The Freyder Five

Life is an Adventure
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Highlights In Japan

Leaving Our Comfort Zone

Tianmen Shan ZJJ

Our last day in Zhangjiajie (which I will now call ZJJ) is Monday, April 2.  Our flight out isn’t leaving until the evening so we have some time for one last adventure in China.  We decided to see Tianmen Shan.  It means Heaven’s Gate (Tianmen) Mountain (Shan).  Our hosts at the guesthouse encouraged us to go see it so we packed up our things and prepared to walk down their 500 steps for the last time.  They gave us a ride to the town of ZJJ after one last breakfast at their house. The summit of Tianmenshan is connected to the town of ZJJ below by a super-duper, incredibly long cable car.  There’s a luggage storage area at the cable…

Osaka Earthquake

Today, Monday June 18, our house shook at 7:58 am.  It was quite a jolt.  The kids were getting ready for school and Avalon was finishing up some last minute homework at the table when the ground starting rumbling and the house started shaking and I started panicking.  It was the strongest, scariest earthquake I have ever felt.  That’s saying something because I’m from California and I’ve felt my share of earthquakes.  But as it turned out, we were one of three cities that felt it the strongest.  We live right next to the center!  That’s never happened. The epicenter was in Takatsuki where I work every Tuesday.  The neighboring city, Ibaraki, also got a lot of damage and that’s…

Avatar Mountain & Walking on Glass

Saturday, March 31.  After our wonderful host from the guesthouse saved us by loaning me several hundred USD worth of Chinese Renminbi, we were able to enter Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.  It’s a massive park with some pretty cool natural wonders.  As far as natural landscape goes, China is an incredible place.  So if you go there be sure to get out of the cities.  Here is the underside of a beautiful natural bridge.We had a colorful map with little cartoon pictures all over it and details regarding every cable car, bus route, bathroom location and walking path.  We hiked around, rode a cable car up to Yuanjiajie, walked to see Avatar Mountain, and generally just covered a lot of ground…

The Emperor’s Terracotta Army

For the second half of March 30, Helen and her driver took us to see the excavated Terracotta Army.   I explained to my Japanese friends that they are called terracotta because that’s the earthen material that they are made from.  Pretty much everything has already been said about this amazing 20th century discovery.  Farmers digging a well discovered these ancient relics on March 29, 1974.  That’s after I was born!  These warriors below are in disarray, some missing their heads or extremities.  This is much like how they were found when they were discovered.  Amazingly no two warriors are alike.  They all have distinctive hair, faces and shoes.  Their hair and shoes reflect their status and they also carry…

Bicycling the Xi’an City Wall

Our awesome guide Helen is with us all day today, Friday, March 30.  It’s going to be a busy day!  First we will ride bicycles around the entire perimeter of the Xi’an ancient city wall.  Then we will go to the lively Muslim Quarter to marvel at all of the vendors with delicious smells and odd sights.  After lunch Helen is taking us to see the famous army of Terracotta Warriors.  At the end of the day we will be too tired to move another inch.  At that point she’s going to drop us off at the airport for our next flight across China. Xi’an’s wall is the best preserved existing ancient city wall in China.  It was ordered by…

Traveling China

The following day after our long walk across the Great Wall we tooled around Beijing with our guide Michael. On Wednesday, March 28 he took us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  We saw Chairman Mao’s mausoleum from the outside.  There was a long line to go inside and see him.  Michael said the Chinese government brought in the same team that preserved Lenin and erected his mausoleum, which is in Moscow’s Red Square.  But I read that Moscow wouldn’t talk to Beijing about how to embalm Mao, and neither would Hanoi (Ho Chi Minh also suffered the same fate).  I also saw Lenin’s final resting place in Red Square but didn’t go inside.  It’s kind of freaky that…

Prelude to Spring Break

We’re heading home to California on August 1, 2018.  Our tickets have been reserved and paid for and even the cats have tickets home.  Our Japan adventure abroad is coming to an end.  This August we will have lived in Japan for 2 years.  Before we leave this part of the world, we could (should?) take one final family trip. Our last spring break in Japan.  What to do.  Last year we went on a ski vacation in Nagano with 2 other families.  This time the kids voted to stay home in Minoh and do nothing.  One last overseas trip?  The question is, where to go.  How about Singapore, Malaysian Borneo or China?  The kids say we don’t want to…

Exploring Taipei

The ORIGINAL Din Tai Fung on Xinyi Road.  Did we really need to go there for dumplings and fried rice?  (Just a 45 minute wait the lady said.)  Read on. On Friday, March 16 we decided to stay in Taipei.  First: Our cash is almost gone.  We didn’t bring enough.  All over Asia, cash is king.  By now we’ve traveled to many countries so you would think we’d have figured that out.  I called AmEx early in the morning from John’s handy Skype phone number.  He pays a few cents a minute to have a California phone number and so it’s very easy for us to call the US.  The AmEx man said he could assign John’s AmEx card a…

Treasures, Treats & Teatime in Taiwan

We had a lot of adventure and some misadventure in Taiwan.  The misadventure involved nearly running out of cash (because we barely brought any, Duh!) and eventually not being able to access any more.  Not only did we waste 2+ hours trying to get cash at the American Express international office on Fuxing North Road, but it got down to us counting dim sum dumplings at Din Tai Fung to see how many we could order.  This kind of limits the Din Tai Fung experience when you are trying to figure out if you can afford 5 or 10 dumplings, but we decided to just spend our dwindling wad.  We left enough cash in our wallet for mango snowflake ice…

Ume Hana Matsuri & Tea

I learned a new Japanese word recently.  Baika.  The two kanji characters for Ume (plum) and Hana (flower) together read as baika (bye-kah).  It means plum blossom, just like sakura means cherry blossom.  I asked my friend about this and she said Japanese people still say “ume” for plum blossoms, but when you see the two characters together it is read as “baika.”  You always hear the word sakura tossed around.  Sakura flavored food, sakura themed souvenirs, pink sakura leaves on Starbucks cups, sakura season is very famous.  I’ve rarely heard anyone talk about baika.  But plum blossoms are beautiful too. Plum blossoms are the first sign of winter’s end and the beginning of spring time weather.  They appear about…