just long enough to take a selfie and check-in on Swarm — will do just fine.

Guess what? You can, and rather easily.

U.S. Vice-President Mike “Whitey McWhiterson” Pence visited South Korea recently and the DMZ where he observed North Korea from a safe distance. For the rest of us, we can do this and actually step across the border.

First you need to book a tour of a U.S. base in the DMZ while in Seoul. It’s the only way can do it.

You’ll arrive to the Joint Security Area where you’ll enter one of the blue buildings pictured above. In the building is a table. On the near side is South Korea. On the opposite end of the table is officially North Korea. Your tour guide will allow you to walk around the table to the North Korea side, take photos and walk back into South Korea. Thus, you’ve visited North Korea.

Crazy right? What’s also crazy is that you’ll probably find North Korean soldiers looking at your every move on their side.

Want to see it in action. The best travel host of all time, Michael Palin, visited the DMZ on his Full Circle series. Watch it below at 2:30:

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2017 That You Can’t Afford or Get A Reservation

A new No. 1 restaurant in the world has been crowned, and I hope they sell a decent hamburger.

Eleven Madison Park in New York shocked the culinary world to take the top spot over last year’s winner, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. This is the first time since 2004 that an American restaurant took the top spot. We suck at a lot of things lately but we’re winners in high-end cuisine.

One thousand chefs and food writers from 26 regions decide on the accolade. I’m sure these people go to every restaurant on the list and have the exact similar opinion of what makes a great restaurant. NY Times pointed out the controversy over voting. In all, it’s great publicity for the restaurants and for hardcore, rich foodies, it gives them bragging rights if they’ve eaten at them all.

I’ve been too none of these.

The Top 50 (no word if they accept Groupon)

  1. Eleven Madison Park, New York
  2. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
  3. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
  4. Mirazur, Menton, France
  5. Central, Lima
  6. Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain
  7. Gaggan, Bangkok
  8. Maido, Lima
  9. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
  10. Steirereck, Vienna
  11. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
  12. Arpège, Paris
  13. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
  14. Restaurant André, Singapore
  15. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
  16. D.O.M., São Paulo, Brazil
  17. Le Bernardin, New York
  18. Narisawa, Tokyo
  19. Geranium, Copenhagen
  20. Pujol, Mexico City
  21. Alinea, Chicago
  22. Quintonil, Mexico City
  23. White Rabbit, Moscow
  24. Amber, Hong Kong
  25. Tickets, Barcelona
  26. The Clove Club, London
  27. The Ledbury, London
  28. Nahm, Bangkok
  29. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
  30. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
  31. Pavillon Ledoyen, Paris
  32. Attica, Melbourne
  33. Astrid y Gastón, Lima
  34. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
  35. Septime, Paris
  36. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London
  37. Saison, San Francisco
  38. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
  39. Relae, Copenhagen
  40. Cosme, New York
  41. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
  42. Boragó, Santiago
  43. Reale, Castel di Sangro, Italy
  44. Brae, Birregurra, Australia
  45. Den, Tokyo
  46. L’Astrance, Paris
  47. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
  48. Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin
  49. Tegui, Buenos Aires
  50. Hof van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium


What United Needs To Do To Restore Consumer Confidence

There’s a simple explanation why the United Airlines controversy has creeped into news headlines and gained worldwide discussion — everyone can relate. Seasoned travelers like us and those who travel once in a while have experienced some sort of incident that has clouded our view of air travel. Hopefully not to the extent of being dragged off a plain forcefully, but we know what it’s like when your travel plans go bonkers.

There’s a lot of should of, would of, could of’s — but what next? Boycott United? Knock yourself out and see how long that lasts. Eliminate overbooking? Not in the realm of possibility when airlines are making money from it and it’s unregulated. You and I know that the system is rigged against infrequent flyers, but the season travelers like us know the situation and how to avoid being bumped or how to profit from it.

The big question is what United does next. Here’s what I think.

— CEO Oscar Munoz needs to meet with Dr. David Dao in person. No PR people or lawyers with him. Just him and Dao. I can imagine Dao has already lawyered up and his ready for his seven-figure settlement, but Munoz should meet with him one on one. Express that what happened is his responsibility and the processes that he oversees didn’t work. Tell him that him and his wife can fly first class on United for a lifetime. More importantly, listen to Dr. Dao and see how he feels.

— Munoz needs to refund everybody on that flight and offer up a first class, round trip flight to them and their families for what they witnesses. Also, write up a letter that expresses his regret and sign it.

— Talk to everyone of his staff involved that day confidentially. Tell them that they won’t be fired, listen to the situation and assure them that the necessary steps will be taken. Happy employees equals happy passengers.

— Meet with airport security and Chicago police and calmly ask, “What the fuck were you thinking?”

— Create a detailed, no-BS statement on what happened, what should have been done, why it went wrong and the steps that will be taken for it to not happen again. Transparency is key.

— Understand why United is rated low in customer service compared to Alaska, JetBlue, Virgin, Etihad and Delta. Corporate culture comes from the top, just ask Richard Branson how he’s done with Virgin. Richard H. Anderson, the former CEO of Delta, reinvented the brand and can be credited for creating a sustainable culture of customer service.

— Here’s the big wish, give the public a discount on any flight to show that United cares about its customers. Either 10% or 20% off, anything to get people to book a flight and restore faith. There’s plenty evidence to show that people rather have a cheap flight with a shitty experience over paying a bit more for a great experience. Show that United has learned , can offer a great experience and that it has changed and is willing to take a hit financial to prove it. Chipolte gave out free burritos to restore customer confidence. I think United should do the same without cheap Mexican food.

The All Sorts of Wrong About Being Dragged from an Airplane

“So Doctor, how was your flight home?”

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to inexplicable incidents, in comes United again to top their leggings fiasco from two weeks ago. Those PR people might want to update their resume after pulling double duty.

You know the deal: United flight (via Republic Airways) from Chicago to Louisville, KY was overbooked, which is common practice because they anticipate dumbasses not showing up. Crew members needed to get Louisville for their route, thus they needed to bump passengers. After they couldn’t get four to take the bait, their computer system picked a doctor to bump. Doctor didn’t budge, so airport security dragged him away while passengers filmed it. Internet, late night talk shows and media goes wild.

Where to begin? Let’s look at the big picture — the flight is only 80 minutes and costs around $210. It’s 4 hours and 40 minutes to drive. Yet, United couldn’t bribe anybody with $1,000 cash,? A Forbes writer made a small fortune ($11K) for her family for choosing not to fly to Florida. Passengers, do you really need to be in Louisville on a Sunday night? BTW, Sundays are a horrible day to fly.

Then, I found several articles advising not to take what the airlines give because you can get more if you’re are randomly bumped. True, but every airline has different policies and situations are different. I got bumped once from Newark to London because the airplane had to be switched and seats were lost. For 40,000 miles, all I had to do was leave out of JFK New York that night and I still kept my Upper Class privileges. Plus, they reimbursed my transport to the airport. So, cash, miles or free flight is whatever you fancy. There’s no right answer.

With all that said, WTF were airport security thinking? The poor doctor isn’t an ISIS operative or a danger to passenger safety. I wondering what United staff and especially the pilot were doing while this was going on. Nobody stepped in to stop this. “Sure, go ahead and drag a paying customer out of our plane.”

Then if things couldn’t get worse for United, CEO Oscar Munoz made a tone-deaf statement:

The problem is that this sounds like it was written by PR from a corporation. In reality, you’re dealing with people who went through a disturbing ordeal that was handled poorly. On top of that, future customers will rethink booking a United flight. I don’t fly United, so eff them.

The lesson for everyone, drive from Chicago to Louisville.

Five Los Angeles Chain Restaurants That Are Not In-n-Out Burger

The land of traffic craves convenience. That new, must-visit artisan cafe might only be seven miles away, but that’s 40 minutes in L.A. time. On top of that, you have to find parking and the line will probably 50 deep. But hey! That Instagram photo will get, like, 15 likes and a smiley emoji.

Thus, having multiple locations is advantageous. We all know In-n-Out is all over the damn place, but if you want to go semi-local, here are other well-known institutions loved by locals.

Roscoe Chicken n Waffles — The legendary soul food institution is loved by rappers, Los Angelinos and people who look at a waffle and think, “This would be better with fried chicken.” With eight locations, the easiest one being in West Hollywood, you can order the Obama special and cry afterwards.

Zankou Chicken — Name checked by Beck in his masterpiece song, “Debra” … “Like a fruit that’s ripe for a pickin’ / I wouldn’t do you like that Zankou Chicken.” It also inspired a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about Palestinian chicken. The Armenian-style rotisserie chicken chain has been around California since 1962. You can load up on platters, sides, wraps and salads and feel full and so very un-L.A.

Winchell’s Donuts — For such a health conscience city, they do have a lot of artisan donut places. Since Dunkin’ Donuts finally returned to the west coast, Winchell had to take back seat. The iconic donut shop is old school retro with it’s yellow and red interiors and simple cake donuts. Some of the shops kept its neon signage to call back to it’s 1940s roots.

Caffe Luxxe — On the opposite end of Winchell’s is the new school coffee of Caffe Luxxe. That’s two f’s and two x’s. The three locations provide a serious coffee city with some expertly poured espresso drinks and pour overs. The latte art are Instagram-worthy creations.

Barney’s Beanery — Known to locals as the place to go for hangover breakfasts and to create a hangover, their extensive menu has something for everybody. It’s the chili that is the calling card since 1920, when the classic Hollywood stars would frequent. Legend has it that Jim Morrison was thrown out in the 60s. Each location is packed with crap that would make a TGIFriday’s jealous.

The United Leggins Controversy Is Stupid on Many Levels

In this week’s edition of social media outrage over nothing, I’m sure you read that two teenager girls were told to wear something over their leggings before boarding a United Airlines flights. As a result, everybody, talk show hosts and celebrities felt need to weight in because that’s what we do.

As someone who use to work in public relations, the PR crew for United must be putting in some massive overtime. All this because some dumbass saw it going down at the gate and felt the need to express her displeasure on Twitter. Lady, just board the damn plane.

“I don’t get why that’s the issue here,” she told CNBC. “A dress code still shouldn’t be gendered and sexist. To be clear, this was happening very publicly right here in the gate.” What a hero.

Not everything that happens in life has to be made into an international incident. Remember the BBC interview where the baby interrupts? That was hilarious, until people had to berate other people and cry racism for assuming that the Asian women was the nanny, when she was the mother. Please.

Then my reaction to United’s policy that those using employee passes should abide by a dress code — fine. It’s their airline, they can do what they want. If you don’t like it, start your own airline. Then networks had to do retrospective on how people use to dress up to travel and now people wear their pajamas.

This will thankfully fall out of the news cycle in a couple of days, then social media will find something else to be outraged over. In the meantime, get off Twitter and enjoy the flight.


T2: Trainspotting Filming Locations Revisit a Modern Edinburgh

Going into a wider release in the U.S. this weekend was director Danny Boyle’s reunion of the beloved characters from Trainspotting. In T2: Trainspotting, Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, returns to the scene of the action in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It’s been twenty years since Renton and Spud ran down Princes Street, the city’s main shopping area. Now, it’s filled with Boots drug stores, Orange Wireless, Costa Coffee, H&M and a Build-a -Bear workshop. Strikingly enough, as Renton discovers, a modern tram system whizzes through the cobblestone streets now.

While the original, like the Irving Welsh novel, was set in Edinburgh, the movie was mostly filmed on sound stages and locations in Glasgow. The sequel makes better use of the main city to show how much has changed.

The iconic Arthur’s Seat, the flattop hill that overlooks the city, is used prominently in the scene where Spud and Renton sit at the apex to discuss how to channel their drug addiction into something else. For Renton, it’s physical fitness.

The plot of the film revolves around Renton and Simon (aka Sickboy) starting a brothel. To get funds for what they call a “bed & breakfast,” they petition the local government to give them funds. This scenes takes place at the modernist Scottish Parliament building located at the end of the Royal Mile just before you get to Holyrood Palace. The Parliament was designed by Enric Miralles and it’s one of the most striking designs you’ll see in all of the city. Most of the designs were inspired by Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.

For more modern interiors, the scene where Renton recites an updated “Choose Life” monologue takes place at the Harvey Nichols department store’s Forth Floor restaurant. While he chooses life, he can also choose from pan-fried chicken breasts, roasted cod rib-eye steak.

The nightclub scene where Renton and Simon belt out Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” takes place at the long-running nightclub The Cav. Eventually, Begbie finds Renton in the bathroom and chases him out onto the streets of Edinburgh for more familiar surroundings. It acts like a review of all the places to visit in town like The Royal Mile, the Greenmarket and Cockburn Street.

More of the grittier scenes in slums and council housing was filmed in Glasgow. The main location of Simon’s bar, Port Sunshine, was the Douglas Hotel in Clydebank area of the city. The funniest scene in the more, which I won’t spoil, happens in The Orb, which is located east of the city in the town of Bellshill.