— David Keller (@dhkeller) October 2, 2013
— Monterey Aquarium (@MontereyAq) October 2, 2013
Check out the Storify after the break! Continue reading Fall 2013: Monterey & Hearst Castle
Check out the Storify after the break! Continue reading Fall 2013: Monterey & Hearst Castle
For those of you who missed the live-tweeting (approx 2:00 am PDT) from Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, here’s a recap: Continue reading Happy 4th of July from Hong Kong!
On our second night in Yangshuo, we made plans to see the fancy light show on the Li River, Impression Sanjie Liu. It was a great show, with a huge cast and an outstanding scenic backdrop on the river. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Before kayaking on Tuesday, we spent the morning in Fuli on their traditional “Market Day,” which is really a cross between a farmers market, swap meet, and flea market. Or at least, we think everything imaginable was for sale.
Above are pictures of Aunt Jeni helping Jocelyn buy some old Chinese coins as a souvenir, and Kiana helping a vendor make a traditional painted paper fan.
Not pictured in Fuli: The crazy stiff we also saw in the market, like cooked duck, fileted fish, bulk spices/teas, and live caged birds. If you want to see those pictures, check out the Fuli Flickr collection (nothing NSFW, but credentials required).
In a way, this trip has been all about different modes of transportation.
Our plane flights from SFO to Beijing totaled 7000 miles (plus an airport tram). Our bullet train ride to YueYang was more than 900 miles. And we’ve taken two other flights since. But we also rode a limo to the airport, took a gondola up to the Great Wall (and a toboggan on the way down), and have ridden on multiple and varied tour buses and passenger vans, even the subway in Beijing. And maybe you could count the roller coaster and the bumper cars in Chengdu.
And then there are our three days in Yangshuo, which set a new standard for adventure in transportation. We weren’t done after our bamboo rafts (and the three-wheeled motorcycle tuk-tuks) the first day.
On Day Two in Yangsuo, we rented “bicycles” (such as they were) and went on a “ride” (such as it was).
It all started innocently enough, with a pleasant cruise through the spectacular karst cliffs. But then the chain fell off the tandem bike that Karen & Felicia were riding. And in general, it turned out that “brakes” were somewhat optional in most of our bikes. And then our map led us onto some footpaths that really weren’t wide enough for bikes. And we rode through some mud, and had to lift bikes around some obstacles.
But the views were outstanding, and I’m sure we would have done it all over again!
Later that afternoon, we booked a trip to the Moon Water Cave, one of many, many caves inside the karsts, but one of the less-touristy options recommended by our resort. So it began with a rickety rope-drawn canoe ride deep into the cave, which was followed by a fun ascent through awesome stalagmite and stalactite formations, with some short and narrow passageways. At the end, we were treated to a mud bath in an enhanced man-made pool.
Not to be outdone, our last full day ended with a kayak ride down the Li River out of Fuli, itself not quite as unique as the barge ferry ride we had to take to get to the riverbank to ride the kayaks.
Too bad we didn’t also get to ride those real-life yaks (although I think they might technically be water buffalos)!
It was hard to avoid the draw of riding a bamboo raft down the Yulong River, especially since our balcony view afforded us a constant stream of other tourist riding the boats. So we joined in the fun!
All along the river, there were barges with drinks and snacks for sale, and there were some full-on restaurant barges as well. But the most industrious use of floating pontoons was the “photo booths” stations just beyond each man-made breakwater dam. These folks had a whole digital photo set-up, compolete the photographers, computer monitor, color printer, and laminator.
While they weren’t exactly Class VI rapids, the breakwaters along the Yulong River were fun to “surf” over anyway:
We’re staying at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat for three days before jetting to Hong Kong. Seriously, this is the view from our balcony. As I type, there are bamboo rafts gliding downstream full of tourists and sightseers. But the Girls are still sleeping, so that can wait for a bit … And then there’s the view from our balcony – Guilin Yangshuo #mkChina
Following the important visits to YueYang and Changsha, we will spend the rest of our China vacation being pure tourists. So, of course, we had to go see the Giant Pandas.
Chengdu actually turned out to be a very pleasant city, with lots to see beyond visiting just the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Although we didn’t see the pandas until the second day, we’ll give you those pictures first!
We had originally hoped our “panda plan” would include a visit to a more remote authentic panda reserve, but an earthquake a few months ago altered our trip.
The Chengdu Panda Base is a sprawling city zoo, focused on Giant Pandas and Lesser Pandas (the “red pandas,” which are are actually closer to raccoons, but cuter).
In the hot summer months, pandas — like tourists — prefer to remain indoors in their air-conditioned rooms. We did get to see them, but they weren’t as active or close to us as we might have hoped. Fun, nonetheless!
We also had a great lunch at the Panda Base, although this restaurant was a little more “Americanized” than the other authentic places we had eaten. Food was less spicy, and they even served french fries!
Immediately from the beginning of our stay, our guide “Jack” become famous for his food orders, which easily could have fed the entire Martin clan – all 14 of us, twice! – had the whole group come along.
After lunch we walked around Swan Lake watching hungry fish fight for food. These guys could have used some of our leftovers.
Before we even got to the Panda Base in Chengdu, we knew we would enjoy exploring this city. Even on the ride from the airport to the hotel, it was clear that this city was different was different – cleaner, more modern, vibrant, pleasant, etc.
It had been a very early flight out of Changsha, so we hit the ground running in Chengdu, with a visit to the central Bamboo Park. The park featured historic tower architecture, and more than 100 different types of living bamboo.
It was a relaxing introduction to the city … until we got to the children’s “kiddie rides” section, where the Girls managed a quick roller coaster ride before taking a spin on the bumper cars. These rides were nothing unique to China, but provided a nive break form the tourist grind.
For our evening entertainment, we decided to see the Sichuan Opera, which was an awesome cabaret show of classical Chinese entertainment, including traditional instruments, hand shadow puppets, opera singing, and the famous “changing faces” masks of Sichuan.
As one of China’s great agricultural centers, Chengdu is also famous for its local teas. In the afternoon of our last day, we explored street markets where Tea Houses offered relaxtion and souvenir opportunities.
Our time in Chengdu ended too soon, but holds many great memories.
After a six-hour bullet train ride headed south from Beijing (900 miles, ten stops, and speeds in excess of 300km/h), we arrived in the YueYang. Our guide (English name ‘Smile’) introduced us to this “medium-size Chinese city” of 1.5 million people (with an addition 5 million in the metropolitan region).
Kiana came to the adoption center in YueYang as one-day old baby in May of 2002. She was known then as Yue Xiayang (aka “summer ocean”), a moniker she uses today as her middle name, officially Xiayang; she was lovingly addressed this way throughout our visit to the orphanage in YueYang and the adoption center in Changsha.
Visits to both centers included warm receptions and meetings with agency officials. In both cases, the directors of the centers were all present during Kiana’s adoption journey in 2003. The current director of the YueYang Social Welfare Center was on staff in 2003, and the Hunan Adoption Agency director today signed Kiana’s original document certificates ten years ago as the agency registrar. Xia Yueng clearly had the Midas Touch!
In both cases, we also got to see current children being cared for by the centers, including about 30 special needs children in YueYang, and at least one toddler being officially adopted during our visit.
In YueYang, we discovered the Island region of Lake Dong Ting, walking through lush gardens and ancient temples along the important waterway that connects the Xiaoxiang and the Yangtze rivers.
The YueYang Tower (top of article, above right) along Lake Dong Ting inspired many famous Chinese poets, including Teng Zijing and Fan Zhongyan, who defined Chinese Cultural theme “Care First, Enjoy Last,” a philosophy that seems very prevalent among the Chinese people wet have met on the trip so far. It was a beautiful setting long the lake, and the traditional architecture was fun to experience.
Our Thursday in Changsha included a visit to an Embroidery Museum which Karen, Jenni and Kiana had toured on their original adoption trip in 2003. We also traveled under the Xiaoxiang to the university region and the Yuelu Academy, China’s oldest university (established in 976).
It rained for most of our visit, but we had a great time nonetheless. After our touring on Thursday, David wandered east of the Huatian Hotel toward the railway station, and discovered the discount market area, where shirts, backpacks, and other sundries could be had for bargaining. It was so much fun that the time wore on, the rain continued unabated … and he arrived soaking wet and late for dinner with the family. Our dinners were enjoyed at “Food Street,” a made-to-order cafeteria-style restaurant in the hotel that was the same as it had been during the moms’ first visit.
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