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Playing Catch Up

November 5, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I have been terribly remiss in posting to the blog. Procrastination is my forté. So, having looked through my photos to see what we’ve been up to since summer, I find:

  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
  • Yuyuan Garden
  • Quixia Garden
  • Soong Ching Ling home
  • A weekend in Tokyo

large jellyfish

In early August, we went to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. We got there in the early afternoon and found that there was a very long ticket line. It is open until 9 pm, so we decided to come back later to see if the line would be shorter. Unfortunately, we decided to go to the nearby shopping mall and see a movie in the cinema there. We ended up seeing Time Raiders in 3D on the IMAX screen. The movie itself was horrifically bad. The sound was brain bruisingly loud. 3D always gives me a headache. I was so glad to get out of there alive.

Back to the aquarium, the line was very short by the time we returned, so we went in and found it very pleasant, since there were very few other people there and we could enjoy the exhibits at our leisure. If you want to see all the pictures, click here.

tree framed by a window

In September, we visited Yuyuan Garden for a second time. This time we were with Historic Shanghai and had a knowledgable guide (author of The Classical Gardens of Shanghai) to tell us about the history and symbolism of the garden. Despite the fact that the garden is surrounded by bustling city and crowded tourist shopping, it is amazingly peaceful. To see all the pictures, click here.

Chinese garden wall with vase shaped doorway

In October, we visited the Quixia Garden in Jaiding. We had seen it from the outside on our previous visit to Jaiding. It is a combination of a Daoist temple and three private gardens that were donated to the temple and united into one. It is quite beautiful and was very peaceful. Chinese gardens are not really about plants. They are an effort to bring the mountains (where the gods live) into man’s living space. Therefore, the garden design is more about the structures built and not the plants. Plants are an afterthought. However, this garden has far more foliage than most. To see all the pictures, click here.

framed picture of Soong Ching Ling

Also in October, we visited the museum in the former residence of Soong Ching Ling. If your knowledge of Chinese history is as sketchy as mine was before coming to the country, Soong Ching Ling was one of three sisters who were married to prominent and powerful men – Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai-shek, and H.H. Kung. Soon Ching Ling is called the mother of modern China. She was a highly educated and strong woman. To see all the pictures, click here.

Tokyo street

In mid-October, we made a quick weekend rip to Tokyo to crash the vacation of our dear friends Mali and Zarina. It’s hard to do or see much in two days, but here’s what I learned about Tokyo. It is very clean, although public garbage cans are few and far between. Drivers actually drive in the lanes and obey traffic rules. No one jay walks. No one runs red lights, so it is safe to cross the road. It is amazingly quiet, despite the large population.People are very polite. I had the best airport experience, ever. We had a great time being with M & Z. You can see the pictures here.

There. All caught up. I’ll be in Beijing for two days this week, but it is for work and not touristy pleasure, so I doubt there will be much of interest to share about that. Our next travel plan is to head to the U.K. for Christmas. Looking forward to the cold weather, shopping for sweaters (or jumpers, as they say), and visiting another dear friend.

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Parenting

September 25, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Witnessed this morning, Shanghai, China –

A little girl entered the restaurant, looked around, said “Momma!” and immediately began to cry and call out “Momma! Momma!” when she didn’t see Momma. The waitress tried to help her, but this just increased the volume of the crying. Daddy enters to save the day. He calms his daughter and picks her up. THEN he says, “would you like me to show you how to find Momma?” He takes her to the part of the restaurant where Momma and little brother are. It doesn’t end there, though. He carries his daughter back to the restaurant entrance pointing out things to her along the way. He takes her out the door. Then they re-enter and walk the path to Momma again. I am so impressed at the skills he is teaching her instead of just pacifying her and satisfying her need for Momma.

Travel back with me to 2014 on the beach of Fujairah, U.A.E. –

There is (was) a park along the beach in Fujairah where families go in the evening. I would say “to get away from the heat,” but there is no such thing as getting away from the heat. We were sitting in the park enjoying a cup of tea. There was a young family nearby. Father, mother and four young children. The mother spoke to her young daughter who did not immediately respond. The mother reached over, grabbed a handful of her daughter’s hair and pulled her close. I had to take a deep breath to keep my head from exploding. I wish I could have interceded for this little girl, but when you are in a country where a disagreement with a citizen can end in jail and deportation, it just is not an option. I did, however, think about my students. Maybe this was why they were so uncooperative and noncompliant. They might be used to being forced to comply instead of being taught to respect their parents or elders.

Big conclusions cannot be drawn from these two stories. It is not fair to paint entire cultures by two individual observations. But this morning I could say, “wow, what a good idea,” and two years ago I thought “wow, what bad family dynamics.”

I do not have a relevant picture to go with this, so here is a totally irrelevant one. The internet needs more cat pictures.

cat bathing in Chinese garden

 

 

 

 

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Delhi Days

July 23, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

crowded street

After our time in Ladakh, Leh, India, we returned to Delhi and spent six days. However, it was a mostly unproductive six days. It was extremely hot and humid, so we didn’t really want to go outside. When we did go outside, we encountered some very pushy people trying to tell us where to go and what to do. They were really like gum stuck to the bottom of our shoes and wasted a great deal of our time and all of our patience. We learned to make a plan while coming down in the elevator. We agreed exactly what direction we were going to go and what we were going to do, because stepping out of the building and looking around just made us a target for these “helpers.” Once we reached the metro entrance we were home free, because it would cost them money to follow us that far.

National Museum of Natural History fire damaged building

Our usual style of travel didn’t work well in Delhi. We do not prepare an itinerary or have a detailed plan for what we will do each day. This strategy had us standing outside the natural history museum that had clearly burnt down recently, among other goose chases.

striped squirrel on the trunk of a potted tree

We did succeed in going to Shankar’s International Doll Museum which was very interesting. 1000’s of dolls from all over the world. We also succeeded in going to a Bollywood movie in the cinema near our hotel. The other highlight, if you will, would be the animals. The northern palm squirrels (more the size of a chipmunk than a squirrel) were highly entertaining. We also discovered that an eagle was nesting in the tree just outside the window of the hotel restaurant.

eagle and nest in tree outside a restaurant window

There are an astonishing number of eagles in the city. I had noticed significant numbers of large birds circling high up and wondered what they were.

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Eating for me was more misery than pleasure, but I knew that going in. It was quite a challenge to look over a menu to find something that might be free of chili. I would make my best guess and then suffer the consequences. Happily the chicken alfredo pizza was good, but the smoked chicken and apricot sandwich at the airport was fiery hot. It was a crap shoot.

To see all the pictures, click here. (via Facebook)

To see all the pictures, click here. (via Google photos, for those who don’t Facebook)

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Ladakh – Leh – India

July 13, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

hotel patio with view of the Himalaya mountains

We spent five days in Leh, India which is in the Himalaya mountain range at an altitude of over 11,500 feet. Our first day was spent sleeping and trying to get over the altitude sickness. We woke up around 2 pm, walked to the nearest cafe to have lunch and then right back to the hotel to sleep some more. We were mostly okay by the second day, but were not ready for anything strenuous.

Leh is both beautiful, as you can see above, and rustic.

rough mud brick buildings

We took it easy, ate lots of good food…

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… saw plenty of cows, dogs, and donkeys …

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Why did we go to Leh? You might ask. We were invited by a dear friend to join her and her family to celebrate her birthday. It was a pretty spectacular place for a birthday party. Aside from the altitude sickness and the unseasonable warm weather, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

You can see all the pictures here.

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More Big Bus Tour

July 7, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

makeshift restaurant in an alleyway

We got up late, so our first meal was more of a lunch. We picked this alleyway eatery just a block from our hotel. The waitress didn’t seem too happy about serving foreigners, but it worked out.

view from a ferry boat in Victoria Harbour

We crossed the harbor on the ferry in order to take yet another Big Bus tour, the blue line this time which traverses the Kowloon part of town.

long subterranean tunnel for pedestrians

A word about using the metro train system in Hong Kong — be prepared to walk, a lot. After finishing the blue line tour, we needed to get back to the other side of the harbor and foolishly thought it would be easier to take the metro than to walk back to the pier and take the ferry. Unfortunately, the metro system required a long long goose chase walk through underground tunnels. Would have been shorter to walk to the pier.

toy boxes, one of which is a Star Wart version of the Millennium Falcon

We also took the Big Bus night tour. We got off at the night market stop and walked through the night market. It was mostly disappointing and nothing we would want to buy. Although, the Star Wart Millennium Falcon was tempting (we also saw a Star Wnrt version). It would not fit in our suitcases, so we skipped it. We can probably find this in Shanghai anyway.

sweet and sour pork with pineapple and onions

So, after another metro ride back to the island side of Hong Kong, we stopped into a restaurant close to our hotel and had a third meal. This is the sweet and sour pork, which we technically did not order, but it was very good.

Friday is our last day and will be mainly packing and getting to the airport. So, to sum up our Hong Kong experience and advice:

  • Come when it is cooler, not in the miserable summer months.
  • Be prepared to walk and walk and walk, sometimes at a steep angle.
  • The Big Bus red and green line tours are worth it, but skip the blue line and the night tour.
  • Eating can be very expensive unless you head for the alleys and eat at the scroungy looking places where locals are eating.
  • The Butterfly Hotel on Wellington is a good choice.

See all the pictures here.

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Big Bus Tour

July 6, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

bamboo steam baskets full of dim sum buns

We started our day with breakfast at a dim sum restaurant just down the street from our hotel. A tasty and a fun adventure. About half-way through our meal a family sat down at our table. It was a local family with a teen daughter and her caucasian friend. It was fun to watch them tell her how to make tea. As you can see from the picture above, we were given a teapot. This is not the local way. The covered dish (gaiwan) in the upper left corner of the picture is used to make tea. It is filled with loose tea leaves and water. The first tea is poured out as it is thought to be too bitter (and possibly other ceremonial reasons). The father showed her exactly how to hold the gaiwan with the lid tipped to pour the tea into her cup. The first tea is poured out into the larger bowl (center top of the picture) and then the waiter has to come back to pour more hot water into the gaiwan. The waiters at this restaurant were quick and sloppy, so it wasn’t long until the table was wet.

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

Next we went down to the waterfront to get on the Big Red Bus tour. As you can see it was a sunny day. Later it was the exact opposite.

Hong Kong Observation Wheel and heavy rain

We took the Green Line route first which took us to the opposite side of the island to Repulse Bay, Stanley, and Aberdeen. We got off at Stanley to do some touristy shopping and have a little snack. When we got back on the bus, the lower level was full, so we had to go up to the top deck (which is uncovered and not air conditioned. It was extremely hot while we were at Stanley (I have a sunburn to prove it), so we weren’t too happy to be going up top. However, it started to rain, no, I mean RAIN, as soon as we got up there. That took the temperature right down, which was nice. It did make it difficult to see much or take pictures, though.

vehicle windshield obscured by rain

At the end of this tour, we took a short break and then got on the Red Line bus for more.

You can see all the pictures here. I hope you like looking at sky scrapers.

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More Hong Kong

July 4, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

two plates of breakfast food

One of the things that is rare outside the U.S. is a good American breakfast restaurant. Flying Pan is the best we have found, so far — Open 24/7, serving a wide variety of breakfast options, and tasty food. The service on the graveyard shift wasn’t exactly swift, but not terrible.

From there we went in search of the textile market, which involved traveling by metro to the other side of the bay. Apparently, the “textile market” is not a building with shops inside, as we have experienced in Shanghai. All we found were shops along the street and stalls in the street, so it was a hot and sweaty experience. Paul was looking for shirt material, but did not find anything that fit his criteria. I was a bit disappointed with what we found, until we found the one shop that had some marvelous brocades.

brocade fabric

I took the piece on the right to the shop owner and asked “how much?” thinking it might be expensive. He said $16 Hong Kong dollars per yard. After he clarified that it was 16 not 60, I asked him to measure what was on the roll (which was near the end). It was 4 yards, so I took it all. $16 HKD is approximately $2 USD. I wanted the black, too, which was the same price. Score! Qipao dresses to come.

We stopped into a little restaurant for a snack of dim sum, then got back on the metro to join the evening commute crowd.

very crowded hallway

See all the pictures here.