Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

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Spring Break

April 8, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

white blossoming tree

Normally we travel during spring break. We had planned to stay in Shanghai and explore some more of the many historical sites here. However, there was a death in the family that necessitated DaddyBird taking a flight to the states. I would have gone, too, had it not been for the fact I was in the midst of food poisoning. I stayed home to recover and to cat-sit.

white cat and tabby cat

Cat sitting can involve the neighborhood strays, too.

a white cat and an orange tabby

This is Smudge and Zippy. I usually feed them on my way to work each morning.

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This is Scamp. I usually run into her on the way home. She doesn’t care much for being petted. Last time, she didn’t seem very hungry or interested in eating, but she rolled over to show me her tummy. However, she didn’t want it rubbed much. She is a tease.

a beige corgy mix dog

This is The Dog. I don’t know what it’s name is. It belongs to a member of the apartment staff. It runs around the compound unattended and is the bane of my existence. It wants to play with the stray cats, or chase them if they will run, but the cats are not too excited about that. I suppose it is cute, for a dog, but I have never been a dog person.

My big adventure this week was going to the US Consulate to renew my passport. The website has all the information and forms one needs and if one reads all the instructions and has everything prepared, it goes quickly and easily. It is a bit astonishing to witness people who did not read those instructions, whether it is the guy at the door that did not make an appointment and cannot get in or the guy who did not bring a photo or does not know his China address. He, of course, is in a big hurry and is stressed out.

I encountered this fun statue in a pleasant little park.

historical building combining Western and Chinese style

A quick photo taken out the rainy taxi window of the Chinese YMCA building, one of my favorites. It was built in 1934 and combines Western and Chinese style.

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Chinese New Year!

January 31, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Our experience of Chinese New Year in Shanghai (2015) involved an amazing amount of fireworks. It started about a week or so before the actual date and kept right on going for another week or so after. The actual eve of the New Year the fireworks sounded like a war zone and went on for at least an hour. Fireworks were invented in China, as you may know, and they are  integral to Chinese culture. Fireworks are used to celebrate everything, all year round. It is not like it is in the States where there are very limited types of fireworks that are available to the public and they are only sold for a limited time prior to the 4th of July. The fireworks sold to the Chinese public are big ones that shoot up into the air and make a great deal of noise.

Click here for video from 2015 (Be forewarned, it is loud.)

Unfortunately, during the Gregorian calendar New Year’s celebration 2016, many people were killed and injured in a crowd incident. As a result, fireworks are now banned in most of Shanghai, even for New Year. It has been a very quiet year. Therefore, this year we traveled up to Jaiding which is outside the banned zone to see some fireworks.

There is another tradition, a very long television show. I do not know exactly what time the show starts, but it runs right up to midnight. We watched several hours of it. It involves a variety of performances – singing, dancing, comedians, and skits. Some of the grander performances are done on location in various cities – Harbing, Shanghai, Beijing, etc. It was quite spectacular and interesting even though we do not understand a word.

The next morning we went into the center of old town Jaiding to the Daoist temple and Quixia ancient garden. We arrived in the afternoon. It appeared that we missed the crowds who had been there earlier to make prayers and offerings to start the year off right.

We spent a little time in the garden and checked on the kittens we had seen four months ago on our previous visit.

Not a lot has changed except size.

One of the greatest features of Chinese gardens, in my opinion, are the cave structures. I am very jealous of the kids who grew up in playing in these gardens and caves.

I made Daddybird watch my bag while I walked through. A young family with a little boy came along and debated whether to go through. The boy wanted to do it, but was unsure, so Daddybird encouraged them to go. Carpe diem! The boy came back by and said “thank you.”

We called it a day, took the bus to the metro station and then home.

To see all pictures, click here. To review our previous visit to the garden to compare foliage and cats, click here.

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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.