Friday, September 30, 2011

Met MAO?


Remember…in China it is just “food”…but one meal we were looking for something other than “food”, SO, we went down the road to Fly High Pizza.

Here is the placemat:


Um…I think they use “Mexican Fiesta” and they don’t know what it means.

We had passable pizza…no great…but not bad!

After we ate we walked down to Tianfu Square. Along the way we passed high end stores…as high end as you will see anywhere in the world:


The night was perfect for walking after pizza.  Not too many people were out.

We made it to the Square.

Mao is a center piece of this area:


Mao does a lot of waving…He is kind of everywhere.

There are lights,  flowers (poinsettia's anyone?) a nightly water show and plenty of people watching opportunities


Susan, Diane and Cindy enjoying the square.

I have a video of the  water show…I am having a bit of technical difficulties getting it posted here…but I will work it out and get it done! Stay tuned

Chengdu–Day 2


Our second day in Chengdu dawned much like the first one…cloudy (“close” as we call it in Seattle)…just a little “eh” but warm enough and no rain.  Off we went!

Today we were going further from the hotel, so we cabbed it.  In true “share” mode…whoever ended up sitting in the front seat not only got to pay..but they got the birds eye view of driving and dodging the city streets.

Today we were headed off to Wenshu Temple. It was built in the Tang Dynasty and is the most used temple in the city.  According to the guide books it has 450 Buddhas and relics.

The cab rides in Chengdu are much like Hong Kong in that they are CHEAP and efficient.  The hotel helped (?) us by writing in Chinese the places we wanted to go.  There were very few staff members at the hotel who spoke English so THIS little exercise proved to be frustrating.  I was not involved…but the faces of my traveling partners showed that it was. However, the staff was truly trying to help, that can not be argued. When all was said and done, we were handed a card in Chinese and English with the ten most visited places in the city. Sigh.

First in the front seat was Susan.  I can say that she did a great job handling the drive.  She did let out one gasp…that made the driver laugh.  Wait  What?  A cab driver w/a personality and a smile.  THIS is where being in a cab completely stopped being like Hong Kong. 


This is not the temple itself…this is the gathering hall and it was huge!  (I tried to “panoramic” this pic…not so good…but you can see both ends of the hall)

The area is more a gathering spot.  As we toured we not only saw relics and statuesIMG_0717:IMG_0729


ALL through the grounds we saw people gathered to pray, talk, play cards, read, draw.  I have to believe that when it was built, THIS is what it was meant to be used for!


In the Pagoda were groups of people chatting.  The little girl had “tea” with the kitty.  The other kitty was an “under kitty” so I took his pic (he was picked on by the bully cat…poor thing – there IS a world order…even at the Temple)

The temple has ponds full of koi and turtles (yes, those are real).  I am a little shy about taking pictures of people…so you will have to settle for descriptions Smile

Diane and I walked pretty leisurely through the grounds.  We watched the card games (NO idea what they were playing), the artists and those doing Tai Chi. 

After we left the temple, it was time for….you guessed it  SHOPPING!  You see, these beautiful sites are in the middle of the city…so we took advantage.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s update that shopping is interesting JUST because of the language issues.

The best thing I watched yesterday was Diane and Susan buying coats.  The sales lady spoke in Chinese the entire time…Diane and Susan spoke in English the entire time…and voila…two transactions were completed.  It was pretty amazing to watch.  There was no frustration, just chatting back and forth!

When you are out on these adventures you never really know what you see that will strike you.  Diane was on the hunt for small vases, but other than that…you just look.

Chengdu is known for it’s silk and embroideries, so we were scoping that out.  After a couple hours we were looking for lunch.  Boy, did we LUCK into a great place:


Shrimp, chicken, pork..on decorated plates!  5 dishes to share all for the bargain price of 50RBM each (8 bucks US?)  YUM.  The province is known for it’s spicy food, but with mixed palates on the trip, we were careful how we ordered.

OH…What we did NOT order from this restaurant?

IMG_0762 Yes…that says Pee Beef ball …dunno…NOT asking

NOW…here is a list of OTHER things on the menu we did NOT try…ready…put down your coffee … consider yourself warned:


FRESH Chili Donkey (b/c who would want NOT Fresh?)  Jelly Fish Head w/Vinegar (Vinegar makes the meal I have found): Agricultural home cooking rabbit (could this mean Organic??), Hand Rub Chili Mix Tongue (I got nothing), Green Pepper Little Rabbit (everyone knows littler is better!) Boutique Blood with Something (I am NOT making this up…what’s the something? again…NOT asking) Fish lips with Delicious Pepper, Lively frog with Tender Ginger (If my frog is NOT lively, I am not eating it…I have standards!) lastly, Novel Braised Deer Tendon

People! Trust me…we could have gone on and on, but Cindy made Diane STOP reading from the menu! LOL

The streets had lots of vendors selling different things and had kinda funky statues (or was that art…not sure)



The lady on the bottom was roasting chestnuts…one exploded and scared a tourist who ran away…since it was not one of us it was pretty funny!

Our next stop was an artist area that at one time was known for students putting out their art and selling it.  This has pretty much gone by the wayside…but there were tons of ceramic vendors and art stores along with stalls with other goods.  More good looking opportunities!



Those guys on the bottom were for sale…I figured I could not get them in my carry on so I resisted. This bottom picture is of a pretty typical looking apartment building overlooking the river.

Once again watching the transactions was COOL. The vendors were smiling, cordial, helpful and it was all done in two entirely different languages.  When I was looking at a couple items (can’t say b/c they are gifts) the older gentleman showed me the sign (in Chinese…I had no clue but there was a 5 on it) then pulled out his calculator and slowly showed me how everything was 50% off.  SOLD.  I bought 4! 

As we walked we were greeted with lots of smiles and lots of moms and grandmas showing off babies…I enjoyed making baby noises and I think they like me doing it. Diane found her vases and other gifts, Cindy a canvas (I never did see that), Susan a 300 year old vase…we did pretty well!

Diane and Cindy both did their stints in the front of the cab…and both handled it well!  (only small gasps as bikes and scooters and cars came straight for us).   The last picture I will leave you with cracked me up. 

It was an advertisement for Tiffany …I think it was an apartment complex…read the bottom:


The ENGLISH words you sillies!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chengdu–Buses and Scooters and Cars … OH MY

In my life I never thought I would say that walking in Hong Kong is SAFE compared to other cities in the world…but oh my…after one day in Chengdu…Hong Kong is a walkers’ paradise!

Four of us ventured to Chengdu China on a ladies trip. Chengdu and the area surrounding it has a population of about 28 million people…’s one of the biggest cities in the world you have NEVER heard of! Believe me…I had never heard of it either.

14 million of those people live in the city…and as we walked around on a Sunday…I felt like they were all in or on motorized vehicles heading straight for US.

We arrived late Saturday night First…immigration was a B R E E Z E. The easiest I have ever encountered…no lines. It WAS late, but that is normally when immigration is slammed. Susan arranged for us to be met by a student. Her name is Wings. (she kindly gave us an easier version of her name to remember). Wings hired a car for us to transport us to the hotel. (Godsend!)

Exiting the airport was crazy. (this should have been my first clue that things would be nuts as a pedestrian but I did not make the connection). Now, I was in the WAY back of the van, but as far as I could tell, there were NO lanes. It was a sort of a “trample the weak” situation just getting out to the street!

We awoke Sunday morning to breakfast and then headed straight out for our “Shopper-tunities” (What else would we do?)

Here is where the craziness started. We decided to walk to our first destination. Diane is a primo navigator and got us to our destination…however crossing the streets did give me moments of my life flashing before my eyes.


These pictures really don’t tell the CHAOS of an intersection! However…take a look…see the bikes in the crosswalks? See the the bikes dodging the cars? See the people kind of hanging at the edge of the crosswalk? yea…they will venture out there…and also dodge the cars…You see…the cars only dodge each other. This is a Sunday…day of rest…uh no.

It DID help that that the cars are like OUR cars…well…it helped a little.

Green lights mean walk…it means walk with the scooters and cars and bikes that turn in front of you…ride in the crosswalk…generally Green SHOULD mean….”If you are lucky…you will live through this day”

NOW…in fairness…even though the drivers seem crazy…and even though they invent their own lanes (if there ARE lane marks on the street)…even though they drive in the emergency lanes….I did not see one car with a dent. They USE turn signals and cut each other off and honk…but there does not seem to be any other aggression besides the honking…AND the cars have no dents! we did see two scooters on the ground…oops…As in most cases…the cars win those encounters.

Safely crossed this huge intersection…it took 3 steps to do so…we headed to Wuhou Temple …we were intending to look at SOMETHING cultural…but first… a little shopping!


That is Susan, Cindy and Diane…yes, we did leave some things for others to buy…but we did some pretty good damage! The area had great shops (jackets, tea, tea sets, scarves)…it was very fun and very picturesque.

The street heading to Wuhou temple is called Jinli Street. IMG_0643IMG_0650IMG_0651IMG_0680

The gentleman is drying tea. The next two are sugar sculptures…and those giraffes light up in the middle! Lots of different things!! (I did NOT buy the candy …it was too pretty)



There is entertainment, ice cream (look close!), saloons, and the last pic is of a silk rug that is being weaved…the pattern is behind the material…the weaver peaks through and then puts in the right color…and I thought cross stitch was hard!

We DID get to the Wuhou temple.



The incensed is burned and prayers are said. I am NOT sure what the interlocked hearts and ribbons are for…I am romantically hoping it’s to declare a bond. Some of the signs are in English at the temple…but I wish there were more…and that’s Diane by one of the Incense receptacles.

Our first day ROCKED…and we walked SAFELY back to the hotel…where we had dinner and drinks…

Exhausted…we turned in early because the next day would bring more shoppertunities…more temples…more exploring…more “life in the hands” situations!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Turning the Big Maui 5 0!


We all know birthdays just tend to happen In fact, they tend to come quicker and quicker each year. It’s kind of scary.

We are not a family that typically does big birthdays. That changed in a BIG way when Kirk turned 21. We invited friends and family and off to Las Vegas we went. Kirk had super big plans…a trip to LA to see family, jet over to Vegas…yep…a big week! He was in his gap year, so, he figured what the heck. Well, Kirkapalooza was scaled back, but we did all travel to Vegas. We did have shirts made. It was a blast!

Plans were soon in the making for Kari’s 21st and that was 3 years away.

However…there was one birthday that was going to fall between Kirk’s and Kari’s 21st birthday

MY 50th.

I’ve not made it a secret that when I die I want to come back as MY kids. 6 week trips to Europe, BMWs, convertibles (a birthday trip to Vegas and one in the planning stages). My children have possessed and done many things that I have not.

Corey has been made very well aware that I was a little frightened about turning 50. He got his first clue of this fear when he would bring it up and I would stop breathing…I mean I would literally become breathless. Teasing aside, he started thinking it would be great to EASE me into this decade by celebrating on Maui. What better way to do this than with family and friends.

The save the date went out well over a year ago. Dates were blocked…flights were checked, thankfully not purchased.

Because between July 2010 and July 2011…Corey and I experienced an even BIGGER life change. Our move to Hong Kong.

Now, what was to be a pretty easy plan became a dance between time zones, international date lines, and business travel. Now, my birthday became not only a birthday…It became a reunion.

We had a few friends that could not join us. They would be terribly missed.

Leaving our kids and friends in Seattle was not easy. Now, my birthday was a gateway for an amazing reunion. The Lord works in mysterious ways

Kari and I got to Maui before the others and were soon joined by her BFF Shaylin! (and Corey being mean to Shaylin!)

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After a fun 10 days with Shay, she headed home. By this time Corey had joined us…and after Corey, his mom and Anita! Then, Mair and Stu!


Aaron and Aletha and Tracey and Waylon landed on Friday!!! 030 035

Woo Hoo!! Let the games begin.

We had four more guests that had yet to arrive!

Bo and Tim had a lonnnngggg day of flying (flying first class but lonnnggg flights!) and arrived Saturday night late.


Our friend Oski came in from Los Angeles, and got sick…so I don’t have a shot of him …He made it to dinner, but he had a rough patch of it Sad smile

One more person and the party would be complete.


Kirk got on Island Saturday too! He had to wait until his Internship at the AGs office ended before he could come.

Our family, for the first time since December…had FIVE whole days together! YAY

The first official party event was an amazing dinner @ The Four Seasons. We hired a bus to take us all to dinner.

We were greeted with Mai Tais on the lawn so we could snap pictures and watch the sunset.

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Dinner was incredible! A beautiful setting, great food and to top it off…the yummiest cake! Red Velvet Cake! It was awesome!


We purposely took Monday off as a “group” day…This IS Maui after all! No need for forced marches!

Tuesday was a different story! We all reported to the Maui Diamond II @ o’dark 30 (that is 6:30 to you all)

We chartered the boat for a day of scuba diving (like this birthday would pass w/o scuba diving) and snorkeling for the non-divers. See the shirts? I even got a shirt!! (Thanks to Hillary for the design and Kari for getting it done!)


It is pretty cool that those who are not certified STILL get to dive. They are called Intro Scuba dives and the Captain of the Maui Diamond chose two sites so the Intro divers could go twice! Waylon and Tracey were the “Intro” divers..while it was great to find out that Aaron is certified, so he dove with us for the first dive. (excuse the BAD pictures… we did not know where “fish” mode was on the brand new camera)097089

The dive master was REALLY patient waiting for us to get in position for the first picture! and Aaron and Kirk I think waited 5 minutes for me to turn around and snap them with the turtle!

The day was so much fun. Mary Ann learned how to ignore turtles while snorkeling so they would come to her!

The day was beautiful, the waters calm, the company perfect. What a terrific way to celebrate !


After diving was a friendly poker game…because this crowd can NOT be together without playing cards.

Sadly, Tuesday and the boat trip was our last full day together. Everyone started bugging out on Wednesday…Kari included


Our time together went by way too fast! Corey Kirk and I went back to Duo for dinner (on Duo!) We had another terrific meal.


We also did some more diving where we FINALLY found FISH mode…so the pictures are VASTLY improved!!


Corey presented me with a gift a day! My camera, gift certificates to the dive shop…a print from my favorite Maui artist…my sparkle pen! Every gift was GREAT!

We all left Maui on Sunday. Kirk and I for Seattle. Corey for travels in the US.

For someone who never really celebrated birthdays in a big way…I was treated to a fantastic time with family and great friends. I look over the pictures ALL the time and smile every time

Thanks to all! You made turning Maui 5 0 no big deal at all (though I still get a little breathless at the thought)

Most of all…and of course…thanks to Corey. Wow Wow Wow. I’m not sure how I will be able to top this for Your 5 0 because baby…it’s a coming soon!

Here’s to the best decade yet!