Adventure Time

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…

10K hike on the Great Wall

We planned to meet Michael, our friendly Beijing guide, in the lobby of our hotel on Tuesday, March 27 at 8:30 am.  That meant we had to get up early to take advantage of the big breakfast buffet in our hotel.  What I learned in China is that Chinese people love to eat.  Breakfast is dim sum both sweet and savory, omelets, waffles, salads, breads, cakes, potatoes, lots of meat, wonton soup, noodle soup, fruit and vegetables without their peels, fried rice, and on and on.  The boys came down with only a little time to eat so I told them tomorrow they should make a point of having a more leisurely breakfast. We’re going to the Jinshanling area of…

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…

Going to Taipei with Hello Kitty

Halyard left on a week long service trip to the Philippines with his classmates.  Kaiyo went biking with his classmates on a popular route called Shimanami Kaido, across 6 islands and 6 bridges in southern Japan.  He’ll be gone for a few days.  So we decided to skip out with Avalon.  Halyard says he doesn’t like the fact that Avalon gets a stamp in her passport that he won’t have.  But none of us are getting stamps from the Philippines so it doesn’t seem too unfair. We’re flying on the special Hello Kitty jet to Taipei, Taiwan.  EVA Airlines, Taiwan’s airline, flies specially decorated SANRIO planes from select destinations between Taiwan and spots around the world.  Lucky for us, Osaka…

Japan’s Winter Illuminations

Japan loves to light up their landscape in winter!  What better way to spend a freezing night than to walk around outside in your heavy coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots.  It’s just like being inside the house so you might as well get outside and enjoy it! Nabana no Sato is a large and spacious flower garden at Nagashima Resort in Kuwana City, near Nagoya.  It is about a 10 minute drive from the Nagashima amusement park where we went for Halyard’s birthday on Saturday, November 4.  However, when we drove to Nabana no Sato, we managed to make it a 25 minute drive with hairpin turns and narrow roads with steep drop offs.  No thanks to Google.  Needless…

Okinawa stories and photos

My prior post detailing my trip to Okinawa started to get a bit long and wordy so I had to cut it off.  Here are more sights and stories from Japan’s famous island to the south. I landed at Naha Airport in the early evening.  By the time I traveled from the airport to my Airbnb apartment and got settled in, it was dark.  On the main street, Kokusai-dori, brightly lit stores were crowded with high school students, marathon runners and foreign tourists.  It was raining lightly so everyone was trying to duck out of the drizzle.  Locals were everywhere, luring visitors to their stores, hawking t-shirts, keychains, Okinawa treats, restaurants menus, drinks and even two Owl Cafes along the…

Naha Marathon, Okinawa

On Friday, December 1 I am traveling SOLO to Naha, Okinawa.  I am going there for a long weekend getaway to watch my friends run in the Naha Marathon.  John was kind enough to let me go away by myself (he’ll spend the weekend planning his own trip I’m sure) while he holds down the fort at home. For the past year I have been working at a company called Semco teaching English once a week.  I teach for about 4 hours every Tuesday.  Semco is a family run business that deals with research and product development for pest control management.  Our friend Jay is the president of this company, his father founded it, and his mother ran it for…

Kumano Sanzan

The purpose of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is to visit each of the three Grand Shrines which make up the Kumano Sanzan.  There are several routes to accomplish this.  Back in ancient times the Japanese imperial family traveled from west to east on the popular Nakahechi Route.  Some pilgrims came from north to south, down the coastal Iseji Route, after worshipping at the famous Ise Grand Shrine.  Others took the mountainous inland road from the Buddhist temple called Koyasan along the Kohechi route which is also north to south.  I was thrilled that we made it to all three of the Kumano Grand Taisha, but we didn’t hike all of it. I realized our limitations, six kids between ages 10…