Wednesday, April 12, 2017

China, March 2017

We started our China vacation on the Metrolink train from Rancho Cucamonga in to Union Station in Los Angeles.  
From Union Station to LAX, we had to get on a BUS.  The "Fly Away bus isn't too bad, but there really should be trains that go to all of the airports.  I've heard that the reason trains like Metrolink don't go to the airports is that the taxi unions opposed them for obvious reasons.  Well, their business is becoming history anyway -- for other obvious reasons -- so bring on the linking trains folks!   (This beats the freeways as it is anyway.)

 

The flight to China is so long.
We first few to Seattle and from Seattle took a 12 hour flight to Beijing.  For hours, the plane flew over Siberia...and, yup, this is what Siberia looks like....just the way you imagined it when your learned about Russian rebels and dissidents being sent there.

This is a color photo and it was taken during the day.  But, as you can see, the smog was thick and hid the beautiful socialist architecture of one of the terminals.

The view of the control tower.







At the Beijing Airport, I was introduced to the floor-based female urinals (at least I think that's all they're for?)  Anyway, in these stalls, there's no toilet paper.  Luckily I had read this ahead of time and had little pocket packages of tissues with me.  At first it was a little awkward, but by the end of a week, I was a pro.



Customs wasn't too bad and it was nice to get the first foreign stamp in my new passport!


There was one (or two) of these in each of our hotel closets.  I'm not sure if it's for the smog or a gas attack, but, it's nice to know we're covered either way.

Our first night, we walked around near our hotel looking for an ATM.  But, sadly, we hadn't called our bank before we left the United State.  They thought our debit and credit cards had been stolen and had them locked the first time we tried using them.  The second time I tried to withdraw money, an ATM actually kept my card. We were flat out of luck that night.  Fortunately, I had thrown in some granola bars, apples, oranges and one package of freeze-dried backpacking stew into my luggage (just in case). Luckily we ate stew that night and just laughed it off.  Everything got straightened up with a quick phone call the next day!

Summer Palace, Beijing


Our Beijing adventures began with a visit to the Summer Palace.  Opened in 1750, it has a lake, gardens and beautiful art and architecture.  This is where the Dragon Lady lived in the summer.  She at her meals from over 100 tiny little plates to avoid getting poisoned.  Her opulent lifestyle contributed to the people getting ticked off at the monarchy and kicking them out of the power.

Just some sweet old windows



These ladies doing tai chi and dancing kind of made our morning.  I







After the Summer Palace, we went to the Hutong (old town) and took a ride on a rickshaw-like, pedicab.  This was a little dream come true!



We enjoyed lunch at a home in the Hutong and the sweet young mother, after cooking and serving us a delicious lunch, played a traditional Chinese tune on what they called her ancient zither.  (I've seen zithers before and this isn't much like the ones my elementary school teachers in Utah played in the classrooms.)

Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City 



Our tour guide tell us that the Chinese people revere Chairman Mao almost like a God.  Anyway, he also told us that the Chinese people liked President Obama so much for what they saw as his socialistic ideals that they call him "Obamao"....as a compliment.



The Great Wall






From our boat ride in the ancient canals in Hangzhou



Middle Aged couples dancing on the street corners are common in Shanghai

The Bund in Shanghai at Night













The Daoist Temple in Shanghai






Friday, September 30, 2016

Our September in Hawaii


I began a tradition of taking our college graduate daughters on a trip a few years ago.  (I think we gave Danny money for Lasik surgery -- buy Danny, get that PHD and, we'll take you somewhere cool too.)  

I took Heidi to London and Paris back in early 2003 and April and I went to New York City when she graduated a few years later.

Hayley graduated with a Bacherlor of Science degree in Nursing from Loma Linda last year. Her first priority was getting a job, but we knew after she got a few months in, we'd like to take her somewhere as well.

Last year at our annual girls weekend, we went to Catalina Island (see prior post).  While I was making plans, I saw that the Catalina Film Festival was taking place while we were there.  Part of the festival was a crazy scavenger hunt  -- kind of like the Great Race but on foot.

I know one thing about my daughters and this is it -- they're hyper-competitive.  I knew they'd have as good of a chance as anyone of winning any prizes that were to be had.  And, they didn't disappoint.  

Sarah and Heidi were on one team and April and Hayley were on the other.  Of the top three teams that went on to the final round, two were "Team Todd".

The final round included eating a large egg with a pretty well formed bird fetus in them -- with wings, feathers and beaks.  (I don't know what they're called but I understand they're eaten in some Asian countries.)  

Hayley just bit into this egg and chewed and swallowed away -- the whole thing. And then picked the one lucky key of many to open the final lock.

Anyway, one of the prizes was four nights stay at the "Modern Honululu".  The other sisters all thought that this would be nice for Hayley's graduation trip.(And they let me have the other sweet prizes.)  I just want to say thank you to all of them for being so loving, generous and supportive.

Anyway, I got to thinking that four days in Honolulu wasn't enough after all the time, cost and trouble of actually getting to Hawaii.  So, I found a week long "Island Hopper" cruise to add on to the trip.  The die was cast.

We got a nice lei greeting when we arrived at the airport.

Our room at The Modern



We spent almost every afternoon either poolside or on the beach...that was a priority!

On our second day, we started our day off with banana pancakes at Boots & Kimo's -- just like Barak, Michelle and the girls....
 We did the Pillbox hike and then headed up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a great day of canoe rides, singing, dancing, crafting and a fun luau.





The Dole Plantation -- riding the train, touring the gardens, and, of course, Dole Whips.



We went to Pearl Harbor, the Punch Bowl and ate at some amazing local places, thanks to friends and Yelp.  One of my favorites were malasadas from Leonard's....sort of like donuts but without a hole and much hotter, fresher and decadent!




Getting on our cruise ship in Honolulu took at least an hour (they could learn a lot from San Pedro where red caps take your baggage almost as soon as you walk up).  But, we had a great room with a large balcony.  Our first stop was Maui.  We rented a car and drove the "Road to Hana".  There were some beautiful views and great stops, but, the road is so harrowing and it took so long, I'm not sure I'd do it again.  And the Seven Sacred Pools where we were hoping to swim a the end of the road were closed due to rain -- boo!

Hayley and John in front of the Taro paddies at the arboretum.

Many of the highlights of our trip involved food -- mostly food trucks, roadside stands, and other "non-5 Star fare"!  We avoided chains except for one night at Duke's on the beach in Kauai.  And I'm still drooling over the coconut shrimp appetizer & sauce we had there.  (I wonder if that dish would taste as good in Huntington Beach?)


This bench was at a cemetery along the Road to Hana.  (Little did I know at this time that before the vacation was through, I'd get news that my father was on his deathbed.)


We were going to swim at the black sand beach but ended up having a heck of a lot more fun watching other people getting knocked down by the wicked waves instead.  

On our second day in Maui, we went to the top of Haleakala crater and then rode bikes down the mountain back into town.  (John and I accidentally rode into the wrong town, but luckily it was closer to our ship anyway.  The guy from the company we rented our bikes from was happy to pick us up and drop us off right at the boat.)  This was actually one of the best parts of our vacation and would recommend this to anyone spending time in Maui!




We spent two days on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We went to Volcanoes National Park.  Lucky for us, it was one of the first days in years to actually see flaming lava bubbling up in the crater by day and burning and flowing down the edge of the island by night.




In Kona, we snorkled -- saw tons of fish and sea turtles and shared a huge shaved ice.





In Kauai, we had a blast zip lining on the ranch where some of the scenes of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed.


Hayley even dared to zipline into a pool.  I got ready, walked to the edge and then chickened out -- I'm not a great swimmer.


 I'm so grateful for the opportunity to travel to experience new places, people and experiences -- all while bonding with the people I love.